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Weighing in on the Sophie Currier Case

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I have no doubt that many of you have been wondering why I haven't mentioned Sophie Currier or her fight to gain time to pump during her medical boards.

The reality is, I simply haven't felt prepared enough to write fairly about it. By that, I mean I didn't feel I had enough information to argue for or against her. Even now, I've heard a million different arguments on both sides and have a hard time keeping everything straight. As you guys know, I try not to jump on issues with my gut, so in a case like this one, it can be difficult for me to form an opinion I'm willing to share publicly.

Now it may seem like a clear cut case. A mom needs an accommodation to allow her to pump. She should get it, right?

Well, perhaps. I'm cautious enough in my long term lactivist thinking to know there can be more to the story. So questions popped into my head...

1.) Is she the first pumping mom to take the test? Have there been others? Have they found the existing breaks to offer enough time? Why is she the first to petition for more time?

2.) How long is the test? How many breaks are allowed?

3.) What is her flexibility in terms of when she can/must take the test? Can she schedule it at a later date? Could she have taken it in the past? Did she take it in the past?

4.) How would her being given extra time affect the people around her. Would it give her an unfair advantage?

The list went on and on.

As you know, it's been a busy summer. One that has left me with far less time than I'd like to research such things. So for the most part, I've watched and listened and waited to form an opinion. I've had a little more time in the last week to read about the issues surrounding the case, and while I still have some mixed feelings, I'm a little more confident in my opinion.

I bet, based on the thread earlier this week, that many of you think I'm going to say she shouldn't have been given more time.

Many of you would be wrong.

My first reaction, when I heard about this incident (a while before it hit the press actually...Ms. Currier did seek to work things out before going public) was outrage. How idiotic to not allow a mother time to pump during this test. Quickly though, my critical thinking side kicked in and I found myself wondering why Ms. Currier was the first person ever to ask for or need this accommodation. After all, surely she's not the first lactating mother to sit for the medical boards, right?

That last one was answered pretty easily. It doesn't really matter if she's the first person to speak up about it. We all know that plenty of folks "suck it up" even when they shouldn't have to because they're afraid of rocking the boat. (haven't we spent the last two days discussing this very thing? While I support sucking it up in regards to "wants", I don't think a job always qualifies as an automatic "want.") I've heard from more than one women in the medical field that there are many unspoken rules and expectations and that women who "expect" anything perceived as "special" are labled as troublemakers. That leaves me not quite ready to dismiss the need for more time simply based on the idea that other women said they had enough time to pump.

I've also learned that not everyone pumps like I did. Some women genuinely need more time than others.

My second reaction was to laugh at the irony. The medical board...the people who are supposed to value and promote breastfeeding...were telling a mom she should just wean her daughter so she could pass the boards and become a doctor.

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  1. Blogger Sarahbear | 4:31 PM |  

    I was all for giving her extra break time until I found out that she turned down the offer to have a room to herself where she could keep a pump with her and express milk as she felt she needed to.

    I understood that she might take longer to pump and everything, but when I found out that she could have done that (which would have been ideal in my opinion), and she still insisted she get break time, I decided she was just trying to get more special accommodations.

  2. Blogger Darlene | 4:49 PM |  

    I certainly don't know all the facts either but my initial reaction is to think, no, she needs to have the same parameters for test taking as her colleagues. There is so much pressure and so much competition that any advantage could be unfair. I'm not saying it IS unfair, just that it could FEEL unfair to the others.

    When I sat for the CPA exam(years ago), the pressure was enormous, the rules were strict, and everyone was in the same boat. From this perspective, I wonder how my fellow test-takers would have reacted had I been able to leave the room, sit down and relax a bit, and then return. What would the proctor have done...follow me and leave the class? Would my leaving have been a distraction to the others? Would they have wondered if I had an unfair advantage if I wasn't accompanied...would I have had the chance to think longer about an answer, referred to notes, or just been able to take some of the pressure off (figuratively as well as literally).

