Tag Archives: travel

It’s not that hard: a nursing mom’s dilemma

So, next week I am scheduled to attend a one-day conference not far from home.  When I registered, there was a section about special needs.  I filled it out to indicate that I will need a nursing mother’s room in which to pump.  The conference is from 9am to 5pm, with a two hour drive before and after it.  I will need to pump at least once.

So, today I get an email from the conference organizer, CCing the Director of Catering and Convention Services who, I’m told, “has a suitable room on the third floor of the hotel.”  And whom I should contact directly for specifics.

Below is our exchange.

___________________________________

3:34pm

To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

Hi Director Woman-

I will be attending the [Conference Name] event next week and will need a private space in which to pump (I’m a nursing mom).

[Conference Organizer Woman] suggested I contact you directly for the details.

Thanks very much for your accommodations.

Momma, PhD

________________________________________

4:01pm

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

Hi Momma, PhD, I did speak to [Conference Organizer Woman]. We have a large REST ROOM* with a comfortable chair on our third floor. It is private and the door locks. I will be in at 8am on the 3rd. Feel free to ask for me and I can show you the space.

Regards, Director Woman

(*emphasis mine, as in, she wants me to pump milk in a place designed for people to urinate and deficate, and then feed it to my baby.  Is this the space that Federal Law requires them to provide?  Certainly it mustn’t be since that law specifies it can’t be a bathroom.)

______________________________________

4:05pm

To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

I thank you for your effort, however, a bathroom isn’t going to work.  Is there a guest room I could pop into, or even a conference room with a lock?  Pumping milk in a bathroom isn’t really sanitary.

________________________________________

4:18pm

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

The meeting space is committed. What times will you need so I can come up with another solution.

______________________________________

4:24pm

To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

The lunch break is from 11am to 1pm.  Assuming things will run over (as they always do), a 30min period sometime between 11:30am and 1pm would suffice.

In the past, venues have just given me access to a guest room (at hotels) or the employee nursing mother’s room.

Does the [large hotel] not have a nursing mother’s room available for employees?  That would work.

________________________________________

4:22pm,

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

I just spoke to our reservationist we are trying to work out half of a parlor suite. Please stand by.

________________________________________

4:28pm

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

We will certainly make a reasonable effort to accommodate your needs.* I am not sure if you had seen my last email.

(*Emphasis mine.  Where I come from, this translates as:  “You are a pain in the @ss and I’ve already exerted a tremendous amount of effort to deal with your unreasonable demands, so kiss my behind.”)

______________________________________

4:31pm

To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

Well, if you cannot accommodate me, please let me know because it will mean I am unable to attend.*

(*Where I come from this translates as, “Give me a flipping break.  You are a HOTEL, full of rooms.  Check out is at noon.  Check in is at 3pm.  I need a room for a whopping 30 minutes anytime between between 11:30am and 1pm.  If I do not pump, my boobs will explode.  Federal law says you should have a room that fits my needs.  Figure it the f^$k out.”)

________________________________________

4:32pm

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

I am sure we can, I just need to make sure we have an available guest room. Honestly I am not trying to be difficult.*

(*Emphasis is mine.  Heads up- if you are in a customer service profession and have to say this to a customer in need of service, you are not doing your job well)

________________________________________

4:57pm

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

I will have a room for you but will have to let you know where it is the day of event. The hotel is going into a sold out situation and knowing you wont need the room first thing when you arrive is great information to have.

We will certainly work this out. You can ask for me when you arrive and I will get you to the right place.

________________________________________

5:03pm

To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

OK.  Thanks.  I appreciate your efforts.  This is my second kid, and I’ve done this for many conferences, and never had it be such a problem for the venue.*

(*Emphasis mine.  Where I come from this translates as, “You are bad at your job and even though you are helping me, I’m still pissed off by your ineptitude.”)

