Everyone told me how much I would fall in love with my baby. I was nervous that it would take me longer to connect with him, but I got lucky with our beautiful, instant connection. I mean, who wouldn’t fall in love with these baby blues? Motherhood has had its ups and downs, but I can say with 100% certainty that my baby is the cutest baby I’ve ever met. Allow me to introduce David Aron.
While I was pregnant, I read dozens of articles detailing the highs and lows of motherhood. I also observed close family and friends going through motherhood for the first time and was familiar with its challenges. Yet no one could prepare me for the difficulty of being home alone all the time. In fact, I think that’s really where the baby blues arise. I also feel like people have downplayed how scary it is to leave the comforts of your home with a newborn baby. The first time I stepped outside, I felt like I had packed more than I did when I visited Australia. After traveling all over North America, Europe, and Australia, I thought going to a pediatrician appointment would be a cinch. Ha! Here’s just a few differences I’ve learned when it comes to traveling alone versus stepping outside with an infant.
Driving Across Country vs Driving Across Town
Once upon a time, I was ready to jump into a car and drive anywhere. I’ve driven from Miami to New York, Monterey to Seattle, and South Florida to Cincinnati. I hopped on buses that took me across all of Ecuador, including one that drove 10 hours through the night. Not to mention my epic overland tour of Western Australia that made me want to return and explore the rest of the country. None of it fazed me, and each trip left me yearning for more cross-country journeys. “Bohemian Rhapsody” blasted on the radio while my travel companions and I would sing at the top of our lungs with the windows down. We’d pass around snacks, have deep conversations, and stop at quirky tourist attractions just because they seemed interesting. The world was my oyster and I felt so much freedom when given the chance to explore at my leisure.
I hit the snooze button on traveling during my second trimester. Cut to 6 weeks postpartum, I’ve managed to clumsily leave my house with baby luggage in tow while shuttling David to appointments, grandparents’ houses, and the park. The first time Leon and I brought David to his first pediatrician appointment was terrifying. I kept anxiously thinking he would get sick from being outside. My milk had just let down, but David hadn’t figured out how to latch onto my breast so I was very engorged. Meanwhile, we were overloaded with his diaper bag, his carseat, and of course his tiny self.
Driving has become a bit of a challenge these days. If David wakes up while I’m driving, he quickly realizes how uncomfortable he is in his carseat. There’s not much I can do to appease him from the driver’s seat and I have to endure his tireless sobs for the rest of the ride. I spend the ride coaxing him to sleep and playing “Ocean Waves” to provide him with white noise. Uncomfortable coach seats on a bus in Ecuador suddenly sound appealing. Jumping into the car for a cross-country road trip isn’t as exciting when a newborn is one of the passengers. I know that this will eventually change for the better. For the time being, I’m going to have to figure out better ways to get around the world.
Hiking Up Mountains versus Hiking Across the Park
Remember when I convinced Leon to climb up Camel’s Hump during our mini-honeymoon in Vermont? I felt invincible after conquering that mountain. Even Leon felt accomplished despite his fear of heights. Tired, but a good tired. A wonderful tired. Before my pregnancy, my trips consisted of 50% outdoors, 50% exploring cities. I visited Ecuador in 2012, where I repelled down waterfalls and zip lined across the Andes. Spider walking in the canyons of Karijini was a possibility for me just last year. While I wasn’t an award winning athlete, I was in shape and participated in as many challenging activities as my body would allow.
Nowadays I’m lucky to walk 2 miles around the park across the street from my house without breaking into a sweat.I know, I know, what did I expect after 40+ weeks of being pregnant. (You heard me: 40 PLUS weeks. David was 5 days overdue.) My brain tells me that it takes time to lose the weight. My ligaments are still loose, my muscles are weak, and I pushed an 8 lb baby out of me after laboring for 24 hours. Yes, I know that the recovery process takes time. But I’m impatient and I miss being active. Luckily, David is weighing in at 11 lbs these days so I plan on using him as a weight once his head control has improved.
Airplanes: My Apologies to Mothers Everywhere
Leon and I brought baby David to New Jersey during Thanksgiving weekend. Admittedly, I was very nervous and anxious that I would be “that parent” on the plane with the screaming baby. David was an angel and proved us wrong, especially since he slept for most of the flights. It turns out David wasn’t the problem. No, we should have been more worried about the luggage…
If I could go back and do it all over, I probably would have done everything differently. Alas, I don’t have time or energy to recount all of the ways we fucked up while traveling over the holiday weekend. Okay, maybe just one thing: I wouldn’t travel on a holiday weekend again. Yes, I loved seeing my family and friends, and I was super excited to bring David along to finally meet everyone. But holiday travel sucks under normal circumstances. A baby just complicates things even more.
David was a champ throughout all of our whining and frustration. He slept through all of the stressful parts of the trip, including take-off and landing. But I kept remembering a time when I could read a book on the plane, or watch a movie, or even go to the bathroom in under 3 minutes. So for all of the mothers out there who have had to put up with cranky children on flights: I am deeply sorry for silently cursing you and your screaming children. I never appreciated how difficult it is to travel with children until I experienced it myself. Between making sure David’s ears didn’t pop to changing him in the unbelievably small (and filthy) bathrooms to warding off fellow passengers who kept trying to touch his head (seriously, hands off people), I was ready to pass out by the time I reached the car.
Motherhood Changes Everything
Having a baby certainly makes things more complicated, but it has shown me that I’m capable of so much more than I expected of myself. I mean, I managed to keep my son safe while traveling with his entire wardrobe on Thanksgiving weekend. Sure, it was clumsy and I was frustrated with the lack of family bathrooms in the terminals. (Seriously, what’s the deal with that?) I also astonished myself with my ability to strategize and plan every detail, including how to change dirty diapers and soiled clothes in the middle of the terminal just before boarding a flight. (David really has perfect timing.)
If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it pays to find the humor amidst the mess of moving around with an infant. I just went to Trader Joe’s with David for the first time. Before I went inside, I sat in the back of the car to feed him and make sure he was clean. I checked and double checked that everything I would need was accessible so I wouldn’t have to fumble too much in the store. Finally, I clicked David into my carrier…and projectile vomit flew out of his mouth, painting my entire shirt. Did I cry? Nope. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I was too stunned by the hilarity of my situation. Rather than feeling bad for myself, I just had to accept defeat and laugh.
Motherhood is clumsy and messy, but it makes you stronger and smarter. I would never have figured out how to navigate an airport with an infant had I not lived through these last two months. Oh, and had Leon as a partner. I’m pretty sure I would have left David in the airport if it wasn’t for Leon. (Sigh, mommy brain is real and it’s bad.) Will I do it again in the near future? Absolutely! What are all those frequent flyer points for anyway? Practice makes perfect and I might as well practice while I can before I have to pay for David’s ticket. Besides, whoever said having a baby meant you had to go on house arrest? I might as well enjoy the time I have with my baby and show him as much of the world as possible.
P.S. Guess how long it took to write this post? I looked at my log and it said I signed in for the first time 3 weeks ago! That’s right, 3 weeks to write this damn post. While I’m reading over this, David is kicking and laughing at his musical toys having a grand ole’ time. Gotta love this little guy.