Three months after my second child was born, I was scheduled to attend an academic conference. This conference did not require me to travel out of state, but I did have to leave my baby for upward of eight hours, during which time I would have few opportunities or spaces to pump my breast milk.
The night before the conference, I organized and inventoried everything I would need. I had my work bag and laptop, plus a second bag with my breast pump, electric cords, and tubing; a hands-free pumping bra; empty bottles to pump into; and ice packs and a mini-cooler bag to keep the milk cold. I looked like an overzealous holiday shopper, not a professional going across town to a meeting.
When I arrived at the conference, I looked at the hotel map to locate the room designated for lactation. When I couldn’t find it, I asked a hotel employee for assistance. I explained I was attending the conference and my program stated there would be a lactation room. The bewildered young man repeated, “Lactation space. Hmm.” He apologized for not being able to help. I kept looking.
My colleagues filed in, one after the other, making small talk about the city and the weather while I leaked milk into 4-ounce bottles
Eventually, I learned the lactation space would not be available until the following day. I sat in a boardroom with my colleagues for several hours, and finally we were given a 15-minute break. I went into the women’s restroom, found an outlet by the sink, plugged in my breast pump, took off my top, put on my hands-free bra, and started the process.
My colleagues filed in, one after the other, making small talk about the city and the weather while I leaked milk into four-ounce bottles. “How old is your baby?” one asked.
“Three months,” I answered, and smiled. This was not my preferred method of mingling with cohorts, but I was grateful they continued to go about business as usual.