Traveling With An Infant

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When you have a baby for the first time, the most basic tasks become monumental feats of courage and willpower. Things like grocery shopping, eating out at restaurants, and doctor’s visits can induce such crippling anxiety that you’ll convince yourself you actually don’t need to go out at all. You’ll pack your things together and decide you’d much rather stay inside with the baby. When your first plane ride is a 6 hour cross-country trip? Stress levels go through the roof.

We knew that it was going to be schlep to travel with a baby, so we adopted the strategy: expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised when it’s only moderately catastrophic. I think it worked! As it turns out the things that we were most afraid of (being trapped with baby on six hour plane rides) ended up being much better than we thought. The things that we had a hard time with were things that we already knew she hated…being stuck in her car seat and napping/sleeping anywhere but her crib.

It definitely wasn’t easy. Being away from home for 9 days meant hauling quite a lot of stuff with, as you can see above. But we discovered, as with everything else you do with baby, it isn’t as bad as you think it will be. Here’s what we learned during our trip to California:

1. Bring a Baby Carrier– You may tell yourself before your trip, ‘well, my baby is almost a year now, and since they outgrew their baby bjorn, do I really need to buy another carrier that will fit them? I mean how much longer are they going to be in it anyway?’ (*cough**cough* husband) YES. For the love of everything buy a new carrier!! If you don’t feel like spending all that money for a new one, buy one from Craigslist, or borrow one from a friend if you can. I can not stress how important this one is. I asked my husband no less than two times a day on our trip, why oh why did we not buy a new carrier? Do it!

2. Stroller = Diaper Bag holder– We thought we were clever and got a really good umbrella stroller from Craigslist for $30. It is super light. It is easy to open and close with one hand. It is very easy to maneuver through crowded areas. Our daughter refused to sit in it. Because of this I pushed around our diaper bag in the stroller, while holding my child with one hand for the entirety of our trip. Please, please, please, see #1.

3. Bathroom = Hot Spot– The bathroom is where it’s at folks. Nap time for Esmé meant lights out, curtains closed. Consequently Mommy was left to read books on the ipad, in a pitch black hotel room, without making a peep, or, relax on a cold, hard bathroom floor, where you can at least make a little noise, and have lights on. My husband and I also enjoyed an excellent meal or two seated on the toilet and the edge of the bathtub, after we put her to bed. Good times.

4. Pack lightly– This is something that I knew about, but I still packed every cute outfit that she owns. I was also afraid that she wouldn’t have enough to entertain her on the plane, so I brought many toys, books, and teethers. She didn’t touch a single book, toy, or teether on the plane. Family and friends that we visited with were extremely generous, and gave us more clothes, books, and toys. Let’s just say packing for the return trip was a little tricky.

You’ll probably need only a couple extra outfits if your baby likes to spit-up/drool as much as mine, and maybe two toys for the plane, but that’s it. One thing that did seem to comfort Esmé was having a pacifier. She really isn’t a big fan of them, but I happened to have one in her bag, so I gave it to her when she got a little fussy and she loved it. If your baby has a comfort item, I would definitely have it on hand in a bag that you can get to easily.

5. Breast Feeding– If you’re breast feeding, take your cover with you wherever you go, even if you are braver than me, and don’t actually use a cover when you feed. I used ours as a blanket, a spit-up cloth, napkin, a cover so that she could sleep on the plane, and also to shade her from the sun. Seriously so helpful to have on hand. If you use bottles, take a light blanket and you can do the same thing.

6. Solid Food– Squeeze pouches of food, a silicone, or wipeable bib, and happy puffs are key if you have a baby who is eating solids. I generally make Esmé’s food at home, so I was amazed at how much more convenient those little squeeze pouches are. Initially they were kind of a distraction and she wouldn’t eat because she wanted to play with the pouch. So I just squeezed all the contents out into one of her bowls and fed her with a spoon. Happy puffs, or other snacky baby foods are not only helpful if your little one is hungry, but they also serve as entertainment for baby. This way mommy and daddy can quickly inhale their dinner while baby is crunching away.