________________________________________

5:06pm

From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

The issue is we are very busy. Which is good! [insert smiley face emoticon here]

________________________________________

That was the exchange.  How do you respond to a smiley face emoticon?  Is that standard operating procedure for a Director of Convention Services?

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Weekend Getaway: Lewes, Delaware September 2012

A few weekend ago we went down to Delaware to stay with friends at their beach house.  It’s the same trip we made last summer, that I wrote about here.

It’s crazy to see how different Mabel is one year later.  We didn’t do much- another trip to the Farmer’s Market, a couple trips to the park, flying a kite on the beach, collecting shells and crab parts, board games, pulled pork, ferry rides, etc.  All around a good time (except for the motorcycle gang, see below).

It’s also crazy to think that the last time we went down to Delaware (in February to meet up with my in-laws over President’s Day Weekend) Nemo was still in utero.  This trip, he was able to enjoy the view from the ferry.

Nemo on his first trip on the Lewes-Cape May Ferry!

On the way down, there were about a dozen bikers (on motorcycles, not bicycles) headed down to some kind of rally.  As we were waiting to get off the ferry, in the enclosed space of the car park, the bikers started their bikes and revved their engines incessantly and unnecessarily.  Mabel complained about the noise (which was loud despite having the car windows closed).  I made the near fatal error of saying, “I know it’s loud.  There’s no need for them to do that.  Those guys are being jerks.”

I thought nothing of it, other than patting myself on the back for saying ‘jerks’ instead of ‘*ssholes” which would have been a more apt description.  (I mean if you have to rev your engine that much you are either showing off and being a jerk, you need a new carburetor, or you need to learn to drive.)

Fast forward to the return trip home.  The biker rally is over and now there are DOZENS of bikers lining up to get on the ferry with us.  We’re sitting in the car waiting for all of them to check in and proceed to their lanes and await the ferry when Mabel pipes up from the back seat, “That guy’s a jerk!”  I assured her that he was just driving his bike, which was loud, and not really being a jerk.  So, then, seeking clarification as another bike engine revved, “Is that guy a jerk?”

At that point Mac and I looked at each other and said, “Uh, oh.”  When a group of bikers pulled up Mabel stated, “Those are a lot of jerks!”  Mac and I then looked and each other and I said, “I really hope we don’t get in a fistfight on the ferry.”

As we boarded the ferry- bike engines roaring- I tried to explain to Mabel that just driving your loud bike doesn’t make you a jerk.  Only someone who is really inconsiderate is a jerk.  I shouldn’t have used that word, because it’s not a nice word.

Thankfully that seemed to satisfy her and she didn’t call anyone on the ferry a jerk.  No fisticuffs ensued, as Mabel did nothing but charm all the tattooed, beer drinking (the ferry opened the bar for the 11:15AM trip), wallet on a chain wearing bikers.

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Conference travel with the fam

Back in January I wrote about being invited to speak at a conference– well that conference was last week.  Since the conference was taking place in Boston, and we lived for 3 years in the Boston area and still have many friend up there, Mac and I decided to make it a family trip.

Overall it went really well.  The conference was interesting (even if few of the talks were particularly relevant to my work), my presentation was well-received, the hotel suite was comfortable for the three of us, Mac and Mabel went on lots of adventures, Mac and I took turns having nights out to catch up with friends, Mabel got to swim in the pool, travel to/from was easy, and since it was a DoubleTree, there were lots of chocolate chip cookies.

A shot of Mabel in front of the conference poster during an evening exploration of the hotel.

I’ve written in the past about traveling for work, in general, but also specifically as a scientist, wife, and mother.  However, on that particular trip, it was just Mac and I, Mable was home with her Nana and Pop.  This time around we went as a family, so it’s a lot harder to break it up so cleanly into those kinds of categories.

