This working mom wrote a scathing letter after being forced to trash 500 ounces of frozen breast milk at Heathrow Airport.
Working mom Jessica Coakley Martinez's open letter to Heathrow Airport's security team has gone viral after she shared a cringe-worthy breastmilk horror story that will make your blood boil.
Jessica started her Facebook post with a disclaimer: "I normally would not post something this personal, but I do not remember the last time I felt so justly upset."
Her letter then perfectly captures the challenges all working moms face, as she writes in part:
"Being a working mother is the hardest thing I've ever done. 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. When you're fortunate enough as I am to have a job that involves travel, it's an exciting opportunity, but it comes with even more extreme challenges when you have kids—being away from them, managing care back home from afar, and in my case, figuring out how you're going to feed your 8-month-old breastfed baby while you're required to be away for 15 days and travel to eight different cities."
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Jessica recounts how for months leading up to her trip, she pumped and froze her breastmilk, both day and night, in the hopes she could feed her son while she was away. "To help ease the personal guilt, I resolved to pump at every possible moment between my meetings, presentations, business lunches and dinners, taxis, flights, and long waits in airports," she wrote, continuing:
"This meant pumping 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 having to talk about my personal matters (my nursing schedule) with my professional coworkers and my supervisor in order to sneak away to said closet or public bathroom—a discomfort I had to learn how to swallow if I was to supply my son with breast milk. It meant going to each hotel and convincing them to store my giant insulated bags of milk in their restaurant freezers to preserve it. 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."
Except the security staff at Heathrow. They made Jessica dump 500 ounces of breastmilk, some of which was frozen solid, or about two weeks of nourishment, right in the trash! Jessica says she offered to check the frozen milk, but she wasn't allowed to do that either, because she had crossed the security threshold.
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"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," she wrote.
Understandably, Jessica was furious, although she acknowledges she was aware the policy is to not allow breastmilk on a plane if a mother is not traveling with her baby, a policy she says is unfairly biased against working moms.
Jessica ends her open letter by saying, "Airport security is extremely important—it is essential in the world's current threat environment, and I'm deeply appreciative of the work done by thousands of aviation security workers at airports around the globe."
She adds, "This was deeply personal. This was my son's health and nourishment. This was the money I would now need to spend buying formula that wasn't necessary. This wasn't tomorrow's milk; it was two weeks worth of nutrition for my child. And it was the countless hours of my time, my energy, even my dignity in some instances, all driven by my willingness to go to any length to get my child what he needs that you dumped into the trash like a random bottle of travel shampoo and deemed a hazard, simply because I made the completely logical and scientifically supported assumption that a solid isn't a liquid. And your absolute unwillingness to use professional judgment and customer service to make a reasonable exception in the face of equally reasonable circumstances is shameful."
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I think I speak for moms everywhere, whether they breastfeed or not, when I say, "Bravo." Standing ovation. Encore! Because Jessica logically, eloquently, emotionally, vividly, beautifully, perfectly captured a million feelings about being a working mother, and the devastation of sacrificing so much, then being essentially humiliated and punished for doing the best you can given your circumstances.
Yes, what happened to her is about breastmilk, but it's also about society not supporting working moms. It's about organizations not treating people like individuals, but like numbers on a manifest. It's about so, so much. And I am so glad she had the courage to write this open letter and share her story.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.