“Yay, we’re pregnant!” $16,000 in anti-nausea meds, nine months draped over the toilet, several cancelled flights, and 30+ quarts of chocolate soy milk later, the reward of a beautiful baby almost made us forget what it took to get him here. Almost. As we plotted a timeline for Bambino #2, we knew we had to consider the possibility that my next pregnancy would be just as debilitating and just as stationary. We had airline miles burning a hole in our pockets, we had hotel points growing stale, and we had a child who could still fly for free–let’s not overthink it. Let’s just go.
Where to? We quickly ruled out an African safari (wait until he’s animal-obsessed), a Thai beach (questionable access to purified water), and Japan (a 10-hour flight was daunting enough). For our first international voyage, we wanted gorgeous architecture, walkable neighborhoods, good food, and easy accessibility to quality health care in the event of an emergency. Six weeks later, we were en route to jolly old London and jolie Paris.
In a nutshell: it was one of our best vacations yet. Simon slept the entire flight there (we timed it so we departed an hour before his bedtime), and we hit the ground running upon arrival so that we could soak in the sunshine and get over jet lag. We quickly learned to temper our expectations for our daily itinerary–traveling with a pooping machine whose cries “go to 11” ruled out tickets to Les Miserables, but it encouraged us to source the best of each city’s parks. Nap time? We swaddled Simon on many a park bench and in several dark museum corners, covered him up in his stroller, and let him shriek for 90 seconds before he passed out to the rhythmic clackety-clack of wheels on cobblestone. Ready to pump Simon’s next meal? London has a (very baby friendly) Pret a Manger on every corner, and I quickly got over the mild embarrassment of the wee-hoo, wee-hoo, wee-hoo of the breast pump that accompanied our conversation over cheap and exceedingly delicious sandwiches. We were also blessed to be able to stay with dear friends I hadn’t seen in over a decade–their hospitality, local know-how, and washing machine truly made us feel at home.
In Paris, I brushed up on my French and memorized a few indispensable phrases (Do you have a baby changing table? What is this delicious-looking confection and can I have three of them?). Fortuitously, babies get you to the front of the line at almost every museum in the city (and we went to many). And even though the hundred-year-old Metro system has 3,987 steps and no elevators, strangers are often eager to help shoulder the weight of your gargantuan baby and the purse, 17 diapers, pump bag, coats, Cliff bars, umbrellas, and accumulated miscellany you’ve stowed beneath his seat. Vive la France!
With a child, you simply move at a different pace. If your idea of a vacation is breakfast at 11 a.m. followed by bungee jumping, five hours at a museum, drinks in a smoky bar, and a 10 p.m. reservation at a Michelin-starred restaurant, prepare to be disappointed. Your babe will likely have you up pretty early–try walking the city streets with a cup of tea before the onset of rush hour and soak in the milky pink glow of morning. Take a long lunch. People-watch in a park. Splurge on at least one meal at a place where the hostess doesn’t give you the stink eye–and let your partner feed you escargots and bites of Camembert while your cherub wiggles in your arms.
My guess is, your child will surprise you. You will surprise you. And you’ll survive the trip home.