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!