    On the other hand, I can certainly see how being unable to pump could be an unfair disadvantage. I remember long periods of not nursing as becoming more and more painful and distracting. I actually would start leaking seriously.

    The key question is probably how long the test took and how long the breaks were. However, I'm inclined to lean toward the opinion that in cases of professional exams such as this, there really is no room for accomodations that allow someone to leave the room but if she wanted to, and could pump without distracting the others, perhaps at the back of the room, that would be the extent of the accomodation. She would need to find a way to finish the test in alloted time. In addition, tests such as these require a great deal of care with respect to having everyone on a level playing field because the stakes are so high.

    I'm glad I'm not standing in the shoes of the exam givers or the bfing mom. I can imagine that you will have opinions from every angle and this is a debate that has parallels in many areas. It will be interesting reading, for sure.

  3. Blogger Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) | 7:20 PM |  

    I have to admit that as a licensed CPA, my sympathies immediately went out to her and I have been following this story rabidly since I first came upon it. As I have taken a professional exam, I understand the pressures involved in conjunction with the unique harmony required that ensures that everything is fair to all involved.

    So, I think that I can express my opinion fully understanding that absolutely, positively, and without a doubt, that things should and COULD be structured such that she would not be granted extra time that might be considered an "advantage". For example, I think she should allowed extra time BETWEEN sections of the exam so that she can pump but still would not be allowed to even THINK about sections that she might be currently working on.

    I hope this makes sense. I am still disgruntled that this is the "medical" profession that is even debating this. Which is very telling, quite frankly.

  4. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:49 PM |  


    Do you really think taking the time to setup the breast pump, pumping milk and then taking it all apart WHILE taking the test is reasonable?

    As someone who has pumped more than most women will in their entire life (and who used to pump WHILE blogging) I can assure you it is not easy.

    As I understand it, what they essentially said to her was "You can use the time we gave you for the test to pump and simply have less time to take the test."

    I don't see how that's fair.

    She wasn't asking for extra test time, she was asking for extra BREAK time. She'd still have the same amount of time to spend on the test as anyone else. (save for the extensions she got for learning disabilities.)

  5. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:52 PM |  

    "In addition, tests such as these require a great deal of care with respect to having everyone on a level playing field because the stakes are so high."

    Darlene, how would Ms. Currier have a level playing field if she was taking the same test while dealing with painful engorgement?

    Not being sarcastic, just trying to understand your point.

    I hear people say "but she'll have an advantage" and I think "no, they'll eliminate a DISadvantage."

  6. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:54 PM |  

    SOrry to serial respond, but I'm writing as I read and publish comments...

    "For example, I think she should allowed extra time BETWEEN sections of the exam so that she can pump but still would not be allowed to even THINK about sections that she might be currently working on. "

    It's my understanding that this is how it would work. Her break would be between sections of the test and they would simply be LONGER than normal...thus, it's not like she can go read notes, think about a certain question, etc... she really just has more time to get the pumping done and then go back to test taking.

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:10 PM |  

    You said:

    "As someone who has pumped more than most women will in their entire life (and who used to pump WHILE blogging) I can assure you it is not easy."

    This is my life now. I feel you. Why do you think I have so much time to research? I'm forced to sit still for prolonged periods of time several times a day (at least eight), in front of this computer. I might as well do something with that time. I choose to research and write about breastfeeding because lactation is my LIFE. I'm willing to bet that's how you got so good at what you do too. ;)

  8. Blogger Mama Seoul | 9:52 PM |  

    I think lactating mothers should get extra break time during professional exams. It is a physical issue of leaking and engorgement that can't be controlled. I don't think that pumping is so relaxing (for most people anyway) that it would give a mother an advantage. I think that pumping during an exam would be stressful, something else to attend to, so not an advantage.

    Also, especially in the medical field where the schooling is so long and in prime female reproductive years, that accomodations like this should be made.

    She could have chosen to delay having children or chosen not to breastfeed, but why should she have to? I don't think society should force her to make that choice when she could have a "reasonable accomodation" of pumping time. What will she do during the other break time? Go to the restroom and eat, probably. She should be allowed to do that along with everyone else.

