Over the last fourteen months, I've learned a lot about myself and others. I've learned that I'm way stronger than I ever gave myself credit for, and that strength comes from somewhere deep within. I've learned that I can retain an inordinate amount of information when it comes to my son, but I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.
I've also learned that moms can be pretty exclusionary. The minute I announced on social media that my husband and I were expecting, I was invited to join several mommy groups on Facebook (If you don't believe this is a thing, I swear, it very much is... there are countless numbers of mommy groups out there). Some of the groups were filled with women who were so kind and helpful to one another. Others were full of drama and required group administrators to place bans on topics and to remove people from the group. Can you imagine?
So my friend Ale and I started our own group. We have managed to keep it rather small, and we don't accept everyone to be a part of the group. We have managed to keep it intimate, even though the member count climbed quickly to nearly 200. Time and time again, I have heard from some of the moms in there, "It's so nice to come to place where you can ask questions and not feel like you are going to be attacked."
How SAD is that?!
That new moms have to be weary of asking questions because they are afraid they will get attacked for a choice they have made. It makes me so disappointed. I know I myself am guilty of judging, but I would never make a mother feel bad for her decision, nor would I ever attack a mother or call her names because she is doing something I don't agree with.
In attending mommy & me classes, and going to a couple of different activities, I have also noticed that us moms can be pretty exclusionary. We think, "Oh that mom is doing it differently," or "They look different."
It's the Mean Girls "you can't sit with us" mentality. And that's not right.
Let's change that. Let's be the nice moms. Let's have a "you CAN sit with us" mentality. We'll all be a lot happier that way.
When our little guy was 3 months old, we took a little road trip to Orlando. My mom was being presented with an award and we surprised her by showing up. Some people looked at me as if I had four eyes when I said I was taking the baby with me. Obviously I had to pack a little differently, but it was doable, and we absolutely did it.
When he was 6 months, he flew for the first time. We went to Toronto and St. Catharine's in Canada for a long weekend. Again, the looks as if I was insane. We loved every moment of our trip and would relive it in a heartbeat.
At just about 8 months, we packed him up and took off to Paris for 10 days. Was it easy? Not particularly. Was it impossible? Definitely not. Would I do it again? A thousand times, yes.
People ask me all the time about international travel, and my recommendation is always the same... if you can, don't hesitate to do it. My husband and I always said that when we had a baby, we wouldn't let it stop us from doing the things we really wanted to do. At under 9 months, I wasn't ready to leave him behind for 10 days (nor do I think I will ever be ready to leave him behind for that long). So we brought him along.
I believe in exposing children to different cultures and surroundings as much as possible. It makes them more adaptable, and even if they don't have the words to remember their experiences, they do have the experiences. Here are my four biggest tips for surviving travel (international or otherwise) with a baby.
1. Be prepared.
If there is ever a time in your life to overpack, it's now. I felt like I was taking half the house with me, but I felt better about myself in doing that. I took products that I knew I (and he) were partial to for whatever reason. I also took medications, thermometer, and baby food (he was just starting on solids and there were still a few things he hadn't tried, so I figured I was better off taking what I was sure about). With each trip I have decreased the amount of "stuff" I take, but there are some things I always feel better about having. I still take a lot with me, especially things that would be harder to pick up in an emergency situation. I took more clothes than I thought I would need, extra blankets, toys, pacifiers, etc. I was still nursing, so that made one aspect way easier, but if you are formula feeding, make sure you take more than what you think you will need.
2. Be flexible.
Babies are people. Sometimes they wake up not feeling 100%. Sometimes they are cranky. A cranky baby would probably not do well somewhere like, say the Louvre. We planned to accomplish one major thing each day, and if we were able to fit in more, we called that a win. We also had backup plans in case something didn't work out.
3. Do your research.
Find out what exactly your airline will allow you to carry on and what they will allow you to check. Choose a hotel close to where you will be spending the most amount of time. Public transportation with a stroller sucks, and cabs can be expensive. Realize you will walk a lot more than you will do anything else. Check local stores for products that take up a lot of space. We knew we would need a lot of diapers and wipes over 10 days, but those are super bulky items. We were able to ascertain that the stores carried Pampers and Huggies, so I just took enough for our first 24-48 hours of the trip. Find out if your hotel carries cribs... you don't want to lug a Pack n Play overseas only to find out your hotel had them available (and I have NEVER stayed in a hotel that doesn't have them). If you're planning on renting a car, weigh out the pros and cons of taking your car seat vs. renting one from the rental agency.
4. HAVE FUN!
Sure, it can be stressful. Sure, it's daunting to think about all the crap you need to take. But it's so worth every experience. Just enjoy yourselves. There are babies everywhere, and we have found that people are surprisingly accommodating to babies ALL OVER THE WORLD. Spare yourself the FOMO and just go!