Every breastfeeding mother knows the amount of time and effort and hard work that goes into the act—harder still if the mother has a hard time producing milk.
So imagine the horror that Jessica Martinez felt when, on one of her work-trips, airport security forced her to dump 500 ounces of breastmilk just as she was about to board her flight.
In an open letter to aviation security in terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport she posted on Facebook, she detailed the harrowing experience.
“Being a working mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” the post begins.
“Trying to manage the logistics of drop-offs and pick-ups and conference calls and meetings and finding the time and energy to make sure both your family and work are getting ample amounts of your care and attention is both challenging and fulfilling, but mostly extremely exhausting and stressful.”
For months Jessica pumped and froze milk during the day and in the middle of the night to feed her son, this in the hopes that she her son would have enough to eat.
But soon she realized that she wouldn’t be able to feed him while she traveled.
So “to help ease the personal guilt,” Jessica pumped during this trip every chance she got—between meetings, between meetings, presentations, business lunches and dinners, taxis, flights, and long waits in airports.
“It meant going to each hotel and convincing them to store my giant insulated bags of milk in their restaurant freezers to preserve it,” she wrote.
“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. Which they did. Every one of them.”
That is, except for Heathrow.
“You made me dump nearly 500oz of breastmilk in the trash. You made me dump out nearly two weeks worth of food for my son.”
Jessica acknowledged her oversight, that she should have checked the airport’s rules and guidelines.
Heathrow allows only one liquid bag per person aboard planes. Each individual container within the bag must have a maximum capacity of no more than 100ml.
“If you are not travelling with a baby or infant, excess liquids should be carried as hold luggage,” the regulation states.
Jessica added: “I offered to check it. But that wouldn’t work either according to you because I had crossed the border and the only way for me to check the bag now was to exit the airport and re-enter—which I was also willing to do.
“But you wouldn’t give me the milk back—because now it was a “non-compliant item” and needed to be confiscated. It was as if you were almost proud to deny me at every possible point of compromise.
“Despite my begging, pleading and even crying out of sheer shock and desperation for a solution (which you essentially scoffed at with annoyance), you treated me as if I was trying to smuggle liters of hydrogen peroxide onto the plane.”
Since going viral, her Facebook post has accrued plenty of sympathetic comments from fellow moms.
One mom named Krista Catalano-Pietrafeso said, “I literally just screamed NOOOOOOOOOO so loud I probably woke up the kids. I would give anything to give you a hug right now.”
“Jess, my heart broke for you reading this,” wrote Alisa Hurwitz. “Many of us know exactly how much time, work, love, planning, coordinating, time, energy, and effort going into pumping. For them to not to at least have treated you with one bit of understanding and humanity in unconscionable.”
READ: 10 stay-safe tips for traveling and flying with kids
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