So, my journey as a nursing vacationing wife has begun, and the experience has been far more interesting–and a lot less challenging–than I’d believed it would be. Before embarking on this new adventure, I admit there was a bit of trepidation on my part. In the past, I have done quite a bit of traveling as a breastfeeding mother; as a matter of fact, there were times when it seemed that I always had a little one cuddled against my breast, and it was simply commonplace in my life, something very natural that friends and family accepted–and came to expect–as my “norm”, but traveling as a nursing wife? Well…that’s a bit different.
To begin with, I suppose there is always that fear of being discovered, of having that sweetly scintillating secret you share with the love of your life uncovered and revealed when you’re not quite prepared to divulge every aspect of your personal life with others who, although quite understanding and supportive under other circumstances, may not “get it”. Mr. S and I have perfected the art of discretion, managing to keep our lifestyle choice very private, but we typically do this behind the closed doors of our own home. There was something different about the idea of balancing a nursing schedule and shared moments with extended family…it felt so baldly and unabashedly open; it was something that had the potential to lead to vulnerability…but, in some ways, the idea was also freeing–and very empowering.
Before we even left, I deliberated on whether or not I should bother with packing a breast pump. We planned to nurse as frequently as possible (while staying on schedule), and although I knew that I could always manually express in a pinch, we finally decided that taking my electric breast pump was the right thing to do; while it isn’t as compact or easy to conceal as my manual pump, it removes milk much faster from both breasts at once, making it more convenient under these circumstances. Mr. S made room for it among the luggage and the children’s overstuffed backpacks, bless his heart. I felt very good about my decision to bring it along. (It is also wonderful to know that your family will be much too polite to ask, “What’s in the black case?” if, by some chance, they would happen to see it.)
The first day of our trip began with a lovely six a.m. nursing session. We were on the road by nine, traveling south, where we planned to spend Thursday visiting family that we hadn’t seen for quite some time. We reached our first destination just before 1:00, and an hour later, I found myself discreetly expressing…not with my pump, but by hand. Mr. S and I did nurse at 11:00 that night.
On Friday, we shared our usual morning nursing session, but did not get as early of a start as we’d hoped, so we had to stop fairly soon after we headed out so I could express. As we traveled, I began to notice that several visitor centers offered family restroom facilities that included nursing stations to make breastfeeding and pumping more convenient for mothers. These were fabulous–so clean and comfortable–and although I didn’t use my pump, I was able to express in a quiet, discreet, and relaxing environment, and it was wonderful to know that others felt I belonged there. If it can be arranged during our return to Ohio, I might consider taking the time to pump in one (or more) of those stations. We planned to stop late in the evening, and I was worried that Mr. S and I would not be able to nurse at 11, but the children ended up sharing a hotel room with their grandparents, so we were able to share a beautiful and completely relaxing experience.
I did notice that my breasts seemed a bit warm and uncomfortable, and there was a little more fullness in the areolae than normal; I was almost certain that I hadn’t been able to completely remove my milk during rushed hand expressions, which meant my breasts were filling up more quickly than I had expected. Mr. S had a bit more difficulty latching than he normally does, so we nursed in the sling feed position, and everything worked out beautifully. It was such a relief to be nursed from, and he was able to care for my physical needs as we tended to one another’s emotional desires. It was a beautiful session.
We reached our beach house just before 1:00 on Saturday afternoon. By 1:30, Mr. S had the car unpacked, and we were happily settling in to our new surroundings. Although we’d hoped to share an afternoon nursing session, things were a bit too chaotic as family members began to arrive and settle in along the beach. Mr. S took the children outside and I pumped at 2:00.
From there, things became much easier. Because we decided to completely relax and enjoy this vacation, foregoing the rush and crowds of amusement parks and tourist attractions for quality together time, there have been no itineraries or schedules to adhere to. We spent all of Sunday on the beach. On Monday, Mr. S and I met up with old friends who we haven’t seen in a very long time for a wonderful seafood dinner and good conversation. We explored a fantastic antique shop and stumbled upon a cute little theater that plays a wide variety of older films, and, thanks to the generosity of family members who offered to look after the children, were able to enjoy two dinner and movie dates on Tuesday and Thursday. We had a lot of fun on Wednesday when we shared a huge family get-together, complete with dinner and board games. We have indulged in outdoor sunrise breakfasts for two following runs on the beach, collected seashells with our sons, built sand castles with our daughter, spent a morning watching dolphins play in the ocean and flocks of sandpipers hop along the shore; we have walked barefoot in the sand and watched the sun set over the water. We awake to the sound of crashing waves…and are lulled to sleep by them at night.
And amid all of this beauty, this tranquility, we have nursed. Three times each day. And it has been bliss.
Surprisingly, I have found that it would be much easier to nurse more than usual, rather than less, because our schedules have become so flexible, but as tempting as it would be to bring Mr. S to the breast more frequently, we have stayed true to our normal nursing routine, which will be much easier for me to maintain once we return to the “real world”.
So far, everything has been wonderful, and as close to perfection as one person can get. I am looking forward to week number two. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead!