Contraband

Things are getting dull, I have travelled at least three times, pumped and dumped, returned home and had no funny stories to share.  I must be getting used to it.  I am blasé about drunk expressing in the shower.  Hotel staff fingering my flanges no longer phases me. Nipping out for a quick tit-squeeze during a coffee break is old hat.  Being groped by an airport security guard… now hang on!

There’s a loud beep as I walk through the archway, I think she says “zur Seite ” so I step into the booth. I’m sure there’s no metal on me but the paddle beeps all over.  It makes a comedy whizzing sound around my chest region but the guard does not share my amusement. She barks something and she takes my raised eyebrow and nervous half smile to be consent for her to stick her hand up my bra. Over the clothes but still, she hasn’t even asked my name yet!

At this moment I remember that I am wearing breast pads. My mind starts to race, I envisage trying to explain their presence in pidgin German, I work out how best to mime “they’re there to catch the leaking milk”, I expect the sniffer dogs to be so interested in the milky smell that I get detained whilst my innocent breast pads are sent to a lab for drugs testing. I start to panic that I don’t have a spare set and that I packed my pump in my hold luggage but at least if I am leaking whilst detained it might help to prove my innocence.

She shrugs and sends me on my way.  I am flustered, red-faced, a little shaken, and my pads are in the wrong place.  I’ve not felt this awkward since Corinne Crutchley’s 15th Birthday party.  I wonder if BA serve Strawberry Kiwi 20/20. 

Top Tips for Travelling T**s

Fold a hotel towel in half length-wise, lay it across the bed at boob level and you have an instant wet patch absorber.

Folding over the end of the towel gives you an absorbent pad to hand-express into when you irritatingly wake for the 4am feed.

Express in the shower, it’s rather liberating spraying the walls.

Don’t feel down about dumping so much milk, concentrate on all the guilt free gin and caffeine you’re allowed to consume.  Go on, raid the mini-bar, you deserve it!

Hand luggage

Moo is now eating Annabel Karmel out of house and home.  I expect that my milk supply will have dropped accordingly and am pretty excited about working in Portugal without having to fit in four-hourly pumpings.  I also think that I am really clever to have timed flights to get me there, back and job done within 48 hours.

I take hand luggage only, toothbrush, knickers, top, breast-pump, laptop, Kindle, selection of wires and plugs.  As I am being frisked at the security check I see the tray with my electrical items roll along the conveyor belt, it is not followed by my handbag.  I turn to find out what’s happening and feel my cheeks start to burn as two security guards untangle the knickers from around the handle of my manual pump. Exchanging confused glances they conclude that whatever the strange contraption is, I’m more likely to be a deviant than a terrorist.

Six hours on and I’m in my hotel room.  I plan an hour of expressing in bed, feet up, Portuguese music TV and whatever the mini-bar has to offer.  Ten minutes in and the phone rings.  “We are downstairs.  We asked at reception, they said you were here, we’ve booked a table for food, we can’t wait to meet you!”

After a lopsided supper I finish off in the shower.

Work goes well but my hosts are ever present and the bathroom facilities are basic.  I decide to hold out until lunch and search for a comfortable loo in the restaurant.  I finish my food quickly, I make my excuses, I find the toilets.  A unisex bathroom with two cubicles.  Cubicles with doors. Cubicles with frosted glass doors.  I reason that if i can just do five minutes each side to release the pressure I can probably make it through to 5 o’clock and then, um, continue pumping in the airport.  A man is holding open the door between the restaurant and the toilets and having a conversation with a woman washing her hands.  I know this because I have just realised that the cubicle doors are low enough to see over whilst you are sitting on the loo.

Ohne Milch

I’m sitting at the family breakfast table, desperately trying to remember the words for ‘without milk’ but end up grinning like a sleep deprived weirdo. As far as I can work out, my host’s children are arguing playfully about sausages. I like this place, it’s full of cool and kooky. I feel like I’m staying with the Ikea catalogue family, the eldest kid has a rope swing in her room!

Later, after work, the Mother takes me to one side, looks deeply and earnestly into my eyes, “Is there anything you need? Anything at all just let me know.”