Scientifically, I think it was good to have Mac and Mabel for company.  I was presenting at this conference, and I was more nervous for a presentation than I had been in a long time.  It was my first opportunity to present my work outside the company and I was presenting on aspects of the project that had been done before I arrived- so I was not as familiar with that material.  Also, having had to prepare the talk far in advance (so that it could be approved  by Project Management) and having to incorporate someone else’s slides, made it harder to prepare.  Mabel was an excellent distraction from my nervousness, and Mac was an excellent person to practice my talk on.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much at the conference that was directly germane to my work.  The conference was small, less than 100 people, and while they did cover a lot of topics, I was the only talk on my type of research, both in terms of model system and research focus.  While I did find all the talks interesting, it was a little disappointing not to return with some concrete information that I can apply to my work.

As a mom, it was as hard as a typical week just about.  While I was at the talks, Mac and Mabel were off adventuring and exploring Boston.  Tuesday they hit up the New England Aquarium, Wednesday it was the Children’s Museum and lunch with one of Mac’s friends, and Thursday they hung around The Common.  So, as it is on any typical week, I missed out on all the fun by having to be at work.  Every morning I gave out hugs and kisses and disappeared.  However, unlike a typical week, I got to see more of them.  I was able to run up to the room during breaks- bearing the ever present chocolate chip cookies, even share lunch one day, and since the conference was just downstairs, I didn’t have to commute.  It was also really nice to relax on Thursday after my talk in the morning and the conclusion of the meeting in the afternoon.  A dear friend from college came to our hotel with her 3 kids (between the ages of 5 and 16 months) for a swim in the hotel pool and a pizza party in our room!  It was great to catch up and for the kids to get to play.

A couple of photos Mac sent me so I could see what I was missing.

As for the practical aspects of traveling for work as a family, the hotel was a good fit.  The DoubleTree has suites, so our suite had a bedroom with a desk, TV, 2 twin beds and a pack n’ play for Mabel, then the front room had a microwave, minifridge, table with 4 chairs, and a pullout couch (which was so comfortable I tried to find out the manufacturer).  We were able to put Mabel down in the bedroom and stay up doing as we pleased.  It stunk having 2 twin beds at first, however, on the second night there, Mabel climbed out of the pack n’ play, so the rest of the week was a game of musical beds- with Mabel either in her crib or in one of the twins and one parent on the couch with the other on the second twin bed.

I was so glad that Mac was game to come with me.  I don’t think I would have gone if he hadn’t.  I don’t like being away from him and from Mabel.  On Wednesday night, when I was fighting nerves and trying to get to sleep, he was there to help me relax, remind me that I would do well, and have our typical nightly talk before bed (even if he then had to go sleep by himself in a twin).  I don’t think I would have been able to get to sleep without that- and a late-night phone call doesn’t always cut it.

Mac is so good at being a dad all the time, but especially when we travel.  Mabel had a tough time sleeping in the hotel, and Mac handled it much better than I did- even handling it entirely so I could sleep.  (If he hadn’t been comatose at 6am  Tuesday morning, after being up in the night with Mabel for hours, I’m pretty sure he would have objected to me putting her in the pack n’ play in the front room and turning on Cartoon Network so I could go back to bed for an hour).  He was also gracious when I ditched him one night to meet up with grad school friends for dinner.  Thankfully I was able to return the favor, and happily encouraged him to ditch me on Thursday so he could catch up with his buddies until the wee hours of the morning.  I feel like it’s so rare that he gets time for himself- being the SAHD/WAHD- that I relish the chance to give him some time and parent solo for a change.

A couple more photos Mac sent me so I could see what I was missing.

It was Restaurant Week in Boston last week and I had entertained the idea of taking advantage of it.  However, without a babysitter on hand, we were reluctant to take our toddler to a fancy place.  As it turned out, being at the conference all day then working on my talk in the evenings left me too tired to go out, and taking Mabel on adventures all over Boston during the day did the same for Mac.  So, we opted for ordering in Thai food to our hotel room and just took it easy on the one evening we had free.

