Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ramdon thoughts on campaign, breastfeeding, and Womens Equality Day

On August 26, 1920, women achieved the right to vote in the US, thus the Women's Equality Day. On this very special day, I want to do something that I rarely do--write a little bit about my thoughts on this heating presidential election.

Living in America, I often have an illusion that we women are completely equal to men. Unfortunately, whenever I have such an illusion, things always happen to break it. Something like, just yesterday, the GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump once again called the FOX anchor Megyn Kelly a "bimbo."

Trump's twitter tirade against Kelly was soon challenged, Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, said, "if you think Kelly is a bimbo, then you are an idiot."

The incident reminded me another commend Trump made on another woman. Just a while ago, Trump called a breastfeeding mother and lawyer who needed a break to pump her breast milk “disgusting.” I still remember how that farce disgust me.

Is Trump allowed to call Kelly a bimbo? I suppose yes, just like Graham is allowed to call Trump an idiot. Is Trump allowed to be disgusted by breastfeeding? I guess yes, just like I’m allowed to be disgusted by calling breastfeeding mothers disgusting. So what’s the problem?

The problem is, in spite of the "men and women are equal" illusion, we still have wage, hiring, and other discrimination against women and mothers. While women makes 78 cents to a man’s dollar, mothers make 69 cents to a dad’s dollar. And remarks like those from Trump fuel that discrimination. While moms and dads across the country expect our future president to work on working families’ rights and equal pay, it is very disappointing that any presidential candidate would make such comments on women and breastfeeding.

From personal experience, I also deeply understand how this kind of discrimination can affect a mother's attempt to breastfeed and a woman's career path.

I still remember vividly how my previous company refused to offer me lactation accommodation when I returned to work after giving birth, and how my colleague told me "don't wash your dirty panty here" when I was trying to wash my pump parts in the office kitchen. Legal Aid Society helped me settle the case just one year ago today. Still, the incident eventually result my resignation from the newspaper.

I also remember vividly how nervous I was the first time I nursed my child outside of our house. It was a humid summer day and my parents visited from Taiwan wanted to check out the San Diego Zoo. After spending an hour in the Safari Park, it was clear to me that my then 1-month-old was hungry and more than a little tired. I tried to find a place to hide so that I could feed him without “disgust” anybody. When I couldn’t find such a place, I just sat down in a rest area, covered my baby with a scarf and latched him on. My mom put up an umbrella to escape people’s look. You could imagine how awkward it was.

It was really hot on that day and my baby sweated a lot under that scarf. I started to feel very uncomfortable and wanted to go home. So we tidied up and got ready to go.

Just before we leave, I saw another family on the other side of the rest area. A mother was breastfeeding. She was not covered up. Her baby was eating and the rest of the family was eating at the same time. I also noticed that no one was looking at the mother or paying her any special attention. All in a sudden, I was embarrassed by myself for making such a scene with that stupid umbrella.

We ended up spending the rest of the day in the zoo. You have no idea how much I appreciated that mother. I started to breastfeed wherever I could, with the hope to normalize breastfeeding.    

The comment from Trump was a reminder that we still have a long way to go equalizing women and normalizing of breastfeeding. And the politician who made such a comment probably has a longer way to go understanding the realities of American families.

Happy Women's Equality Day.

Baby's first and recent visit to the zoo.
This is an original post to by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to To-wen Tseng. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

The funny reality of breastfeeding

My piglet recently weaned from breastfeeding. Now looking back, I feel that breastfeeding can be emotional, challenging, rewarding, and also funny! In light of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I’d like to share some funny moments of my breastfeeding journey.

When nursing, I feel there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. I quit my job because the company didn't support pumping at work. It's been two years and I sill think it's worth of it.
"It's nice that now mommy works from home."

Like all the other breastfeeding mothers, I've been told to cover up when nursing in public. Last time when I was asked to do so, I told my 2-year-old. "This lady wants you to hide under the blanket while eating. Would you please?" And he shouted, "NO!"
"After all, picnic is all about sun shine and fresh air."

Even when we were covered up, I'd still be told to go to somewhere else to breastfeed. Last time when I was asked to do so, I told me 2-year-old, "This gentleman wants you to eat in the restroom. Shall we move?" And he replied, "Tell him go away."
"I'm eating here in the food court. You may move to the restroom as you please."

For sleep training purposes, the books told us, “as baby drifts off, gently remove breast.” But my baby always wakes up immediately when I tried to remove the breast.
"I'm now fully awake."