7. Stroller = High Chair– I know I already said that the stroller serves to push the diaper bag around for #2, but the one time my child didn’t mind being in the stroller was when she was facing me. So I strapped her in and used it as a high chair. Huge help! Not every place you go to has high chairs, and we certainly didn’t have one in our hotel room, so breakfast was served, every morning, in her stroller.

8. Activities–  Tune in to what your baby likes to do. I don’t know about you, but before we go on a trip somewhere, I like to yelp everything that is nearby, and make a list of all the places I want to see. Generally there are a lot of dessert places on that list, but that’s neither here nor there. I spent a couple days dragging her around, pushing the diaper bag around in the stroller, trying to shop with one hand, until I finally gave up.

She loved the playground that was at this shopping center 5 minutes away from our hotel. She just enjoyed being outside, watching all the kids around her, eating the playground equipment, and being with me…so why stress her and me out trying to get her to ‘enjoy’ other things? As soon as I let go of my list, and started doing things we both could enjoy, things went a lot more smoothly, and she was a much happier camper. At least until I took her away from the playground.

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A New Mom Story

There is nothing anyone can tell you to prepare you for what the first few months with a newborn are like. There is no amount of reading/ class taking that will help you to be more prepared. All the advice that people will give you when you first start out, though it is true, will not help you. It may actually make you feel worse, or like you suddenly need to punch them in the face.

The other day I read an article on the Huffington Post about a woman’s experience with her newborn. She wrote how in spite of exhaustion, she found waking up in the middle of the night to care for her newborn the most rewarding experience. She enjoyed sitting in the quiet with her daughter at 4am, and cried tears of joy because she was so happy. When she went out for some time for herself, she cried because she missed her baby so much.

The mama in me is happy that she enjoyed that special time with her new baby. Everyone does tell you to enjoy it because time passes so quickly. But honestly, my first reaction to reading that article was, are you kidding me??? I mean crying tears of joy to be awake in the middle of the night? Come on. The first time I left the house by myself I was deliriously giddy with happiness. I didn’t shed a single tear.

I debated whether or not to write this story for a long time because it is not a happy/lovey story like the one I read, and it’s still uncomfortable for me to think about. My heart could very well burst from the love and joy I now feel for my baby, so it also feels a little wrong to go back to a time when I felt more frustration than joy. Then, I remember how alone I felt during those first few months. I was overwhelmed by the amount of new mom photos on Instagram declaring, ‘She brings us so much joy!’ and ‘Best job I ever had!’ and ‘Loving every minute!’

I did not like our daughter when we first took her home. I loved her, but I was completely blindsided by how physically and emotionally draining a newborn can be, and on how little sleep you have to survive. I know that there are so many mothers out there who instantly bond with their children, and cherish everything about their new life together, but I was not one of those women. I’m sure it wasn’t the author’s intention, but this article brought me right back to being a new mom, and feeling like I was the worst mom ever for not loving every minute of my life as a new mother.

When I reached out to my mama friends, I found that they were going through some of the same things that I was. One of them said that she didn’t think enough women were honest about what it’s really like. People only post pretty, filtered, or professional photos. I myself am guilty of this, but it’s a damaging habit. When you are a new mom covered in spit-up/pee/poo, and you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed at 12am, 2am, and 4am, and you see all these perfect pictures, it starts to make you feel like there is something wrong with you. If my not-so-happy, messy, true story can make just one new mama feel even slightly better about herself, I feel I owe it to her.

The first few days in the hospital were wonderful. There was room service where I could order as much food as I wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pretty sure I ordered two desserts every time. There were doctors and nurses who were always checking on us to see if we had questions or concerns. You sleep on a bed that periodically inflates and deflates to make sure your post-pregnancy body is getting appropriate circulation. There are lactation specialists who answer your every question, give you free nipple shields, and coach you through the pain and frustrations of breastfeeding for the first time. Your baby sleeps in a clear little box right next to you so you can see everything that’s going on. Life is perfect.