  9. Blogger Sarahbear | 7:33 AM |  

    It would be ideal for her to pump while taking the test in my opinion. They have dual breast pumps, pumping hands-free bras, and pumping shirts that would cover the pump and allow her to sit and take the test just fine.

    I had a single pump and pumped a lot. I got a lot of e-mailing and blogging done during that time because there was really nothing else in the world I could do during that time besides catch up with family and let them know how things were going with the baby.

    I also play World of Warcraft (it's an MMORPG) and I'd pump while playing, which was a little more difficult to manage, but doable.

    I know she's not asking for extra time to take the test, but extra break time. From my understanding, she had 45 minutes of allotted break time, per day, to use as she saw fit. She could also snag extra break time by finishing sections of the test early.

    If she pumped before the test and then had to pump every 2-3 hours, for a 9 hour test, she could use 25 minutes 3 hours in, 20 minutes 6 hours in and then pump as long as necessary afterwards. She could have her husband or someone preparing the pumps (washing, and storing the milk after she pumped) and she could have someone get her a warm rag to help with let down, if she chose to go that route.

    Whatever happened, she chose these things for herself. While I agree that there are some things that women shouldn't be denied for becoming mothers, sometimes we have to make sacrifices. No one can have it all. She chose to have her children in the time frame she felt would be best for her family, she's choosing to breastfeed and give her child the best possible nourishment, and she failed the test when she took it while she was 8 months pregnant (if she'd passed it the first time she wouldn't have this problem). They offer the test several times a year and she has the option to wait a couple months so that she's not having to nurse as frequently/pump as frequently or she could postpone the test until she finishes breastfeeding. It's not ideal, but sometimes we have to take the good with the bad as parents. To insist that we get special treatment in these types of situations is just adding to the negative attitude people have towards breastfeeding mothers.

  10. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 8:09 AM |  


    When do you suggest she go to the bathroom and eat if she's using all her time to pump?

    Also, without knowing how often her daughter is currently nursing (or her body is used to pumping) you can't make assumptions about how often she should have to pump.

    I only pumped four times every 24 hours when I exclusively pumped. I know women who had to pump 8 times every 24 hours when they did. Not everyone's body works the same way.

    I've heard the "she can take it later" test quite a few times, but gain, I guess I just don't see why she should have to.

    Essentially, you're saying that because she chose to breastfeed, she can't start her career or her residency yet.

    While I fully understand (and believe in) the idea that we have to give some things up in life, I just don't think I'm prepared to start picking and choosing which jobs a nursing mom can have when the ONLY thing standing between them and the job is someone who won't give them a couple extra breaks to take the test.

    I do think though, that the fact that she failed the first time and has already gotten permission to have extra test taking time is playing a big role in swaying people's opinions on this issue. I know it made me think she shouldn't get the time until I really sat down and thought about it.

  11. Blogger sara | 2:40 PM |  

    I can't imagine taking an all day test 8 months pregnant. I have to take my first engineering exam in a month and I'm a nervous wreck about it already. The biggest worry for me is lack of time. I like to think things through and recheck my work. I would hate to have the extra pressure of needing to rush through in order to maybe finish early to have time to pump on my break. I definitely wouldn't want to be distracted by pumping when I was supposed to be Taking the test!

  12. Blogger Jessica | 4:05 PM |  

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Blogger Eilat | 8:06 PM |  

    I work in a very male dominated academic field and pumped for 10 months. I deeply sympathize with Ms. Courier, but more generally with professional women who choose to have children early in life and still work to succeed in a man's world.

    The thing that puts me in Sophie's corner is that she is trying to change the rules for ALL NURSING MOMS not just herself. She has said so herself in interviews and on her blog. The fact that the medical board is appealing her victory in court seems quite hostile to me. Why are they digging their heels in?

    I see the arguments against Sophie's request as having more to do with her specific situation: extra time for learning disability, having failed once before.

