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!”

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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.