Pumping in Airports and Other Reflections from the Road
Hallie Fox lives in Santa Rosa, CA with her husband and two daughters.
I am pumping in a bathroom in LAX – a routine I have mastered after two babies, weekly work trips and a blind determination to give my child "attachment parenting" even if the person they are attached to is the nanny (at least they are drinking my milk). I am covered in a gray paisley "Bebe au Lait" nursing cover and trying to look nonchalant as I flip through emails and watch the timer tick by on my phone. Fourteen minutes (six times a day), in the name of “leaning in” to both motherhood and my career. Task complete, I pack the bags of milk on ice, rinse off my pump parts, take a quick glance in the mirror to be sure I’m not walking to my gate with my hands-free pumping bra still zipped over my unbuttoned blouse (live and learn), and make my way out to the terminal for a quick cup of coffee before my flight.
Pumping in public (and sometimes precarious) places aside, the perks of traveling for work – for me – are numerous. I eat meals with two hands. I wear clothes that have been dry cleaned. I have time to catch up, or read, or stare off into space doing absolutely nothing, which is exactly what I need much of the time. I binge watch the Bravo network while I check my email. I sleep. I sleep. I get a good workout in at the hotel gym and read the headlines without interruption. I shower without anyone barging in on me. I wear makeup and brush my hair (and my teeth). In short, I feel like a bona fide adult human – a woman – for the duration of my trip.
Travel is my reset button. Undoubtedly I am a better mother for working, and an even better mother for getting away and taking time for myself now and again. One night is perfect, two nights is doable, the occasional three-day conference makes me more homesick than I like to be – although I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that TSA doesn’t bat an eye when you put one hundred ounces of breast milk through the X-Ray machine at security.
Sure, when I am away, I miss the rhythm of my house, my baby girls. I am in constant contact with my husband or mother-in-law or nanny or preschool teacher (it really does take a village, for which I am eternally grateful). I still keep time by the measures of our daily routine – when did they wake-up? How was drop-off at preschool? How long did the baby nap? How many ounces did she drink? How was bedtime? As the keeper of the household schedule/menu/laundry pile, I send friendly reminders – “early pick-up today for conferences”, “there’s a chicken in the fridge for dinner”, “the beloved Frozen nightie is clean in the dryer.” The planning, prepping and packing for an overnight to Phoenix takes more effort than the trip itself, but it relieves my guilt to feel as though I am still keeping everything in motion – even as I embrace the calm stillness of a night to myself in a hotel room.
I board the airplane and take my seat. I check my phone one last time – scrolling through the most recent photos, re-reading my husband’s texts recounting the day. “On my way home,” I write back, before powering down. As the stewardess tells me to secure my mask before helping others, I say a silent prayer of thanks that my babies are safely on the ground in the event of an emergency. I say a second silent prayer that I will safely join them in exactly one hour and thirty seven minutes. I wish for their happiness, success as they define it. I hope that I am grounding them enough to inspire their independence – to give them wings of their own. And I remind myself again and again to cherish the time while they still jump for joy when their mommy comes home.
Special thanks to Juno Blu for their support of this post