    But this isn't about her as an individual, but rather as a case in point. Lots of smart, talented, hard-working women (not enough, frankly) have to take this test when they are breastfeeding, and each and every one of them has had to deal with the stress of thinking about their breasts along with all the difficult material on the exam.

    And by "thinking about their breasts", I mean "I pumped before the test, that was 2 hours ago, I'm starting to feel full, should I stop now and pump? should I eat now and pump later?" etc. Or worse "Oh no! Im leaking. My shirt is all wet." Or "Ow! My boobs are so hard, I just gotta finish this section so I can pump already!"

    The medical board should extend a gesture to all MD candidates who are nursing mothers with a new policy. Now THAT would be progressive, and would go a long way toward showing support for breastfeeding in the medical community.

    Finally, I want to point out that for professional women there IS NO GOOD TIME TO HAVE CHILDREN. So the argument that she should have waited to have kids at another time is ignorant and inappropriate. I know many female professors who waited until they got tenure (and can finally relax about their careers?) to have babies. These women are in their 40's and have serious fertility issues to deal with among other things. That is why I didn't wait and got pregnant in graduate school. I have been lucky so far, but I see the double standards left and right and I support Sophie's efforts to change things all the way.

  14. Blogger Sarahbear | 9:03 AM |  

    If she took the judge and testing board up on their offer to allow her a separate room to pump all day long, she could use the restroom and eat during the actual break time.

    She's been given double the amount of time to complete the exam. If people can finish early in the normal allotted time and manage to get extra break time, surely she should be able to manage a bathroom break or two.

    I'm not necessarily suggesting that mothers should be so limited in their work professions, but there absolutely are jobs that aren't going to be able to bend so much in regards to working around your family choices. It's up to the individual to decide if the job or the family is the more important choice in those areas.

    I'm not sure what field she's going into, but she's got a PhD and she's working on her MD and looking to go into residency. Residency is VERY demanding. If she's so insistent on having breaks and such to accommodate her now, what's going to happen when she's working. Does she intend to stop nursing/pumping during her residency? If not, what happens to the patients who come into the hospital that need her to attend them?

    Would you be so understanding if you were waiting on her to come draw blood, or read test results, or treat your child for something fairly severe...but wait a few more minutes, she's not done pumping breast milk for her baby yet. She'll get to you as soon as she's done. Meanwhile, you kid has a high fever and is vomiting every half an hour....

    As much as it sucks, there are certain jobs that breastfeeding and motherhood are going to prevent women from doing. It's all about the choices we make. Of course she shouldn't be told to hold off on having children or not to breastfeed so she can do her job, but she should be able to do her job/take her test or whatever within similar restrictions as the other students can.

    When I first read the story, I too thought it wasn't that big of a deal and she should be given the extra time. After I read the follow up articles, I changed my mind.

  15. Blogger Jessica | 2:04 PM |  

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Blogger Unknown | 3:24 PM |  

    What bothers me most is that Ms. Currier felt she was the right person to take this battle public.

    Taking on lactation accomModation on top of her ADHD/dyslexia PR makes her look like a whiner. This in turn weakens both causes. Too bad, really - I wish I had 10% of her self-advocacy skills.

  17. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:55 PM |  

    another thought in this whole situation is that she is dealing with this issue for 2 days only, rather than a mom going back to work and looking a set in stone schedule that will be difficult to deal with longterm. While the time might not be ideal for her to pump fully, I think she would have enough time to relieve the pressure during the test. Remember, she isn't pumping long term on this time frame, just these 2 days, so she can surely plan ahead and store extra milk for her child to have while gone, and make sure to fully empty her breasts both before and after the test.

    While I agree that jobs should be more accomodating in general to pumping mothers, I think that the advantage piece is really key here. She shouldn't have to take a test while engorged and uncomfortable (a disadvantage to her) but she needs to be willing to compromise on her ideal (as much time as necessary to fully pump as she would like). I'm not saying she needs to just deal, but it makes me think of your previous post. I think we have to be realistic about our expectations and be willing to work with others.

