On Travel

Both my babies have been portable.  Wrap them up, grab an extra diaper and some wipes, and we’re off to the races.  The way I figure it, I have chosen to stay home with my childen, but I certainly haven’t chosen to stay home!  And after the last year, I am SO ready to get out of the house again and play! 

Little Bear is 9 weeks old, and we’ve already been to playgroup, baby/mommy yoga classes, three science museums (including two in downtown Washington, D.C.), church, Target, Safeway, two meetings, and a professional conference.  And not a professional baby conference either, but a real scientific/engineering conference, where white men dominate and babies are scarce.

Scarce, but not missing.  A decade or so ago, a brave postdoc brought her newborn infant to this conference and sat in the back of the rooms with him so that she wouldn’t miss the annual meeting.  (Her husband was also at the conference, but I honestly don’t remember him walking around with the baby much.  I think I would have noticed that.)  The next year, there was another baby.  Then two babies.  Then three.  The number of babies present fluctuates with the number of child-bearing postdoctoral fellows, but is always in this very tiny range of zero to three and can be expressed approximately as

Nbabies = 0.9*f*Npostdocs/2 – Nbabies(last year) – Nbabies(weaned) – Nbabies (grandparents in town) – Nbabies(nannies waiting upstairs) – Nbabies(with colic) – Nbabies(crawling) – Nbabies(fidgety) – Nbabies(with moms who would really rather just stay home this year, thankyouverymuch)

where Nbabies is the number of babies and f is the actual fertility rate among postdocs in this particular field. 

The 0.9 factor at the start of this equation indicates the rough percentage of female physicists (to pick one of the fields represented) married to male scientists.  The number of male physicists married to female scientists?  10%.  No wonder dual career issues fall disprorportionately on the women!

But I digress.

The point is that we made it.  We flew there and back without major mishap (except for the hi-lar-i-ous encounter with a TSA screener who didn’t understand me when I said that my sling had a metal ring and I needed to take it off before going through the metal detector.  Much wanding and patting down inevitably (and uncomfortably) ensued.).  We stayed in a hotel, went out to dinner with colleagues, went to sessions, led a workshop, the whole nine yards.  And I kept my newborn with me the whole time.

Selfish?  Perhaps a little.  I know that it was very special to me to bring Little Bear with me into the world of science, and to introduce him to the people who helped bring me up in the field.  It was wonderful to cuddle his warm little body in the cold conference rooms, and to nurse him whenever he needed, without worrying whether he was crying with a stranger.  It was a way for me to meld the two parts of my world, and it was a nice break from the routine of playdates and diapers.  I mean, I still had to change diapers (and finding a Koala Kare station in the conference hotel was next to impossible!), but at least I had my baby with me and I wasn’t torn apart by unnecessary separation.

What worked for me?

* Carrying my baby in a sling.  I basically tied him on me the minute we stepped into the airport and took him out when we got home.  I have a lovely new sling from Simple Slings that Kim sent me, and it went with us everywhere.  Light and breezy, it added no weight to my diaper bag and distributed Little Bear’s weight across my shoulders and upper back much better than the Baby Bjorn (even the one with the lumbar support).  This sling is an improvement even over my beloved Maya Wrap that I used daily with my firstborn, because it is so lightweight and is made of a breatheable fabric, so I never had to worry about Little Bear.  Major props for this.

* Taking a pack-and-play with bassinet feature with us, as well as a couple clean pack-and-play sheets.  The conference hotel has cribs, but I learned with Widget that they’re never as sturdy as you would like.  Even the best hotels that do carry sturdy, nonportable cribs don’t stock crib sheets, in my experience, so I’ll never travel without a couple in my diaper bag just in case.  I remember a hotel in Ithaca that proudly delivered a crib to our room all dolled up with one of those fancy matching crib sets — bumpers, pillows, and quilt, all piled up on top of two queen sheets.  One as a surface and one to “tuck the baby in.”  And the full-size bumper was tied very loosely around the edges so that it wouldn’t overlap itself in the tiny port-a-crib.  Um, yes, it looked cute, but it was a death trap!  I called the manager in to our room and showed her step-by-step how this arrangement was inviting trouble.  And then we went out to Target and bought yet another pack and play for Widget to sleep in that night.  Four pack and plays later, we’ve learned just to pack our own and check it at the curb.  (Two of the pack and plays now live with our grandparents.  But we certainly don’t need to buy another one.)

* Curbside check in.  Bless ’em.

