Jun 11, 2021

7 Tips for Solo International Travel with an Infant

My family is scattered across the globe. That's the simplest explanation I can give for why I found myself flying internationally with a four month old infant and no other adult to help.

In ordinary times, having family all over is the best thing ever - having a very diverse family makes the whole world feel so much smaller and closer together. There's always an excuse to explore a different place and having my mom live in a cozy house in the German countryside where there's always a room ready for me and my husband (and now our daughter!) makes it feel like we have a second home.

Traveling with a baby
It's the perfect counterbalance to our fast-paced Manhattan life. Where Manhattan has skyscrapers, my mother's village has trees. Where Manhattan has 24/7 fine dining delivered, my mother's village has a produce garden in her backyard and a couple cute grocery stores in walking distance.

It's great.

But her first grandchild, our daughter, was born (check out her birth story!) during the pandemic. Germany's vaccine efforts are lagging and even though she's over 50 she's still waiting to be vaccinated. 

My husband and I were both fully vaccinated by the start of May and I couldn't wait to introduce our daughter, Emma, to my mom and the rest of the family. So we planned a trip with our infant!

Things rarely go according to plan in life and this trip was the same. My husband ended up being unable to come, Emma ended up having her 4 month vaccines the Monday before our planned Saturday flight, and she was due for her 4 month sleep regression right around our trip weeks.

I considered not going. I considered going for more or less time. I considered not going again. But I wanted to go, so I shortened the trip to just one week from the original two and off we went, just me and my four month old daughter.

And guess what? Traveling solo with an infant surprisingly well!

Traveling with an infant

Emma hates car rides and doesn't have much experience with them, since we live in Manhattan and haven't left our neighborhood much since she was born. It's one of those pandemic pregnancy/early parenthood things! 

The drives to and from the airport were the only time during the entire trip that Emma properly cried. And she bawled, it was heartbreaking! Fortunately we quickly learned that pacifiers would calm her right down during car rides - they're not something we usually use, but traveling (especially solo) with an infant is survival mode. We stuck to our no screens rule, even during the long flights, but pacifiers were something I was okay with giving into just for the duration of the trip.

I scoured the web for anything and everything I could find about traveling with infants or traveling solo with a baby before the trip, so I wanted to put together my own list of tips as a trip post-mortem. 

1. Get your travel documents in order as early as possible.

This is even more the case with pandemic travel, but first passport appointments can be hard to come by. You can't just do it electronically, since it's their very first passport, you have to actually go into the passport office or embassy to do it.

Since Emma is a dual-citizen, she needed both her US passport (to re-enter the US) and her German passport (to enter Germany) in order to travel. We got a US passport appointment without too much trouble, but the German one only came through in the last minute as an emergency appointment, even though we'd been on the waiting list for months already!

I'm sure it's much easier to get appointments when there isn't a whole pandemic going on, but it's still always a good idea to get your documents in order early.

2. Be ridiculously organized.

Feb 20, 2021

My Birth Story

It's been a while since I last wrote - 1.5 months, in fact.

As tends to happen after being pregnant for eons, I finally went into labor! My contractions began at exactly 41 weeks pregnant. 

Labor and delivery story
From the day after I gave birth!

It was actually 3am on the very night that I was originally scheduled for an induction, just five hours after the induction would have begun! I'm so glad that my husband encouraged me to listen to my gut and give my body a little more time to begin things naturally. 

I'd had an acupressure massage advertised to help induce labor 16 hours before light contractions woke me up, so perhaps that did it or perhaps it was just my time. 

I was able to labor at home for a good while. From 3am until about 7 or 8am when my husband woke up I just labored in bed next to him. I couldn't really sleep, but I wasn't in too much pain and was able to still lie there and rest, as well as get excited about the big adventure ahead of us. 

When he woke up I told him that I was in labor (finally) but that I wanted to go about the day as normally as possible for as long as I could. I figured that would help me with endurance for labor, since first time moms tend to take a while. 

I read, wrote, did a load of laundry, cooked, had lunch, and chatted on WhatsApp with my mom. Around 1pm the contractions were strong enough that I couldn't just ignore them, so I finally engaged my husband to help. 

I think he'd been more anxious all morning than me! He'd taken a few work calls, but had basically paced around the living room waiting for something to happen and looking at me with panic every time that I walked into his sightline. It was pretty amusing!

After hours of that, he was pretty relieved when I finally said that I needed his help and we were getting into the more serious part of labor. I think having something to do made him feel calmer!

We hung out on the couch and he did counterpressure compressions on my lower back whenever a contraction struck. We developed a pretty efficient system - when I felt a contraction coming on, I'd slide off of the couch and drop onto all fours. Then he'd jump up and press on my lower back. I don't know the physiology of why counterpressure is so good, but it took my pain down by a factor of five and made contractions totally manageable!

We watched the last few episodes of season 2 of Big Little Lies. Then we started Inside Out. Inside Out is my favorite movie and it was so, so perfect to watch as contractions started really amping up.

I'd wanted to labor at home for as long as possible, but our doula was 1.5 hours away in Long Island when I started feeling rectal pressure. Since that could be an indication that it would be time to push soon, she counseled us that we needed to go to the hospital ASAP. 

My contractions had also really amped up in intensity and frequency, so that I could no longer talk through them and they were coming every two to three minutes. We called the hospital and they agreed with my doula, advising me to head over right away. 

But we were only a third of the way through Inside Out, if that! Sadly, we never got to watch the rest of it. 

My husband gathered our things up quickly, put them on a trolley to bring downstairs, hailed an Uber, and off we went!

We're only about five to ten minutes by car from the hospital, depending on traffic, but it felt much longer than that since the car limited my mobility and my husband's ability to effectively relieve the pain of my contractions via counterpressure.

When we arrived at the hospital they waved us through security really quickly, not making us stand in line. It was about 6:30 or 7 the evening at this point and super clear to see that I was in labor! 

Unfortunately things got a little less ideal from there. Shift change for the delivery nurses was 7:30pm, so they were about to meet for their huddle as we arrived. My husband and I were separated when I went into triage, due to covid, and I ended up being back there alone for about 45 minutes, due to the shift change huddle. 

Handling contractions without my husband was so hard! It was particularly difficult because I had to stay lying on my back in order for the heart rate monitor for the baby to read clearly and consistently. That was a huge bummer because lying on my back made the pain way, way worse than when I could stand, lean over, sway, or be on all fours. I tried to find a more comfortable position several times, but every time a nurse would hurry over to chide me. 

When they finally checked me, it turned out that I wasn't close to pushing yet. I wasn't anywhere near dilated enough, just about 4cm, and the rectal pressure was just because the baby was already very low, 0 station. 

I was offered the option to head home for a little longer, since we lived so close, but decided against it. I didn't want to deal with schlepping our stuff back and forth while in labor and didn't want to have to get back in a car either. At that point in labor, I just wanted to stay where I was. 

Jan 5, 2021

Things I thought Were Labor That Weren't

I'm now just two days shy of my due date and I've been eagerly reading signs of labor into every little thing since before Christmas. 

39 weeks pregnant baby bump

The holiday season came. The holiday season went. Our baby remains snug as a bug in a rug in my tum.

What's a first time mom-to-be to do once she's full term and still nothing is happening down there? 

Be grateful for the increasing distance from holiday spread? We had over 6,000 new cases of the covid-19 in NYC on January 2 alone. 

Enjoy these last days of twosomeness with her husband?

Find ways to be productive that future her will appreciate? They say you can never prepare too many freezer meals when you have a newborn on the way.

But of course not. Instead, I did/am doing what any impatient woman would: looking for signs that aren't there. 

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