  18. Blogger Erika | 6:23 AM |  

    Pretty sure I read she's going into research, so I don't think she'll be in any life-or-death situations where she's pumping and risking someones life.

    Now, as for the pumping-while-taking-the-test.... I can completely understand why she does not want to do that. I could bring my laptop down to our lactation room and work while I pump, but I know that I'd be much too distracted to work well (worried about overflowing the bottles, leaking, thinking about my daughter, etc). So, I just do easy sudoku puzzles because my brain just can't handle pumping+work.

    I too had trouble getting over all the accomodations (2 days for ADHD+dyslexia).. but then I looked at it as 2 separate issues. That extra day has absolutely nothing to do with her pumping, so I put it out of my mind. Then, I was reading many comments on other sites and it seems a common misconception is that she will be taking it as 2 days, 4.5 hours each day instead of 2 days, 9 hours a day. I agree that if it were 4.5 hours each day, 45 min should be enough, but for 9 hours I would require at least 3 pumping breaks (assuming I could pump immediately before and immediately after). At my 20-25 min/pump, I'd definitely need over 45 min.

    We have to remember that not all women produce milk the same. Some can pump less often, some must pump more often. Some can be done in 15 min, others take up to an hour to empty. While I am sure some women out there would be ok with at 45 minutes the fact remains that there are definitely women out there who need more time. Sophie is fighting for all women.

    I live in Massachusetts and have to say the news coverage of this story has been poor - the newscasters themselves moaning about her request, applauding the initial decision to deny her extra time and then ranting upon appeal. Personally I am saddened that in such a liberal, educated state we find these attitudes (add to this that Massachusetts still has no law protecting nursing in public!).

    Ahh well, getting off subject here, so I'll just end with a bravo to Ms. Currier for doing what is best for her daughter (both nursing/pumping and working towards a good job).

  19. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:02 AM |  

    sarahbear, you said: "As much as it sucks, there are certain jobs that breastfeeding and motherhood are going to prevent women from doing. It's all about the choices we make."

    But why? Why should anyone be restricted in careers by their choice to be a nursing mom? This seems so wrong to me. Children are so often taught that they can be anything they want to be, but why can't women have that same empowerment?

    I personally feel that the best situation for nursing is staying home, but I'm proud of women who work full-time and also keep pumping and nursing. It makes me think "Wow, you CAN give your baby the best, even if you have to/want to work."

    As for this mom, I wish it wasn't such an ironic situation, where the MEDICAL board was preventing her from doing something they know is necessary for her/her baby. I have close family who have struggled with these kinds of tests and learning disabilities, and there is very little fairness even on that end. The real problem isn't that she's being prevented from taking longer on the test, it's that it seems that the board are trying to weed out those who are deemed not good enough before even taking the test. That's very disappointing to me, considering the amount of money and time these students spend working their butts off just to make it to this point. It doesn't sound like a level playing field to me at all.

  20. Blogger Jen | 10:15 AM |  

    I don't see why you have to pick and choose a profession based on having children/nursing. Men don't. I'm not going to.

    I'm lucky...my baby goes easily from bottle to breast. My job has a 'nursing room'. I even take my laptop and work while pumping.

    Honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. I am immensely more fulfilled with this lifestyle. I love working, and I love nursing my infant. I don't feel like that's trying to have too much, because I'm far from overwhelmed. This works for me. And it works because someone, long before I started working here, did something about establishing a 'nursing room' here.

    (Thank you to whomever!)

  21. Blogger Ahmie | 12:05 PM |  

    I've been following the case pretty closely. Here's a synopsis of the issues:

    Ms. Currier has AD(H)D and dyslexia. Even with these issues she's completed a PhD program AND medical school, with honors, and this is her second baby.

    When she took the test the first time she had extended test time and was 8 months pregnant, and was ill, requiring hospitalization shortly thereafter. She only failed the test by a very narrow margin, a few points.