* Extra clothes for the baby, extra shirts for me. 

* Snacks in my briefcase, especially roasted unsalted almonds from Trader Joe’s.  Mmmm.  Bring your favorite, but do bring ’em, cause a full day of conferencing, glad-handing, and nursing is ex-haust-ing!

* A helpful husband.  Always a plus.  Mine carried the baby as he could and when I needed to go talk to a colleague.  Also, he carried the diaper/laptop bag so I wasn’t so laden down with the baby.  He would have carried him more, but Little Bear decided that he would cope by blocking out the conference and nursing much of the time.  He loved all the closeness.

* A sense of humor. 

* A willingness to go to the local Target and pick up everything we forgot.  And diapers.  And diapers again because the other brand just didn’t fit him as well.  And then back again for a sweet little noisemaker to distract him in the car.  The snap on chimes, if you’re wondering, is what finally worked.  The pacifier (bought with sadness, discarded with glee!) did not.

Everything else, at this stage, is optional.

Keeping my newborn with me, at this stage, was not.


P.S. We’ve also been to the pediatrician.  We went today, in fact.  At 9 weeks, Little Bear weighs in at 13 pounds, 1 ounce!  That’s 77th percentile, up from his previous weigh in at 10 pounds, 63d percentile at 5 weeks, and his birth weight at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, 21st percentile.  That’s what I call good weight gain!  Woot!


12 Responses to On Travel

  1. canape says:

    You are killing me with the cute baby pictures! I love them so much. The trip sounds marvalous, even though I skipped the part that almost sounded like math. You know me.

    I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to get out much when we visit in April – now I’m blushing. You go girl.

  2. Bon says:

    thanks for the tips…we travel with O back and forth to family homes and stuff, but have only ever done one night in a hotel, and that when he was less than two months old.

    next month, just after his first bday, we’re going to Europe. work and pleasure. i’m excited and nervous…mostly about the prospect of sleep deprivation (mine…if jet lag hits him). but sling, nursing (i’m hanging on until after the trip) and distractions are what i’m hoping makes for a happy boy.

  3. whymommy says:

    Just after his first birthday? Is he a good walker? When Widget was a new walker and obsessed with practicing that skill, we brought along a push/pull toy (like the corn popper but not so loud) for him to drag through the airports “just like Mommy and Daddy” drag their luggage. He was enamoured of it, and pushed it all the way from DC to LA! In a manner of speaking, of course. It was a great solution, though, and brought smiles to many a stranger as he toddled past. The just walking stage is the hardest one to travel with, I think, but it’s still do-able. Just pack plenty of surprises, even if it’s just a favorite little truck or a ziploc bag of dinosaur crackers. Have a great trip — and be sure to blog about it — I’ll be anxious to hear how it goes for you!

    Widget traveled probably every month for his first year or so. I found that he did great, as long as he was with Mom and/or Dad. We treated each trip as an adventure — and it was!

  4. Kim says:

    I’m so very glad you liked the sling! For readers interested in WhyMommy’s new sling, check out the “Sun & Swim Collection” at http://www.simpleslings.com. The Solarveil fabric also provides great UV protection! I took my newborn and 2 yr. old to the beach often last summer, thanks to this type of sling. 🙂

  5. whymommy says:

    Thanks for the note, Kim! I should have provided the link myself. I love love love this sling and like it even better than my Maya Wrap, which I used *constantly* with my first child! I can’t say enough good things about it — thanks for providing the link!

  6. Nikki says:

    Great tips. Funny post. I love my sling. Can’t wait to use it with the new baby. Cute, cute baby, by the way!

  7. annie says:

    Great tip & adorable baby!

  8. mcmilker says:

    Great tips -I traveled extensively with my DS is a sling, after 9/11 it was interesting going through security – had to remove his tiny shoes!

  9. Mitch McDad says:

    I think little bear need a new name…like 77th percentile bear. First time here…cool blog.

    We’ve always traveled a bunch with our girls. Probably too much. But i think its a good thing.

  10. good for you to take him with you! We need more women in the sciences to stand up and be seen!

    (I’m a physics teacher, by the way!)

  11. […] They have new babies, see, and there is no provision for them at the conference.  Every year, a mom or two brings her nursing infant along, but it’s always awkward and there is nowhere to nurse, aside from the busy lobby or packed […]

  12. Liz says:

    Hello from another science teacher – I love your blog and I love your equation!

    I’ll be dropping by again!

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