I have done nothing in my life as miraculous as giving birth to my son. A month old today, my life with Ohm has been an intense and primal love affair. On his own schedule from day one, Ohm arrived three weeks late, thus disrupting the bonding time my husband and I had planned at home. We literally spent the majority of the month of August indoors staring at each other ( I found a mole on his face I didn't know existed), having cancelled everything in anticipation of our little man. So when my husband, a musician with a touring swing band reluctantly packed up and shipped out for his Japanese tour one week after the birth of our son, I too found myself preparing to travel.
Staying in Brooklyn, where I had no family to assist me for the two weeks that Mark would be away was not an appealing option. My baby was great, but not that great. I'd read stories of stressed out new moms, left alone and I wasn't signing up for that. Aware of my limits, I packed my car, grabbed my alternatively sleepy and cranky newborn and headed upstate to my childhood home in Rochester, New York. Hi dad, I'm baaaaccckkk....
What normally would have been an extremely simple trip became an involved exercise in patience and strategy.
Part 1: The Drive
Getting there was a challenge. Not being able to leave Mr. Cranky Pants alone in the backseat of the car while I drove, I needed help. I called friends and relatives to see who would be available to drive with me from Brooklyn to Rochester. Nobody had an entire day free, but I was able to convince my friend Freddy and my sister N'Djamena to help me in shifts. As I sat in the back seat, keeping the peace like a UN negotiator, Freddy took the wheel and drove Ohm and I from Brooklyn to Albany, where my sister lives. Next shift, we picked up my sister who resumed driving duties, dropped Freddy at the train station and continued upstate. N'Djamena and Freddy's help proved to be life saving. There is nothing worse than driving with a screaming infant in the car, an infant you can't even see since the baby seat has to face the rear window. With mommy in the backseat, I was able to comfort and calm with relative ease. Ohm, did well on the drive and took turns fussing, sleeping and eating, but for the most part, he was a very good little boy.
Part 2: Creating a baby friendly environment
Any new parent will tell you that organization is key. If I was going to survive with my sanity for the next two weeks, I had to set up my baby center immediately and make sure that everything was in place to ensure both of our comfort. Whenever I go to Rochester, I stay in my father's study which comes complete with a twin day-bed and for the purpose of my visit a brand new travel friendly Graco Playyard (I would not have survived without this gift as there was no way for me to pack my crib from Brooklyn).
After handing Ohm over to bond with his grandpa, I dashed upstairs to put form and structure to our world for the next two weeks. I needed a changing station, a bathing station, a place to lay his clothes out, a laundry station, a bottle station and a place to put his bouncer. Traveling with a baby, means traveling with things, lots and lots of things. I got over myself very quickly and was resigned to wear the same three outfits as to not take up too much space.
You spend weeks (possibly months) planning your baby's room and setting your house up for your new arrival. Setting up a new space is no easy feat. Without my familiar nooks and furniture, I was forced to hijack bookcases, end-table tops, and any available space that I could find. The lamp table became the bottle station, the windowsill became the storage portion of my changing station, the surface of a bookcase was resurrected as a place to store and organize baby clothes. Within 45 minutes, I was in action.
Part 3: Your newborn and contact with people
Babies do not receive their immunizations until their second month of life. This means, that for the first two months of their lives as a parent you are bound to be a nervous, neurotic mess. So fragile and vulnerable to disease and colds, it's tempting to become a hermit until this time passes, but providing your child is healthy and your pediatrician gives the okay, it is fine to venture about in controlled environments (absolutely no crowds!).
Going out and about with your baby is all about common sense. Dress your newborn in layers (even in the summer), it is amazing how many temperatures you go through from outside, to the car, to inside an air-conditioned store or restaurant. Babies lose heat quickly as their circulatory system is immature (cover hands, feet and head regions). My Baby Bjorn carrier is a life saver. Not only is Ohm snuggled next to me, listening to my heartbeat, and benefiting from my body heat, but my hands are free, I am able to function and move and eat and enjoy my environment without worrying about supporting his head and rocking and bouncing and all of the fun details and restrictions associated with holding an infant. When heading into a somewhat crowded area (there are never truly crowds in Rochester), I covered Ohm in the Baby Bjorn with a receiving blanket (once a woman mistook my baby bjorn and blanket situation for a heart monitor machine, she pulled me aside and told me to be strong, to hang in there, that she would be praying for me- I had to break the news to her softly, that I was carrying my newborn, not a heart monitor). Whatever you do, don't let strangers touch your baby (they will try) and make sure that your visiting friends and relatives wash their hands before touching and holding your baby. The last thing you need is a sick infant.
Part 4: Locate a pediatrician who accepts your insurance ahead of time
To be safe, I wrote down the names and addresses of three pediatricians in the area, just in case. And it's a good thing.
During bath time one morning, I noticed what looked like bruising at the base of my son's spine. I took note, told myself not to panic, handled him very gently and checked back the next day. The bruising was still there. I then, looked up bruising in newborns on the internet and was presented with horror stories about leukemia and blood diseases. I called the doctor, scheduled an appointment and was informed that my son had developed his birthmark. I was so relieved and felt completely foolish, but was glad that I had the option of going to a doctor. While there, she even gave him a full physical and took the time to answer questions. The piece of mind was priceless.
Part 5: Pack extra clothes in that diaper bag
While out in public one afternoon, Ohm became hungry. I covered my chest with an extra receiving blanket and proceeded to nurse. Everything was going well until I burped him and after emitting an enormous belch, he proceeded to spit up. Not only did he spit up about a half cup of milk, he spit up blood, right down the front of his baby blue jumper. My panic turned to horror. I wiped at his mouth with the receiving blanket looking for the source of the blood, everything seemed fine. He didn't appear to be in any pain or to have any cuts. I wiped his bloodstained clothes as dry as I could and tried to understand what had occurred. It wasn't until I looked down at my chest did I realize the problem. I was the bleeder. Nursing in the early days/weeks, is no fun. My nipples were dry, they were cracked and sure enough, my nipple had a deep bleeding crack. I was bleeding through my bra and shirt. The scene looked gruesome and I was completely embarrassed. Luckily, nobody seemed to notice. We removed ourselves as quietly as possible from public view, went home and changed. Note to self, pack an extra outfit for baby and have an extra bra and t-shirt in stock for mommy, just in case...
Overall, our Rochester adventure was a success. Before I knew it, Mark, back from Japan, had joined us for our final days upstate. Our two weeks in Rochester flew by. I was fortunate that Rochester is such a baby and child friendly city. People appreciate babies. Unlike in certain restaurants in Manhattan, where you are scowled at the moment your baby coos, people greeted Ohm with smiles, even when he was having a meltdown. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air break and the comfort of family and friends.
Most people do not travel with a one week-old, however, sometimes you have no choice. Know that it can be done, and it can be fun as long as you have a little help from family and friends and as long as you are prepared for the unexpected.