    If anyone should understand the definition of "co-morbidity" it should be the MEDICAL testing people. The fact that she has legitimate learning disabilities (at least, they're legitimate enough that the testing board isn't disputing THOSE) that necessitate extra testing time - spreading out the test over double the time, two nine-hour days instead of one, CREATES the need for additional break time. Because she has dyslexia and attention deficit, she's not expected to be able to finish the test in the normal amount of time as it is, so she's given more time PER SECTION than normal test-takers to level the playing field. So a section that normal learners get 1 hour for, she is permitted to have 2 hours to complete. Therefore, if she needs to pump every 2 hours, she needs enough time BETWEEN each section to be able to pump.

    Yes, the test has been taken by breastfeeding mothers before and they've pumped between sections and during their breaks. The issue is, they were NORMAL LEARNERS, so there wasn't a co-morbidity issue compounding their pumping needs, and they could be reasonably expected to complete the sections in the time allotted, possibly even earlier than the hour given to get extra pumping time in (though they shouldn't need to worry about that - EVERY breastfeeding mother taking these tests should be given the option of having pumping time between each section or at least every 2 hours, in addition to the break time non-lactating test takers are given to eat and go to the bathroom, because breastfeeding mothers have an additional task that needs completing during their breaks that non-lactating test takers do not have to deal with, plus the ramifications of NOT pumping - engorgement, supply issues resulting from it, potential blocked ducts, not to mention possibly leaking onto the test itself).

    The co-morbidity of having attention deficit issues makes the suggestion of pumping WHILE testing a ludicrous suggestion. Pumping is difficult enough for a normal learner who is only trying to multitask with fairly simple other things while pumping - Suduko, reading blogs, responding to emails (and that's all assuming that your personal anatomy ALLOWING you to not keep our hands on the pump - those pump-holding devices only work up to certain cup sizes, I'm an H cup and they do NOT work on me, and the distance between my nipples and the bottom of my bra is too far for a Whisper Wear to be used as intended - anything over a D cup causes problems for many of these devices and many nursing mamas are well over a D cup so it's common enough to have issues).

    The need for extra break time to pump is separate from her need for extra test time due to her learning disabilities, but it's COMPOUNDED by the accommodation for her learning disabilities. It's quite possible that she's the first woman to have both issues at the same time that has also been willing to stand up for her needs/rights.

    Suggesting that there are jobs that are incompatable with motherhood/breastfeeding deprives our society of some very talented contributions. What if no one saw the point of accommodating Steven Hawking's needs? Who knows if maybe the next major intellectual contribution/medical advance may be sidelined because of unwillingness to realize that a breastfeeding mother needs time to pump? I get enough flack myself for contributing to the "brain drain" by staying home with my children (3yrs old and 3mo old) until I feel they are ready to be separate from me long enough for me to go to grad school locally.

    Oh, and yes, Ms. Currier is planning to go into research (most MD/PhDs are researchers, not medial practitioners - very few actually practice medicine with patients). Neuroscience, specifically, from what I remember reading.

    I'm not just a lactivist, I'm also a disabilities rights activist, so I've spent years pondering both issues and how they overlap. I am mildly physically disabled myself and have issues with dyslexia too. I received extra test time when I took the GRE back in 1999 (years before conceiving my first) and will be requesting it when I take tests in the future. Both types of activists should be working together on this one instead of staring at each other like the other side has 3 heads or something. The media should NOT be left to spin this the way the person local to this story has described. Divided we fail.

  22. Blogger Sarahbear | 1:19 PM |  

    Jessica Yanow,

    That's not what I meant by it at all. If women want to take on jobs and kids, that's fantastic. However, it's the woman's (and her husband/family's) responsibility to make that work for them. Sometimes that means you have to take more time off from work than you're allowed with pay to continue breastfeeding or stay home with your kids. Sometimes it might mean ending a breastfeeding relationship earlier than you had planned or sending your kids to daycare so you can return to work.

    Mrs. Currier informed the media of her choices. She planned to have two children but wanted to have them before she was in her residency because she felt that the demand of the job would be detrimental to a pregnant woman and her fetus. She felt that if she waited after her residency to have her children she would be at the age where there's a larger risk of birth defects like downs syndrome.