What I really need is a container to express into. Last night and this morning I had used the water glass they provided. Sitting on the camp-bed, towel tucked in place to catch drips, manual-pump straight into a tumbler. I filled the glass and took a picture on my phone before pouring it down the sink in the family bathroom. Now Super-mum has tidied my glass away. I wonder about the etiquette, is it the done thing to release ones breast-milk into a cereal bowl? Maybe a tupperware box is more appropriate. I imagine her telling her friends about the foreign girl who came to stay and milked herself into the best china.

I smile, “I’m fine, thank you”.

When I join them for cake and coffee there’s a plastic contraption on the shelf. It looks like a child’s asthma nebuliser but there’s an electric plug attached to it. It could be a breast pump, the youngest kid is only two and a half. If it’s not and I launch into a conversation about extended nursing she could be really upset. Again I opt for diplomatic foreigner and pretend I haven’t noticed.

During the evening meal we talk about families, the bigger kid asks if I am sad to leave my baby behind. We play language games, teach each other some words for colours and then she reads her school book to me.

At bed time I realise I am still without a milk collecting receptacle. I don’t want to express in the bathroom as I’m worried about disturbing the children, plus there’s no lock on the door. I wait until everything is quiet and tiptoe down the stairs, in the dark. No mean feat on six flights of hard wood surface. I find a mug in the kitchen and turn to leave just as my colleague walks in out of the garden.

“One last cigarette before bed. Are you thirsty?” “Ahh, no, I’m fine thank you.” “Oh, then it must be for the milk!”

Nursing in class

Work things in the rucksack on my back, baby in a sling on the front, arms around her, elbows at the ready, we take on the Circle Line at rush hour. She doesn’t bat an eye-lid. I almost wish she’d cry and shout a bit to warn the other passengers of her presence but she’s too happy.

The day goes far better than I could have hoped. Moo sleeps most of the morning and with a few careful clothing alterations and some sling-origami I find myself breast-feeding whilst talking to my trainees and writing on a flip-chart. Talk about multi tasking! Three hours through and someone exclaims “is that a baby!?”

I succeeded, I took Moo to work with me and did as good, if not a better job than if I had gone without her.

Now I’m not suggesting that we all go taking our babies to work, looking after a little one is tough enough. But it can’t hurt to remind people that it’s ok to combine working and being a mother.

Baby on board

I’m on one of those trains where everyone is wearing a suit and staring intently at their iPads.  Three people have already looked at me, thought better of it and moved to another carriage.  I’m dressed pretty smartly and I’m working on a presentation, but I’m raising suspicion.

Moo is just six months old, young enough to still need regular milk feeds, old enough to be entertained by toys.  Over the next two days I’m delivering some training workshops, sleeping at a colleague’s house, attempting an evening out and negotiating the London Undergound at rush-hour.  I have obviously gone bat-shit insane because I’m doing all this with Moo in a sling.  It’s a lovely sling, a cute Victoria Slinglady wrap, but there’s a baby in it.

Moo wriggles and pushes at the tray-table with her foot so I give up on the lap top and focus on staying comfortable for the journey.

Dyno-rod

It’s a strange feeling, like being plunged back into those early paranoid days of “is she getting enough?’ I’m feeding her as often as she asks and offering feeds if she so much as glances in my direction.  I’m refusing to put her down or keeping her as close as possible.  I’m taking fenugreek three times a day.  She drains both breasts, they feel like wrung dishcloths, and she’s looking for more.  My instincts tell me to offer more boob but she’s really quite hungry and as much as I don’t want to admit it, my milk supply has dropped.

There are no clean bottles, the steriliser takes 15 minutes.  I offer boob to try to pacify her but it only makes her more frustrated.  She’s screaming so loudly that I lose all common sense and try to give her a banana.  Dadi steps in.  I’m feeling pretty insecure, I have to deal with this alone soon, I need to up my game.

The next time I am prepared.  We start with boob, boob runs out, we switch straight to bottle, bottle finished, straight back on the breast.  On the first day back she took 3 x 100ml bottles, 2 the second day, 1 the third day, none the fourth day, 1 again this evening.  I’m starting to relax but she’s coming with me on the next trip!