I am traveling again. Just before I boarded the plane, a woman behind me asked another woman if she were leaving her baby for the first time. Yes, she said.
I’ve been there, I thought to myself. When Nadia was just seven weeks old, I hopped on a plane for a week-long journalism fellowship. I was aided and abetted by Ken, my dad, his wife, her granddaughter, my mother-in-law and the director of the fellowship. I also carried my trusty Medela, which was discreetly cloaked in a padded backpack.
I didn’t worry about the girls. A cadre of veteran mothers doted on Simone, while Nadia dazzled everyone with her ability to drink four ounces of milk in seconds.
While away, I pumped every three hours. I had nursed Simone and wanted Nadia to have the same advantages as her sister. The director of the program, who had nursed her son, set up a quiet room for me, and I pumped during breaks. I set an alarm for the night feedings, and I stored the milk in a refrigerator and freezer in my room. Late in the week, I had amassed so much milk, I didn’t know how I was going to get it home.
“Ship it,” the director said. “I’ll pay for it.”
Her husband bought a small cooler while we were in class, and I packed the frozen milk in newspapers. Some of the milk was still frozen when it arrived. Mommy milk has fat in it, and is naturally insulating. The whole deal cost $73, plus the cooler.
I thanked everyone who helped me leave my children for a week. There is a photo of the fellows and me. I am in the one in the maternity dress. I hope the mother on my flight received similar support.