Last week I traveled to D.C. by myself to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. Because it was an adults-only wedding and Graham had to work, we decided it would be best to leave our girls at home with their dad and have my mom fly out to visit, which she already wanted to do that week. The timing of the wedding happened to coincide with V’s birthday and Mother’s Day. On top of the emotions that come with leaving the baby for the first time (and V for only the fifth time), I felt some guilt about being away, but I had to remind myself that the timing could not be helped and this was a one-time occurrence (I hope). Despite knowing the wedding was approaching for more than a year, it wasn’t any easier. I’m sharing how the weekend went and any tips I learned about being away from your baby or kids for the first time, in hopes of helping other moms and dads struggling with the same.
Tips for first trip without baby/kids:
Write out a schedule of what your day typically looks like for your caregiver. If you have a parent staying behind he or she will probably know, but even then it wouldn’t hurt to write it down for reference. I would include what the kids typically eat and how much milk/formula and water they drink.
List safety reminders and don’t assume everyone knows. Things have changed over the years, and some older people may not know safety recommendations when it comes to baby products or what can be in the crib for safe sleeping. If it gives you peace of mind to remind someone, do it.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings and verbalize them. I cried several times just at the airport while waiting for my flight. I didn’t worry about what anyone would think — who cares? Let yourself get your emotions out in a nonharmful way and then enjoy your time!
Try to have fun! If this is a leisure trip, attempt to be present as much as possible. Remember that sometimes you wish you had this break, so take it. Remind yourself your baby(ies) are OK and don’t feel guilty about having fun. You deserve it!
If you’re breastfeeding, a common concern might be getting baby to take a bottle if he/she doesn’t already. I would attempt having others bottle feed the baby leading up to the trip to make things easier. I would also pump at times you normally feed and try to stockpile some breastmilk if you can. KellyMom has many excellent breastfeeding tips and is more qualified to provide that information.
Call and text, but not too much. I called a lot the first day away, but on the second day I decided to not call as much. I found she was having a good time and I made her cry by calling too much. (Most of the time she was happy and smiley, though.)
I could not sleep the night before I left. I was having moments of intense panic and my heart/chest felt like it was tightening up. I could not calm down. This continued all night until I had to get ready to leave. I cried several times on the way to the airport and at the gate. I even cried during takeoff. By the time I landed I felt more calm before it was nonstop movement from there. That evening, though, I felt sick from dehydration related to flying. I had to call it an early night. Graham called me before bed and he could tell how worn out I was. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fun day with my friends and I was happy to be there, but it was also emotional.
I had a hiccup in that I planned my trip to be as short as possible, but my travel was lengthened when Southwest canceled my return flight. I went from having a direct flight in the morning to a layover in St. Louis because the original plane had a mechanical issue. This was upsetting because I had been proud of myself for making it through the weekend but then I had a setback. I just couldn’t wait to get back to my family. (Southwest did give me a LUV voucher to make up for it.)
Looking back, the weekend moved quickly and it was healthy for everyone. Addi and V are more used to being cared for by someone else after having me almost exclusively for the past year. Graham got more time to do parts of our routine that I normally handle, like bathtime. And I got a full night’s sleep on a king bed and spent time with my good friends on such a special occasion. Don’t feel silly for being sad or crying. It’s totally normal!