Guest Post – My wife connie wrote this months ago but I back burnered my blog so it never got posted, better late than never:
I can’t believe I said yes.
I can’t believe that I agreed to travel 5,000km with a newborn.
Am I crazy?
Every mom in my mommy group thought so.
My husband is great at trying new things and pushing me out of my comfort zone so that I enjoy “new experiences”. Leading up to these events though, I am always uncertain, asking questions for weeks and days leading up to the event until I believe that I have covered every single angle of what to expect and have assessed contingency plans for every possible outcome when things change.
When we found out we were pregnant, the first (or second) question from the in-laws was, “Are you still coming to Florida for Christmas?” Knowing the little guy was only going to be three months old, I answered, “We’ll see,” and I maintained this answer throughout our pregnancy. But somewhere between the sleep deprivation and the acceptance of so much help within the first two months, the “We’ll see” turned into “Sure”. How could I break the heart of the woman who helped me get back on my feet, picking up groceries, making food, holding our son after feedings so that I could get as much sleep as possible? I could go on & on with all the ways she helped. So we began to plan our journey.
We monitored the impending weather along our route and guesstimated how long it would take us with a three month old who needs to eat every three hours. I repeat, every three hours. Oh, did I mention that we have a dog too?
The evening prior to our departure I started to panic. What on earth was I thinking agreeing to this??! He’s so little. It’s too long to be in the car. He’s going to get a flat head from sitting too long in a car seat. And I had just successfully gotten him on a sleeping schedule. I was about to through it all out the window. I was worried – had those motherly instincts I kept hearing about finally start to kick in?? Memories of someone telling me that they were told by the hospital when discharged to not leave a baby in a car seat longer than an hour and a half occupied my brain. I googled a British study that identified that flathead can trigger vision problems. I took photos of his head from both sides so I could compare upon our return.
The panic continued into the morning but as my husband explained, the plans had already been set so the show must go on. We hit the road. First stop, Windsor. It was cold, it was dark, and we were parked at a gas station. I breastfed in the backseat (thank God for privacy shades) while my husband took the dog out for a pee and a stroll. I need to supplement each feed with formula so we made enough bottles to last the entire trip. What we soon realized was that we should have packed soap to wash the nipples for the bottles, as we only have four that would need to be reused throughout the trip. We also forgot to pack bodywash for Junior in case he had a blowout of a poo during our trip. Off to Toys’R’Us so I could use their change table, buy the forgotten needed essentials and then get back on the road.
Everything we had read said it was best to travel at night. There will be minimal disruptions to their sleep schedule if they sleep through the night. This totally makes sense, except I like to sleep through the night too.
We drove through the night. Every time we stopped, I would feed the kidlet (boob & bottle) and then change his diaper while my husband would walk the dog. If we were lucky enough to stop somewhere that had a washroom with a change table, then I could change the babe inside. If not, I learned to master the diaper change in the backseat, amongst the dog bed, the infant car seat, and the cooler. My husband drove the first leg until about 1am and then I took over until about 4am. When you feel like you are the only car in a sea of tractor trailers and their tail lights look like they are starting to come together, you know it is time to pull over.
The best place to stop along the way is the Cracker Barrel. They open at 6am and close at 10pm (11pm on the weekends). Their washrooms are clean and they are the only establishment that I found (up and down the USA) to have a sturdy table that is specific to baby changing and that didn’t need to be pulled down. McDonald’s is a close second. Their change tables are almost always in the wheelchair accessible stall. Don’t even bother to stop at Krystal (they don’t have change tables) or White Castle (however, the later is based solely on my opinion of their hamburger). I digress.
We lengthened the time between his feedings and followed this routine every four hours. Each stop averaged about an hour and fifteen minutes. By the time we crossed the Florida border from Georgia, it was a struggle to put our little guy back in the car seat. He was wise to our schedule and would wiggle and scream as we tried to strap him back in. I felt bad but we were so close. We strapped him in the seat as quickly as we could and put the pedal to the medal so he would drift asleep to the rumbling of the tires hitting the road.
He was happy when we finally reached our destination, fifty-nine hours after it began (there was an overnighter in Nashville, complements of Santa), welcoming his grandmother with lots of stretching when we broke him free.
For the trip back, we decided to switch the routine up a bit. At the three hour mark I would pump in the car. Yes, I pumped. In public. I would pump and use that breastmilk at his next feeding, followed by formula that I heated up with the assistance of the car seat adaptor. The Warm’n’Go by Diono is a handy little device that actually works pretty good! When we pulled over, I had his food ready and fed him right away, then I would take him inside to change him, then pass him off to his dad so that I could go use the facilities myself. We managed to knock a half-hour off of our stop time. Woo hoo!
We planned two overnight stops on the way back and an afternoon visit with family so it took us three days to get home. Our little man seemed ok at the start of the journey but after a day, likely when he realized there was more to come, he started to fuss again when we tried to put him back in his car seat. Luckily for us, he would usually drift off by the time we merged onto the highway. Funny enough, he only had two meltdowns on the trip, the first was in Alabama (sorry to anyone that may have heard his screams), and the second a half-hour from home. At that point, I moved to the back to sit with him while the dog took over shotgun.
Did we survive? Yes!
Would I do it again with an infant? Not likely.
The frequent stops and having to change him, sometimes in the car, in the cold, and having to rinse bottles and wash nipples along the way made for a long, long, long trip. As did unpacking and repacking all the new essentials when we stopped overnight. Upon our return, it took about a week to get him back on schedule and I still swear to this day that his head is a little lopsided in the back from being in a car seat so long. At least he spent his first Christmas surrounded by palm trees to the delight of his grandparents, and had his first road trip with his new best friend by his side.