I have one more work trip to take before my maternity leave- it’s a one-day conference, again in Boston, and I’ll be 38 weeks pregnant.  Mac and I are entertaining the idea of a mini-babymoon the weekend before, but the logistics might prove too much of a hassle.  So, I may go solo, but will probably only be spending one night away from home.

Overall, last week was a great trip.  I’m glad we went, and I’m glad we went as a family.  I don’t know what the likelihood is of us doing this again in the future.  We’ll be a family of four, and 2 kids in a hotel room might not be as conducive to work travel.  I guess we soon shall see!

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Family Vacation: Lewes, DE

Happiness is… old friends and new beginnings.

Facebook is a wonderful thing.  It’s put me back in touch with my best friend from middle school.  As chance would have it, she’s also married with a baby.  There are other similarities- our husbands have the same first name, our babies are both January babies, her husband is a scientist, and a bunch of other things that make their family a great match for ours.

Anyway, she invited us down to their family’s beach house in Lewes, DE for a weekend.  It was a really long drive from NY, but so worth it.

Lewes is gorgeous!  I love the old houses, the architecture, the sidewalks, the little shops, all beautiful.

I wound up taking the day off from work the Friday we were heading down (I wrote about it here) which meant we arrived around 7:30pm.  We rather quickly got the little ones to bed and settled at the huge dining room table for some Wits And Wagers"".  It was a lot of fun.

The next morning we got an early start and headed over to the Historic Lewes Farmers Market for their Tomato Festival.  It was really lovely.  If we didn’t have such a long, unrefrigerated, drive back to NY, I definitely would have stocked up.  Instead we got a pint of cherry tomatoes, the variety I cannot recall, and a gorgeous bunch of flowers that I just could not pass up.

As usual, Mabel was a big hit.  Using her adorable looks and charm to get a free flower and a taste-test of a cherry tomato.

Seeing as we’re now boring parents with a toddler, the afternoon was rather low-key, with some splashing in the yard, followed by naps.

After naps, we had plans to head for the beach.  We’d packed our lawn chairs, umbrella, and other beach paraphernalia; however, the weather wasn’t cooperating.  It was quite overcast and threatening rain.  So, we decided to just walk down to the beach and enjoy what we could.  It was about 1 mile to the beach, and a pleasant walk through the quaint town.  Mabel loved the water, and it was hard to keep her out of it!  We made it back to the house just as the raindrops started to pour down.  Perfect timing!

Dinner that night was had after the littles were put to bed.  We dined on burgers and hot dogs, grilled veggies, and a delicious orzo salad that I should post the recipe for soon.  A meal with adults, and no kids was such a nice change of pace!  If only my friend and her hubby weren’t in DC!

We stayed up late playing more Wits And Wagers as well as Balderdash The Game"" (which is different and more fun than the old Balderdash that was just about bluffing word definitions).  Mac and I really enjoyed both games and put them on our wish lists for future purchase.  We laughed so much that our sides hurt.  If we hadn’t all been imagining waking up at the crack of dawn with our kids, we probably would have been up all night.

The next day was departure day, and we had a long drive.  So we took a quick stroll through town, did some window shopping, and said our goodbyes.  The drive back was hard- even taking the Cape May-Lewes Ferry didn’t feel like much of break.

However, we had so much fun that it was completely worth it.  It was so nice to find a couple that we meshed with and be able to get away for a weekend.  They’ve invited us down again, and I can’t wait to take them up on the offer.  We hope to return the kindness and have my friend and her family up to our cabin in the Catskills.

I’m planning to print up a few of the photos to frame and send as a thank you.  I have to hurry up since it’s been almost a month since we were down there!

It’s so funny to remember back to the 5th grade girls we once were- now both moms and wives.  Thanks Facebook!

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Toronto as a Mother (Part 3)

To start from the beginning, Epilogue, Part 1, Part 2.

