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.
We arrive back at Paddington with an hour to kill before the train home. Breast-milk can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours so this is my first chance to save some. The platform 1 toilets, baby change and showers are closed and I am directed to platform 12. The baby change is in the accessible (disabled) toilet, you need a radar key to get in. I pay my 30p to get through to the toilets. The shower rooms are both locked, the toilets have no lids. Looking like someone with an obsessive cleanliness disorder I wash my hands then use paper towels to open and close the cubicle door. Standing with my back to the door and without touching anything other than my sterile pump and milk storage bags I half fill one bag. I’m cursing Isambard Kingdom Brunel for designing a station without a dedicated feeding room. I swap sides. For a moment I am confused that nothing much is happening, then I realise that the entire left side of my vest-top is dripping.
I get home at a quarter to midnight, Moo is fast asleep, I have an overwhelming urge to lick her. I let her sleep a while longer and take some fenugreek.
Rushing about trying to find a comb I explain to Roo that she has to be good and look after her baby sister while I’m away, I list the people she’s due to be entertained by over the next four days. She’s singing loudly and trying to jump up and down on the bed, Moo is lying next to her having her nappy changed. “Haven’t you explained to her that you’re going?”
I have two minutes before I need to be out of the front door and I’m looking forward to walking across town, alone. I lean over, blowing kisses and it hits me. What if that was the last time? That last rushed 7am half asleep feed, rudely interrupted by me popping a finger in her mouth and bundling her into the crib so I could go have a wee.
I blink back tears and grab my case.
I’d been counting the days to this trip since I found out I was pregnant, this was the end of my maternity leave.
I work from home for an e-learning business, I’m very lucky in that I get to choose my own hours, I don’t have to wash or dress for meetings and I can do most things with a baby attached to my boob. Most things, except for meetings in Romania.
With the exception of a night out, a hair appointment and an interview, Moo has been exclusively breast-fed. She’s just five months old and I’m leaving her with Dadi and lots of cartons of formula. I’m a trained breast-feeding peer-support worker, if I had asked myself for information I’d have told myself that I could express a little every day and freeze it in preparation but I’ll be honest, I really hate expressing. Yet here I go traipsing across Europe with a hand-pump.