My mom told me that the size of my boobs will never be the same again—they’ll get bigger. But she didn’t tell me that the shape of my boobs will never be the same, either.
"And I wonder if mom has always been this fat."

Whenever trying to “nurse down” my fuzzy baby, I was always the one who was “down” first.
"Mommy is sleepy. I'm not."

Soon I learned to keep my smart phone close by, so that I can watch “Case Closed” and stay awake while breastfeeding.
"...I thought mommy's working. Actually she's watching 'case closed.'"

I even learned to pick up my smart phone with my toes when it’s not possible to move my upper body and breastfeed at the same time.

As long as I give him his bed-time nursing session, my child can sleep a straight nine hours. It's nice, but in the morning I had to beg him to get up and eat because my boobs were engorged.

It hurt so badly to breastfeed when my baby was teething that I swore numerous times to myself, “I will wean him tomorrow.” But I never really carried out the plan. Now we are done with breastfeeding, it actually feels weird not to have hydrogel pads on my nipples.

My little one was only breastfed once a day as part of his bedtime routine by the time he turned two years old. To wean him naturally, after his second birthday, every night I'd ask him, “Do you want mama’s milk or cow’s milk?” He always chose mama’s milk. After three months, one night he decided to try chose cow’s milk. Several days later he wanted to switch back to mama's milk, only realized there was no more milk in my breasts.

The last scene of our breastfeeding journey was like this: he latched on, sucked for a few minutes, and then he opened his month, looked up to me and said, “there’s no milk.”   “That’s because you’re a big boy now, and mama’s milk is for babies,” I told him. He hugged me (my breasts actually) and said, “bye bye booboos.”

I’ll remember this forever.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Tough Cookie's Pregnancy Journey

Pregnancy made me feel like a superwoman.

I was a working reporter when I first found myself become pregnant. Six weeks into my pregnancy, the space shuttle Endeavour made its last landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The press lined up as early as 2AM to secure a spot in order to catch a nice footage. I was among them. When the space shuttle finally landed at 1pm, I have been stood there for 11 hours straight without even one bathroom break. I had heat stroke and was a little dehydrated; I thought I might lose my baby.

But I didn’t. We made it to 32 weeks. I had a business trip to Mexico to cover a story about the smuggling industry. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer who accompanied me stared at my bump and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this? What did your assignment editor say about it?”

“Nothing.” I said, “Why?”

I wouldn’t say that I was discriminated against. My employer didn’t refuse to accommodate me with pregnancy-related needs. In fact, I never asked. I was blessed with an easy pregnancy. The thought of reasonable accommodations that a pregnant worker might need just never came to my mind nor brought up by my supervisor.

I was 35 weeks pregnant when the then Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hosted the press conference to unveil a $229-million overhaul of Delta’s LAX terminal. I stood with a dozen of my colleagues in waiting for the mayor’s speech. Suddenly, the LAX spokeswoman pulled a chair to the front and waved to me, “Come on, To-wen! Your baby is coming anytime now. You’d better grab a seat!”

So all eyes, including the mayor’s and the LAX CEO’s, were on me when I stumbled to the chair and sat down. I tried to cover my belly with a notebook, feeling a little bit embarrassed yet very grateful and touched.

I literary worked up to the last minute until my delivery and even wrote two articles while waiting for dilation on the hospital bed. My doctor came in and said, “you are such a tough cookie.”

I was a dedicated worker and my employer took it for granted. I didn’t realize that my hard work was not appreciated and my right as a mother was not protected until later when the company refused to offer lactation accommodation.

My pregnancy journey made me feel like a superwoman. But mothers really shouldn’t have to risk her and her baby’s health to feel super. It is unfortunate that women still experience discrimination on the job when they become pregnant. That is why I am so thrilled about the introduction of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The Act will require employers to make the same sort of accommodations for pregnant workers that are already made for employees with disabilities. These accommodations are simple things like being able to sit down on shift or extra water breaks. Once passed, it’ll guarantee the fair treatment for pregnant workers and keep working families healthy. It is very important. When a woman is forced to choose between her job and the health of her pregnancy, she could be left without a paycheck at the moment she needs it the most, thus the dire consequences for her family’s economic security. Providing workplace accommodations to pregnant women who need them will allow many of these workers to continue safely working during pregnancy, supporting their families and contributing to the nation’s economy.

We don’t need a tough pregnancy to be a tough mom. No, let’s ask our Senator to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

My only pregnancy photo. The woman in trench coat is me, 18 weeks pregnant, at work.

This is an original post to by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to AP.