Last week I had to return to New York, decided not to pump during the night and had my first six hour session of uninterrupted sleep. It was glorious. Pumping every 4 hours during the day between meetings (and in the bathroom of a new Chelsea restaurant) was not as glorious but also not as difficult as I was fearing it would have been, albeit I left the shields at home one day and had to trudge back. I had planned for the electric pump not working (or forgetting a pertinent part) and had brought a hand pump as a contingency, but had not planned for failing to remember to bring even one shield, a vital component of the hand pump also. I was left with merely the ability to hand express which got me nowhere.

JFK's Terminal 4 has only one nursing station and it's recent at that (I think it came after the pet relief area to give you an idea of how down the rung nursing mothers' comforts are). It was clean but looked very much like a bathroom and it was probably converted from one. No posters of Care Bears and loungy chairs and a dire smell of chlorine. I shared the station with a harried mother who was on break and rushing to return to work. I started to inform her that she had the right to request nursing breaks, apart from the rest breaks provided to her, but she was in too much of a hurry to engage in any instruction of her rights and it unfortunately appeared that she was being pressured at work to stop nursing her infant son. It is a shame that our society is not more accommodating nor understanding of nursing mothers' needs when they perform a vital social role (the many benefits of breastfeeding being dispositively proven). I suspect that the statistics of nursing are low in this country because women are rushed back into work and to work environments that are not conducive to their repeated needs to pump throughout the day, even though protected by law.

On my return trip, I was concerned that I would have to argue with the TSA officials to keep my milk, but they simply checked it without even opening a single packet and sent me on my merry way. I immediately went to the nursing station for a pumping session before the flight, which was about to board, and discovered to my dismay that it was occupied by another mother that did not want to share it nor reveal how long she intended to solely occupy the one nursing station in the whole terminal. There was nothing much to do there, so I left and asked to be the first to board so I could pump in the bathroom - I was allowed to do so and all went well. I was hoping not to have to pump in the bathroom during the flight as the bathroom gets progressively dirtier and I would occupy much needed real estate, but unfortunately I was not provided any other place. I had to occupy one of the two stalls in the sardine class for 20 minutes, which was in the end reduced to about 15 as incensed sardines began to aggressively knock and hurry me out. I retorted that I was pumping milk and would only be a few more minutes but the knocking resolutely continued. Some people lack understanding. As my friend said the other day, instead of wasting your own energy by getting annoyed, just think, "they must have violent diarrhea" (this works if someone cuts you off etc - it's brilliant, really).

Never before had I found it so hard to leave and get on a plane. I was nauseated and began to cry. When the flight took off, I feared dying, albeit I fly regularly and have not worried about it before. My husband related the same sentiment when he left a few months ago for a trip east. Travelling without your kids is heart wrenchingly difficult, as if tearing yourself away from a limb, and there is a new frightening, aspect to your mortality - that you will be unable to rear and protect your children.

It was surprisingly harder to leave my toddler than my infant son, whom I had never left before. This was because my toddler understood that I was leaving and it was more of an emotional toll for him. My infant son would struggle not being able to nurse at night, but at just shy of eleven months, my absence at night we figured would be good for him as we're trying to wean night feedings.

I wrote three letters to my toddler, one for each day I was gone and my husband told me that our son kept my letter the first day in his shirt pocket and then reminded my husband when he was being undressed before his bath to keep my letter in a safe place. I also resorted to toys and diverted our Face Time sessions from him asking me to come home ("I love you mama, come home") to a display of the toy treasure chest which awaited him on my return (this was a cheap trick and not the best from a pedagogical point of view, but hey, sometimes you need to do what works at the time).

 I was worried that he would feel abandoned and I had explained to him that I needed to go before I left, but while he was upset when I was gone, he didn't harbour any separation anxiety or contempt when I came back (I feared both). Instead, he hugged me and said he was happy now that I was back and that I was his best friend! This resulted in my heart doing a spree of summersaults.

I was also worried that the little one may forget how to nurse when I got back, but that surely didn't happen! He went on a nursing rampage....and unfortunately I have yet to wean him of night feedings.

In other news, we've had some fecal catastrophes the past few days (if you don't have any kids and are pregnant or trying, know that you're going to be lanced into a loop of perpetual poop no matter how you slice it). In fact, while we use the term kaka in our family, I would say, we've undergone some kakastrofa or kakastrophe this week. One perfect exemplum is my toddler getting the runs as we were running up and down Lyon Steps. In front of tourists capturing our bay vistas with their keen cameras, I undressed him, wiped him and re-dressed him (I always carry a full wardrobe change, just in case). Thankfully, my son was calm and compliant during the whole process and my little one was out in the stroller. My nanny was off this week and I now suspect she may have particular prescience...

I started to teach my two and a half year old to read this week by telling him we were going to learn to read by doing puzzles. I thought he was ready because he has tried reading himself for a couple of months. He would "read" me books by memorizing what they say and he has a stellar memory. So it was time. I made cards with three letter words car, bus, dog, cat, cow, pig, sun and hat and cards where I drew the object. Then the game was to match the words with the pictures and make a pair. Thus far we have dog, cat and hat down pat. I realized it was too much when I pressed for the rest, so we're going to take it a step slower - but the sight reading is definitely working and it's exciting to be a part of it!

I'm continually amazed at my son's growing comprehension, both in logic and in empathy. When I was putting up his blinds today, which involves me standing on a stool and for this morning's arrangement some acrobatic work, he ran up to the chair and held it tightly, quietly cautioning me. "Mama, you are not Dusty, you can't fly, don't go out the window." I assured him I had no intention of doing that. Again, my heart spurted into a spree of summersaults.

Meanwhile my younger son's personality is developing like wildfire. He is talking continuously in his own language and he sounds exactly like Donald Duck. For the first time, he and his brother have started to play together - they often hug and start a drumming jam in the double stroller. It's beautiful to witness. While it's difficult having them so close together, I already see the advantages, particularly for their future fraternal relationship.


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