    I'm not trying to twist the discussion, she stated these things, and they definitely play a part in the reason why people are split on the idea that she should or shouldn't have extra time to pump milk.


    The same reason that people who can't carry a tune in a bucket aren't becoming pop stars and the bench warmers from high school aren't signing million dollar contracts to play for the Cowboys. Some people just aren't cut out for some types of work. Be it for the choices they make in their life or physical limitations. Blind people can't drive taxis. There are tons of things in life that aren't necessarily fair, but people have to learn to accept them and work with what they've got.

    Women can be whatever they want to be. Sometimes they can't be two things at once though.

    The fact is that nobody can have it all. This whole discussion is the type of thing that contributes to the idea that 'lactivism' is just a bunch of middle to upper class women whining about their rights. It feeds into the generalization about breastfeeding women feeling entitled to everything.

    Mrs. Currier is very fortunate to have been as successful as she has been at everything and I applaud her for her efforts. I just find it ridiculous that she thinks she deserves one accommodation after another in regards to her personal life choices. While she's sitting in an office with her lawyers discussing why women need more time to pump during medical exams, there's a new mother living in low-income housing who will never have the opportunity to breastfeed her baby. She's got to get back to work at three minimum wage jobs to pay to keep a roof over her baby's head now that the father is out of the picture. Sure she made her choices too, deciding to have a baby she couldn't afford and working 3 jobs instead of going to college and drowning herself in debt with student loans. Not everyone is born into heaps of opportunity though, and they make due with what they've got. They accept the fact that not everything is fair in the world and we don't always get what we want.

    Mrs. Currier has plenty of options. She's just refusing to be reasonable about the options she has and demanding she get things done her way 'for the sake of breastfeeding mother's everywhere!'.

  23. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 1:33 PM |  


    So does that mean we shouldn't fight for ALL women to have the right to take unpaid break time to pump during their job?

    Because right now, most upper class, white collar women DO have that right. The women we're fighting for are those in lower paying, blue collar jobs that have neither the time, the location or the negotiating power to pump.

    I suppose those moms should simply accept that the jobs they have aren't conducive to breastfeeding and should just use formula?

    I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, I'm trying to point out that sometimes the status quo isn't a good thing. Sometimes it needs to be challenged.

    Often, those who most need to cannot afford to do the challenging. Thus, it's those who are often perceived as "privileged" who are able to pave the way to change for everyone else.

  24. Blogger Jessica | 6:38 PM |  

    Lactivist (Jen),

    I'm not sure if this was directed at me, but I agree with 100% with what you're saying. No arguments here.

    I just felt the argument was being twisted in this particular case into whether she was right or wrong in pursuing a residency shortly. I don't think it's up to us to judge whether she'd be a fit doctor because she decided to have children and nurse right now, which is what it seemed other posters were implying.

  25. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:41 PM |  

    You ask why other women haven't asked for accommodations for pumping breast milk, wondering if they don't want to "rock the boat". Just look at the overwhelming negative reaction, from both men and women, ignorant and knowledgable, and you'll see why no one before now has tried to change things.

    I took this test several years ago. Forty-five minutes during the entire day was barely enough time for me to stretch my legs and run to the bathroom between test segments-- not to mention scarfing down my pre-made sandwich. I can't imagine the difficulty a breast-feeding mother would have taking this test.

  26. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:35 AM |  

    I'm not saying that anyone can do anything. We are told that as children, but we all realize that there are some things we aren't cut out for. But the problem is when other people say that because we want to do A, we can't do B. When the two don't really conflict, except in someone else's view.

    I agree that we have GOT to fight for certain rights to be able to do what everyone else can do. If more Stay at home moms would stand beside the working, pumping moms in issues like this, it would show how we all SUPPORT one another, no matter what our choice of career. Nursing mothers really ought to stick together.

