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Traveling Abroad Without Your Infant

I Ditched My Infant to Travel Abroad — and You Should, Too

bridesmaids-jumpImage Source: Diego Ramirez Fotografia

The first moment of being torn between my pre-mom self and my mom self occurred, ironically, on Independence Day. Blue and white stripes hugged my 8-months-pregnant belly and fireworks sparkled above us as we celebrated my cousin's bridal shower on a rooftop in Brooklyn. It was absolutely lovely — until my cousin Julia asked me to be her bridesmaid.

Four years younger than me, and 40 times braver (she moved to Chile after college without knowing a soul), my cousin is the little sister I always wanted. So I felt terrible that my answer was anything but hell yes.

"I want to," I stumbled. "I just don't know . . . where I'll be . . . by then . . ."

English translation: At that point I'll have a 6-month-old baby, and I have NO idea what that's like. What he'll be like. What I'll be like.

Because here was the issue (and the part that's so amazing): While in Chile, Julia had fallen madly in love with a Chilean guy. And after years of a long-distance Brooklyn to Chile love affair, they were getting married.

In Santiago, Chile.

hands-belly
Image Source: Marisa Ramel

Game-Time Decision: To Go or Not to Go?

My husband and I decided we couldn't commit until after our baby was born (August 13) and the wedding date neared (February 13).

In my mind, there were two options:

  1. All three of us go.
  2. None of us go.

A few months into parenthood, my husband suggested a third option: I could go alone.

No, I said. Definitely not. I couldn't leave him.

Here was my infant son, who was so precious to me, who I was breastfeeding almost exclusively, who still felt attached to me as if by a heartstring umbilical cord that couldn't possibly stretch from Brooklyn to Chile.

mom-baby-pre-trip
Image Source: Marisa Ramel

But as the wedding date neared, going solo became the only option that made sense.

Because the flight was 11 hours direct.

Because the wedding was from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. (and our baby crashed by 6:30 p.m.).

Because the logistics of getting a car seat, stroller, crib, and a week's worth of organic purees on another continent made my head spin.

And because luck was on my side. My husband was willing to play Single Dad for a week. My son's daycare had agreed to take him extra days.

I hemmed and hawed. One day I was definitely going, the next I could never do such a thing — abandoning him felt akin to child abuse.

Three weeks before the wedding, I texted a travel-savvy friend: I think I'm gonna pull the trigger. She sent back a screenshot of a great direct flight, and I booked it on a whim.

I forwarded the flight details to my cousin: we decided to leave the guys home, but your bridesmaid will be standing beside you.

mom-bride
Image Source: Marisa Ramel

Remembering I'm More Than a Mom

After pumping a gazillion freezer bags of milk, buying the most matronly bridesmaid dress I could find (motherhood had left me feeling like a nun), and worrying my son would need years of therapy for his six-day abandonment, I packed my duffle with two breast pumps (in case one malfunctioned), 30 double AA batteries (for said breast pumps), and doubted my decision the entire way to the airport.

Exhausted, I slept all 11 hours on the flight to Santiago, Chile. Everyone else complained about the red-eye; it was the best sleep I'd gotten in months.

I arrived refreshed and was greeted by my dream team: my cousins, my dad and stepmom, aunts and uncles, and family friends. To my joy, there was always someone who wanted to hear about my baby. I missed him most in the mornings, when I woke up to an electric pump instead of his sweet little face.

bridesmaids-rehearsal-dinner
Image Source: Marisa Ramel

But there were times when I — gulp — didn't miss him at all. That feels terrible to write — thank God 1-year-olds can't read the internet — but it's true. For the first time not just in six months, but close to a year-and-a-half (once you factor in the pregnancy), I was able to drink. Because the distance was so far, I pumped to keep up supply, but it was all pump-and-dump. Bye-bye, liquid gold, I thought as I spilled it down the drain. Hello, Pisco Sours! Hello, Chilean red wine! My, how I've missed you!

Ya know what else I missed? Conversation! Glorious, beautiful, uninterrupted chit-chat. I listened to my cousin fret about last-minute wedding details. I sympathized with another cousin's work dilemma. I did it all without pausing to find a rag for my "happy spitter" son's latest projectile of pureed peas. I realized that I longed to do what I used to do best: listen.

And I remembered I used to be fun.

mom-dancing
Image Source: Diego Ramirez Fotografia

I made funny comments at the rehearsal dinner (or maybe it was the Pisco). At the wedding, I paused midpump and ran out of the bathroom to dance with my dad to Erasure. I chatted with our Chilean cab driver — actually that was a minor fiasco, as my rusty Spanish led the driver to believe that I'd abandoned my baby and run off with my cousin's boyfriend. (No amount of backpedaling resolved that; he was still muttering under his breath when he dropped us off.)

And despite my son's dependency on me, and frankly my dependency on him, I could still thrive on my own.
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The best part truly was standing by my cousin's side. In each wedding photo, I'm gazing at her like she's the most gorgeous bride in the world (because she was), and because I was so in awe that I had made it. Despite the demands of new motherhood, I could still be there for someone else. And despite my son's dependency on me, and frankly my dependency on him, I could still thrive on my own.

mom-gazing-at-bride
Image Source: Courtesy of Diego Ramirez Fotografia

Reunited and It Feels So . . . Normal

Six days later, after performing my last feat — pumping in a miniscule airplane bathroom — I returned home. Would my baby be elated to see me — or furious with me for leaving?

He was napping in his crib, and I sat agitated on the couch until finally he let out a small cry. I rushed into his room.

He looked up at me, content but unimpressed, as if I'd left for a few minutes to get a coffee.

So if you go, here's my advice: book a longer trip.

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