Traveling with young children is challenging. Traveling while being a pumping mom is challenging. Traveling with young children while also pumping and keeping track of that precious milk is downright heroic. But, for one mama from New Jersey, the real hero was a United Airlines flight attendant who went far out of his way on Mother's Day to save breast milk that was accidentally left behind at the end of a flight.
The story began long before the flight when Rachel Braverman, a mother of four who was traveling with her three older children, devoted hours of time during the trip to pumping 100 oz. of breast milk to bring home for her infant. She carefully packaged and stowed the milk during her flight home. But with seven carry-ons and three young children, she forgot the milk under the airplane seat in the rush to get off the plane upon landing—which she realized when she got home and went to put the milk in the refrigerator.
"In that instant, I remembered I didn't take it off the plane," she tells Motherly. "It was just me and my husband in the kitchen and I start crying."
Although her friends and family urged her to reach out to United about tracking down the milk, she figured salvaging it was a lost cause."I'm thinking to myself, 'It's never happening. It is what it is,'" Braverman says. "I really did nothing about it at all."
Unbeknownst to her, United flight attendant Jeff Nowotny was working to ensure the milk made its way home: When passengers were boarding the next flight, the person assigned to the seat where Braverman had been found the milk. The pilot was unable to return to the gate by that point, so Nowotny followed the guidelines for storing the milk during the flight from New Jersey to Florida and then back again.
Using the flight manifest, he determined Braverman had been in the seat and contacted her. Then, because he was getting back to New Jersey so late, he offered to drop the milk off at the Braverman's house. "I could not even believe what was being said in this conversation," Braverman says of her reaction to Nowotny's willingness to help. After the phone call, she scrambled to put together a thank-you gift for Nowotny, even though everything felt inadequate in repaying his kindness.
But Nowotny didn't even stop there: He left a thank-you card of his own along with the temperature-controlled milk. "He leaves me a card, like 'Thank you so much for your kind words. There's really no need to even let United know. I just did this because I wanted to do it for you. Wishing you a happy Mother's Day," Braverman says, adding they've been corresponding by text ever since. "The guy is a good, totally selfless human being."
If it hasn't already, we sure hope this story makes its way to the people at United. Although Nowotny didn't seem to make a big deal out of the gesture, even the littlest act of kindness can mean everything to traveling parents.