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You better believe I’m (working) mom enough

December 11, 2013

*I wrote this post 18 months ago and never published it.  Enjoy!

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Need a place to pump at a train station? A storage closet full of old timetables is pretty much what you’ll get.

“Are you okay?” my friend and colleague asked.  We were posed,  a little too close for comfort, for a team photo at the end of a long day at a successful conference in Washington, D.C. Instead of smiling, I was wincing with the discomfort of limited opportunity to break way and use the $400 breast pump I’d brought along.

We’d just heard a keynote address from the chair of the White House Council on Women & Girls — which has cited research showing that nursing moms who get lactation support on the job are more productive, more loyal and better able to balance work with their new responsibilities at home.  I was on my first business trip since coming back from maternity leave, finding out for myself just how true that might be.

The first thing I’d done when I checked into the conference hotel? I called the front desk and asked where I could store the milk I’d be expressing during my stay.  I heard a knock on my door ten minutes later and opened it to find a smiling bellboy holding a beat-up black dorm fridge in his arms.  He walked across my room, plugged it in, and showed me the small freezer compartment it had inside.  Then he went back downstairs, carrying with him the suit and heels I’d be wearing the following day.  An hour later he was back, and the working part of my working mom wardrobe was perfectly pressed and shined.

When the conference was over, I flew out of DC for a multi-leg trip to North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Rhode Island to shoot photos and video for a financial education program we were getting ready to launch. In airport after airport I begged and bargained with airline crew members and airport information kiosk attendants for private, sanitary places to pump. When I didn’t want to send my daughter’s milk through the x-ray, I submitted to intimate pat-downs by TSA while my traveling companions waited nearby.  I broke away from more than one photo shoot to plug in and pump in a subject’s guest room.

When the trip was finally over, I headed straight from the airport to my kitchen. I lined up all those little five-ounce bags of “liquid gold” for my little girl on the counter. I had done it!  My first trip for work after she was born had been lengthy and logistically complicated.  But thanks to the the good humor of my colleagues and the support of my team, I had managed to make it home from two weeks on the road and still be able to give her the nutrition the American Academy of Pediatrics says a six-month-old like her needs.

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