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Anne-Marie’s Story: My First Overnight Trip Away

Anne-Marie with Cillian and her two older children

Anne-Marie Studer, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published as “Personal Essay: Mom’s Big Adventure” in the Winter 2020/2021 issue of Northern LLLights, the Area Leaders’ Letter for Minnesota and the Dakotas. It has been adapted for use on the New Beginnings blog with permission from the author.

They say the third time’s the charm, and when it comes to my children, it certainly feels that way! Both breastfeeding and parenting got progressively easier with each child. Whether this was down to experience, my children’s personalities, or a combination of both, the result was that I was a more relaxed parent by the time Cillian, my youngest, was born in November 2018. I had prioritized self-care in the form of exercise and had made a point of going out with friends every so often, but I had not yet spent a night away from Cillian as we approached his second birthday.

My husband floated the idea of me spending a night away in the fall of 2020. What could tempt me to spend a first night away from my almost two-year-old nursling? Why, a trip to a furniture store in a bigger city! The plan was to buy a bed to put Cillian’s mattress on, as well as to scope out kitchen displays with some vague plans of redoing our kitchen.

I started planning my one night away and began looking forward to it. Despite the underlying anxiety about leaving Cillian for our first night apart, I was very excited about the prospect of some alone time. I dusted off my old pump, packed some “real clothes” (as opposed to tracksuit bottoms and old sweatshirts), and took off with only a few tears shed.

I had a pretty clear plan that involved the furniture store, the hotel, a grocery store, and then home by 8 p.m. the next day, just in time for bedtime milk and cuddles.

And it all seemed to go really well! My husband kept me up-to-date on how Cillian was doing and, despite a few sad moments, he seemed to be just fine. I pumped before heading to bed and woke up around 4 a.m. with throbbing breasts. Uh-oh. I pumped some more (but not too much!), grabbed some cold wash clothes, and took some ibuprofen. I woke up again at 7 a.m. (glorious!), and then started to worry about the impending snowstorm that was about to hit much of Minnesota and North Dakota.

After talking to my husband, we decided I should head back as soon as possible to try and avoid the storm. It turns out I should have just stayed put. The snow was (soon) coming down hard. I tried to tough it out, but I passed several accidents and saw too many police cars and ambulances speed by. I made my way to a store and bought four bags of frozen peas for my throbbing breasts. I looked at the radar and knew I wouldn’t be making it home that night.

My heard sank as I realized I’d have to spend a second night away from Cillian. I was gutted and I was also very engorged. I hand expressed in a parking lot and looked up a hotel. Once I finally got checked in, I sat in my room and watched hours of television while alternating bags of frozen peas on my breasts. I was sad, my breasts were uncomfortable, and I was bored! I hadn’t felt bored for over six and a half years! It felt like the longest afternoon and night I’d experienced in quite some time.

Cillian on his new bed with his siblings

I woke up early the next morning and got home by noon. I rushed in the door to hugs and squeals of delight from my older two. Cillian must have missed me as much as I missed him, for no sooner had I arrived home, then Cillian woke up from his nap. “Mammy!” he exclaimed, quickly followed by “Milk on couch?”

I know I often tell parents about how much more efficient a baby is at milk removal than a pump, and I was reminded of how true that is. The relief was instant and both Cillian and I had huge smiles on our faces. Despite all the pumping, hand expression, and cold compresses, nothing came close to relieving my discomfort than my nursing toddler.

It was an adventure, to be sure, and I’m glad I went. I felt empowered that I had done something for me and I returned with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our daily life at home.

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