Every working breastfeeding mom can understand the huge sacrifice that is pumping milk for our babies—in closets, in airports, in bathrooms, all the time, everywhere. It's physically and emotionally exhausting and whether you're able to pump a lot, or just a little, that precious milk is worth its weight in gold. So imagine how you would feel if you were forced to dump not just one bottle's worth of milk but 500 ounces of liquid gold. Sadly, that's exactly what happened to working mom Jessica Coakley Martinez at London's Heathrow Airport recently.
While this isn't the first time a mom has been forced to dump huge amounts of breast milk at airports, Martinez was so devastated by having to toss two weeks' worth of food for her eight-month-old son that she took to Facebook to post a heartbreaking open letter to the airport.
She reveals that she pumped at "every possible moment" throughout her business trip. This includes while "sitting on toilets in public restrooms; stuffed in an airplane bathroom; in unsecured conference rooms, showers and closets because certain office spaces didn’t have a place for a nursing mother—and then dealing with the humiliation when a custodial employee accidentally walked in on me."
"It meant lugging this giant block of frozen breast milk through four countries, airports and security checkpoints and having them pull out every single ounce of breastmilk and use mildly inappropriate sign language to convey 'breast' and 'milk' so that they would let me through."
Martinez acknowledges that her lack of detailed knowledge about airport laws was part of the factor, but maintains that she had never before been asked to throw away any pumped milk, frozen or fresh, in her extensive time traveling and pumping. And that despite "begging, pleading and even crying out of sheer shock and desperation for a solution," airline officials would not budge and forced her to "dump out nearly two weeks' worth of food" for her son.
And while airport security is necessary and important, Martinez pens, "This wasn’t some rare bottle of wine or luxury perfume I was trying to negotiate as a carry-on. This was deeply personal. This was my son’s health and nourishment."
She concludes by sharing that being "a working mother and ensuring both my job and my child get exactly what they need is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but you managed to make it nearly impossible in a single afternoon," and that she hopes the next time they encounter a mom in a similar situation, they'd have a bit more compassion.