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!”