As I mentioned in my previous post, when my boss suggested I go to ISSCR, I knew I didn’t want to go if I had to go alone.  The conference plus travel would mean 6 days away from my little family.  I knew I wanted Mac, my husband, to come with me, but I wasn’t so sure about bringing Mabel.

Back in October, when Mabel was 9 months old, I attended a conference in Philadelphia.  The conference was only 2.5 days and Philly was only a 3 hour drive.  Also, at the time, I was still breastfeeding, so, bringing Mabel was a no-brainer.  I had been away for an overnight without Mabel once before, having to pump while away, and it was basically 20 hours of being uncomfortable.  Breast pumps are wonderful inventions, but they are no substitute for a baby- particularly for me.  For me, the pump was never able to do a thorough job of expressing all my milk,  so being away from Mabel meant I’d pump, become engorged again in a few hours, and have to pump again.  That was tolerable for an overnight, but there was no way I wanted to do that for several days- it was physically uncomfortable, I didn’t have enough expressed milk to leave with Mabel, and it was a risk to my milk supply in general (not completely draining would be a signal to make less milk).  So, we went as a family of three.

Mac and Mabel at Reading Terminal Market

In Philly, it was a hassle running back to the room during all the breaks, and it stunk that Mac and Mabel had to stay close to the hotel so I could nurse, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Being in a hotel room with a 9 month old was not fun.  When Mabel woke, everyone was awake.  When Mabel went to sleep, we had to turn off the lights and the TV, stay quiet, and try not to disturb her.  We could only go out to eat at kid-friendly places, at kid friendly times.

Well, breast feeding wasn’t a factor in the decision whether or not to take Mabel to Toronto since she weaned around her first birthday.  However, all the other stuff mentioned above did factor in as a ‘con’ to taking her along.  The pros included- not having to be away from her for 6 days, getting to take a family vacation, exploring the kid-friendly side of Toronto.

Now, the pros/cons of leaving her with Nana and Pop.  Pros:  sleep (as in not getting woken in the night and sleeping in every morning), go wherever we wanted whenever we wanted whether or not it was kid-friendly, not having to take a 7 hour car ride with a toddler, not cramming in one room, not having to get her Passport.  Cons:  missing our girl for 6 days!

I’m making it sound like it was a debate, but really it wasn’t.  There was no way Mabel could have come with us simply for the fact that we didn’t have a Passport for her.  So it was decided that she’d stay with her grandparents- who were ecstatic to have her to themselves for almost an entire week!  Pop took 2 days from off from work, and Nana took another 2 days.  We set up Skype on Nana’s computer, packed Mabel’s bag, met Pop in a McDonald’s parking lot, made the transfer, and hit the road.

It was definitely a little nerve-racking to be leaving Mabel for 6 days when we were going to be 7 hours away in a different country.  We filled out the necessary paperwork to make sure my parents could make medical decisions for her if necessary, and left an insurance card in the diaper bag.  Thankfully none of that was needed while we were gone.

As a scientist, compared to the last conference, it was a lot easier to focus during ISSCR without Mabel in the vicinity.  During the scientific sessions I was able to let myself become completely engrossed.  During the poster session, I wasn’t rushing back for bedtime.  So science-wise, it was definitely better to not travel with child.

Momma-wise, it wasn’t too bad.  The first couple of days were pretty easy.  We Skyped and I spoke to her on the phone.  However, after maybe the third day, I definitely started to miss her.  I would notice other families and wish she were there.  I would hear a child cry and instantly think of her.  I would wonder what she was doing and really, really wish I could give/get a hug and a kiss.

Overall, I think Mac and I made the right decision to leave her with my parents for the week.  As a scientist, it was much easier for me to focus on the conference while we were there.  As a wife, Mac and I got to adventure together as a couple.  As a mom, it was reassuring to know that she’s a capable, well-adjusted kid who didn’t seem to care at all that her parents weren’t there!

My mom and dad went to Toronto and all I got was this yummy gingerbread cookie!

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