The baby in the ladies’ lounge

The year is 1939. Spring is in the air over the mining town of Kirkenes in Finnmark. The young couple Ørnulf Fuglevaag and Haldis Karlsen is expecting their second child. Haldis is way over due, and is left waiting too long before the decision is made to help the baby out. An emergency C-section is administered, but Haldis dies only days after the birth.
Left behind is Ørnulf, in deep greif, and with two small children to look after. Threeyearold Bjørn, and the newborn girl, Brit. He realizes he cannot carry his workload at the mining company handling the finances, and bring up the two small children at the same time. It is decided that the baby girl will go and live with Ørnulfs brother Arnfinn and his wife Sofie in the city of Trondheim. The couple travels up to Kirkenes for the funeral and baptism. Brit is three months old.
Up until this point the baby has had a sami nursemaid to keep her fed, but she is unable to follow along on the journey south. The new parents, and the baby’s grandparents take Brit south, traveling on the coastal steamer SS Finmarken.
The baby needs fresh mothers milk at all hours of the trip. Sofie is a trained nurse, and knows how to care for the little one, but she cannot breastfeed the baby herself. There is no suitable refridgerator onboard the coastal steamer to keep milk fresh and usable for the baby on the trip between Kirkenes and Trondheim, wich will take several days to complete.
Arnfinn and Brits grandfather ran a tourist company. The situation requires them to activate every part of their network along the coast. The plan simply has to work.
As they traveled south, at every port, along every fjord, at every dock, and in little boats, in the places were the coastal steamer could not come to shore women everywhere came to the aid of the little girl. Some had bottles filled, that they gave the new mother, some simply came abord and sat in the laidies lounge, where such things were usally done, and breastfed the baby themselves.
Safely arriving in Trondheim, the new family stepped off the ship with a happy, healty and well fed baby, ready to start her new life.
Brit Haldis Fuglevaag grew up to become an internationally acclaimed textile artist. Through a long career she has produced many amazing vowen artworks, and one of these carry the name “Varangerfjorden”, the place she was born in, and for many years this piece was showcased on a newer hurtigruten ship by the same name as the old one she traveled so many years ago; MS Finnmarken.

The story above is based on Brit Fuglevaags own retelling of her story in a letter to the Hurtigrutemuseum