Today’s guest blog is from our dear friend, Kristina Bird. She is a partner with The People Picture Company, a photography studio located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids committed to producing magazine quality photography for all of life’s milestones.
Sitting in my car, the beating hum of my pump out of sync with the radio, I express as much milk as possible during my strategically timed “break” from photographing a wedding. That’s where you would have found me if you were looking last Friday. I am a photographer, business owner, and mom. Not in that order. Actually, the order gets a little muddled from day to day.
Most days, I’m a mom first and foremost. I follow a routine that keeps the house in order, so I can spend all day with my 15 week (3.5 month) old son, MacGregor. I read blogs about sleep training, and development stages, and 10 ways to help my baby with gas. I research how to clean stains out of eco-friendly cloth diapers, and do a lot of laundry. I am a typical stay-at-home-mom.
Except I’m not. I own a business. It’s a photography studio with an upstairs flat, which means I literally live above my work, and it’s always on my mind and in my ears as I hear the work day go on without me. I am blessed to have a husband, who is not only my partner in life but also my partner in business, keep everything flowing with our amazing team. We are a family and I love being able to watch my family grow – all of them. But in order to grow my businesses, I have to take time away from my son, which means I have to pump.
Being a nursing mom is hard. Being a nursing mom and owning a business is even harder.
Being a mom isn’t pushed out of my head when MacGregor is in daycare and I’m in the studio or on a photoshoot. There are a thousand and one things about him that I think about during the day, but one that is the hardest to ignore is nursing – mostly because it comes with a friendly, sometimes painful, reminder. If I’m at the studio, it’s a bit time consuming and interruptive, but easy for the most part since I live upstairs and have a pumping station setup with everything I need. I’m lucky.
When I’m on a photoshoot, I join the thousands of other working moms who need to worry about having everything packed – and I mean everything. A forgotten hands-free pumping bra required me to hold both pumps up to my breasts in a shower room (what I was offered in place of a nursing/lactation room) not too long ago. With both hands occupied, I had no access to my phone, which meant no looking through photos of my son to help trigger a let-down, no updating social media to share anything from the photoshoot I was on, and no reading articles to occupy my brain in the very bland, nothing to look at, bare walls. It also meant that if I didn’t triple check that I locked the door, I would have been showing a little more than intended if someone entered the room.
Which also leads me to location location location. A shower room is not ideal, but it is one step above a bathroom stall. If there is no nursing room and no office I can get permission into, I typically will pump in my car. It’s such a frequented location, I’m thinking about setting up a pumping station. But one thing that is always a concern, no matter where you pump, is the dreaded spillage. Whoever said not to cry over spilt milk was not a pumping mom. You will do it, you will cry, and it is ok. Thinking about it, I might want to add a change of clothes to my car pumping station.
Then there’s the whole concern about having enough expressed milk stored for when MacGregor’s in daycare, and starting a stash for when our nursing journey ends. Plus finding a place to store it all! My freezer is 70% milk-related, 20% frozen food, and 10% ice machine. Making sure I’m bringing enough expressed milk to daycare is a challenge. Calculating how many ounces he should be drinking throughout the day, estimating how much he drinks when we’re nursing, and always sending that one extra bag. Luckily, there’s help.
It takes a village.
There’s a reason they say “it takes a village to raise a child,” but I believe the village is not just the raising of a child, they’re helping raise parents too.
We have a multitude of resources available to us, let’s take advantage of them! Chances are your pediatrician’s office has a nurse on call, specifically there to answer your questions. Postpartum doulas and lactation consultants are also great sources of information and guidance. Our bodies went through so much change in 9 months, and they’re continuing to change postpartum as we nourish our children. We should lean on those that have seen it a few times to give us help.
I get a lot of support from my breastfeeding group. Not only can I better track MacGregor’s weight and calculate how much he’s getting while nursing, I can talk with other moms who are having similar experiences. Crowdsourcing with other moms and a lactation consultant at the same time has been wonderful for me. I’m also learning about future hurdles I may have to jump over.
I’ve also joined a nursing moms Facebook group, which has been amazing for crowdsourcing. Thanks to the group, I now use my limited freezer space wiser without bags of milk spilling out (yes, I cried). Facebook groups are also perfect to scroll while you’re pumping on the job – help another mom out with her questions, give support to struggling moms, we’ve all been there – we’re all there right now! One thing to remember, you are also a part of someone else’s village. Help them, and send positivity into the universe, it’ll come back your way.
Is breast best? For some, sure. For others, it might not be for a variety of reasons – I’m not going to judge. For now it works for me, we’ll see what the future holds. Either way, to all the mompreneurs out there, we got this.
Photos by The People Picture Company