  27. Blogger JakeMarcus | 12:25 PM |  

    I have waited to comment publically on this case until I had a chance to read the appellate court decision. It has been very disturbing to me to see so many women judging the situation as if the particular circumstances of Sophie Currier's life are at all relevant. They are not. This is a legal matter about whether 1)breastfeeding women are legally entitled to a level playing field with men and non-breastfeeding women when taking an exam that controls entry into a profession and 2) if they are, how much additional time makes the field level. The appeals court decided that 1) discrimination on the basis of lactation is sex discrimination prohibited by the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment and 2) Currier offered three experts who agreed on the amount of time necessary for the average women (not you, me, or Currier)to pump while the Board offered NO experts saying a woman could do it in less time. In fact, the Board offered NO experts at all on the issue of how much time was needed to pump.

    The fact that Currier got extra time because of her other disabilities is irrelevant. Legally it must be assumed that she needs all that time for other reasons and, even more important, this decision will effect all future pumping test-takers, most of whom will not have this other extra time. The fact that some people may have time in the breaks given to all to also do this extra thing she has been found to be legally entitled to do is irrelevant. She has an additional thing she must do and is legally entitled to the extra time needed to do it.

    Whatever the Board's position might be on its web site or in its press release, the judge was restricted to the expert testimony and the Board offered none.

    Instead of fighting among ourselves about whether Currier has some personality flaw, we should be applauding a legal decision that discrimination against breastfeeding women is sex discrimination. Insisting that environmental conditions must be changed in order to remove a disadvantage to women should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Let's remember that this exam structure and time constraints were created to meet the needs of men. Fighting for equality often means fighting for a recognition that men and women are different and that difference is not a bad thing.

    Jake Aryeh Marcus, J.D.

  28. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:06 AM |  

    I totally agree with sarahbear. I was ready to be outraged until I learned that she was offered a separate room for her test and that she could pump in there.

    It takes very little time to set up and take down for pumping. She can hook herself up before starting the test turning the pump on and off as neeeded. You could argue that she's getting an unfair advantage by pumping because she gets to experience the relaxing hormonal release during the stressful exam.

  29. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:33 AM |  

    I have to agree with MollyB, while this woman should be entitled to and not penalized for needing to pump for her baby, she is making herself look like a 'whiner'. She's asked for several accomodations and extensions and she makes herself look like she's trying to pull one over, to get every extra play she can. That's where the negative reactions and eye-rolling comes in. I'm sure the board is thinking 'how many accomodations can we give this lady?" If she had asked for just extra pumping time it probably wouldn't be such an issue, it's the combination of all of her requests it seems. Rules are rules for reasons, reasonable accomodations are made, but in this sue-crazy world where everyone brings everyone to court, that is where the rest of the world is rolling their eyes and judging her. I fully support her needing to pump and provide for her child, but I think the world sees her as being a martyr of some sort.

  30. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:17 PM |  

    This is the first I've heard of this case, but I tend to agree with sarahbear's comments. I am in school right now, and took finals only days after giving birth which left me unable to nurse/pump for 4 hours! And my newborn had been eating every 1-2 hours...plus we know how engorged you are that first week. I was fine. I just took an exam for my field similar to Ms. Currier's that took 6 hours (and I neither asked nor was given any time to pump)...my son is 6 months old and nurses every 3 hours still...I was fine, slightly engorged but fine. No, our bodies don't all work the same, but, perhaps the question isn't if she will have enough time to pump and test, but rather why she is insisting it be break time that she gets to pump? Everyone keeps saying that they needed this or that to nurse efficiently; she's not suppose to be pumping so that she can provide milk later to her baby...it's suppose to be so that she won't be uncomfortable or engorged during the test, right?

  31. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:20 PM |  

    I took the medical boards step 3 when my daughter was 7 weeks old and went out to the car on breaks to pump. The break time was more than adequate. I did not request "special" accomodations. Given that Ms. Curie has failed the test before, this strikes me as a ploy to gain more time (and hence, an unfair advantage) to take the test that others would not normally have. Besides, how many of you would like the physician caring for you to have repeatedly failed the board exam? Or only manage to pass the exam because of unfairly extended time? Does this strike you as medical proficiency? Would you like to leave your life in her hands? Not me!

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