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Eleni Gage Headshot

Dispatch From the 'Mommy Room'

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I was trolling Facebook on my phone and sloppily dribbling breast milk onto my skirt when I first saw the Time magazine cover asking me if I'm "mom enough." On the one hand, the breast milk confirmed I am, indeed, a mother. On the other, the question, with its sassy little adverb, and the picture of the model on the cover tidily feeding her toddler, hinted that maybe I'm not the right kind of mom.

I've been working at a magazine for the past couple of months, covering for an editor who is on maternity leave. When I started coming in-office, Amalía was six months old, so she was already eating puréed fruits and veggies and snacking on rice crackers. But I was also breastfeeding her, and still am. So once or twice a day, at my appointed time, I leave my desk in the open-plan office and sidle off to the "Mommy Room," where seven other women and I take turns expressing milk. Every half hour, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. is accounted for, our names written in marker on a whiteboard on the wall.

Last weekend, Amalía, her grandmother and I visited my sister in San Francisco. The trip was great; we saw redwoods and tasted wine and ate lavishly and caught up with old friends. But we took the red-eye back, and there were some casualties. A certain moo-ing cow never made the flight. We left a few infant socks in our wake. And, in my half-awake stupor my first day back at the office, I somehow lost, or threw out, one of the bottles that goes with my breast pump.

So yesterday I was pumping into a bottle off of one breast, and into a water-glass off of the other. I tried to tell myself I was MomGyver, making things work on limited resources. But what I was really making was a mess. And then Time magazine had to get all up in my face to ask if I was breastfeeding enough or looking good enough while doing it. Right after that French "feminist" decided that breastfeeding was setting back the women's movement and reducing me to self-chosen slavery. And it just makes me wish that everyone would get their minds off my nipples.

I like reading online gossip in the Mommy Room while I pump, and cuddling with the baby when I feed her (except when she bites me, that's not such a delight). I thank my lucky stars that I can do it -- those and the no-nonsense lactation consultant who taught me how, and the supportive husband who dragged me to her after I burst into tears not being able to figure it out on my own. I'm really glad I'm breastfeeding. But if you're a mom, too, and you want to do it for longer than I do or for less time than I do, that's your business. I'll mind mine if you mind yours. If only everyone else would follow suit. For Mother's Day, what would be really nice is if everyone would stop telling those of us in the proverbial Mommy Room that we're doing this mom thing wrong one way or the other and just let us do it.

Two weeks ago I went to a wedding, the first one I've attended since Amalía was born. And when the beaming bride walked in with her parents, my husband turned to me and said, "Someday that will be us." I had been thinking the exact same thing, that I hoped someday someone would love my daughter as much as I do, that she would have everything she wanted, whether that was a partner and a family or a chance to travel footloose and fancy free (but with a wi-fi device that allowed her to email her parents frequently).

Weddings used to make me think about my own plans and desires. Now a happy future for Amalía is the thing I want most in the world -- that and a chance to watch it unfold. I've never felt more like a mother than I did then, when I realized my first thought was now for her.

As my first Mother's Day approaches, I want to thank Amalía for making me a mom. And to tell Time magazine, and Elisabeth Badinter, and everyone else who thinks I'm doing it wrong, that I'm being the best one I can. And so are the other moms I know. And I think that's more than enough.