Then they make you leave, or rather, insurance carriers do not allow you to stay for the duration of your babies first year. The following are some highlights of our first few months together:

Sleep Loss-

Esmé required feeding every two hours. It took her 45 minutes- 1 hour to feed. I was so frazzled and stressed that she would start crying again, that it generally took me about 30 minutes, at least, to fall asleep. You do the math.

Post-Partum Healing-

I had some tearing from giving birth to Esmé, so things were very, very sore down there. I was fortunate not to get any hemorrhoids, but sitting down was painful. I had to sit for about an hour, every two hours. It wasn’t fun.

Feeding-

This did not come naturally to either myself or Esmé. It was extremely painful for me in the beginning, and she also fought me during feeding. I wasn’t aware of it for at least a month, because I didn’t know that what she was doing wasn’t normal. My husband actually woke up some nights, not because the baby was crying, but because he heard me sobbing uncontrollably. I was past my wits end trying to figure out why my baby was crying, and how to make it stop.

Food Allergies-

We actually discovered this because our baby started pooping blood. We took her to the pediatrician who then asked what she did when she was breastfeeding. When I told her she said, ‘Ahh, yes. That would be a dairy allergy.’ I was instructed to cut out dairy from my diet until she was 3 months of age. I was told her diapers may get worse in the following week, but should start to get better after that.

I cut out dairy and Esmé improved dramatically! We were thrilled that feeding sessions were no longer a battle.

About a week after improved feedings, she started fighting me again, crying and fussing a lot, and she started pooping blood again. Back to the pediatrician we went. We were told that she also had sensitivity to soy, so that had to go too.

I would just like to point out that breastfeeding makes you just as crazy-ravenous as a pregnant lady. When you can not have anything containing dairy or soy, your options for food are limited. Like not eating out anywhere, not eating any take-out, shopping at only Whole Foods limited. It was a very trying time for this foodie.

After 3 months without soy, 6 months without dairy, and a consultation with a lactation specialist, we were back on track with no food limitations. YAY!!

Hormones-

I really was not an emotional pregnant lady. Heart-warming commercials, looking at baby clothes, listening to lullabies… none of that really got me misty-eyed. When I came home from the hospital? I cried all. the. time.

I cried because my husband only took one week for paternity leave, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do by myself with a newborn when he went back to work.

I cried when we sat down to watch the news together because I felt like I never got to see him anymore.

I couldn’t sing lullabies to my child because I always got choked up and started crying halfway through.

I cried when I couldn’t fall asleep because I was terrified that the baby would start screaming the second I closed my eyes.

I cried at 2am because I had never felt so isolated and alone.

I cried at 2am because everyone else in the world was sleeping, but me.

I cried because I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in an uncomfortable glider chair, in a dark nursery.

I cried because my baby cried a lot, and I didn’t know why.

All these things said, we did have our idyllic moments as a new family. She loved snoozing on her Daddy’s chest, and would often fall asleep on me when nursing. She was also such a little squish for awhile, preferring to have her legs tucked under her. It wasn’t all terrible, but the moments of pure joy and happiness were very few and far between. They really didn’t become a regular thing until about 2.5-3 months, when we got her upset tummy under control. Once we did that, she was happier. She slept more, so mommy and daddy were happier.

I’m not trying to scare any future new mamas out there, or discredit anyone who had an enjoyable first few months. I just want you to know that you are not a bad mother for not liking your baby sometimes. You are not a bad mother for letting your baby cry while you give your ears a break for 20 minutes in the other room. You do not win worst-mother-of-all-time award for shouting at your baby, ‘What is wrong with you???!!! Why won’t you stop crying??!!’ But most importantly, you are not alone. There are many other mother’s who are going through the same thing, even if they look pulled together on the outside.