A few days ago I went on a trip to Panama City with some friends. As amazing as it seems coming from this “mother hen”, me and my baby girl were separated for 5 days and 4 nights and she stayed with her dad at home. In this post I want to tell you all about the experience about traveling without a baby.
To give a little bit of context I will start by explaining that my little girl is 1 and a half years old and that despite alternating with whole milk after she turned one during the day, she stills breastfeeds. Since her birth too, she has been used to take the breast to fall asleep or whenever she woke up at night.
We had never been separated, not even one single night. With that being said, I guess you can understand by now the terrible anxiety I experienced probably since I booked the flight. I tried to prepared ourselves the best I could; I read a couple of articles, and I asked for advice in mommy groups. One of the tips I received the most was to explain to her the situation that it was about to happen. So, a week before, I started talking to her. I told her I was going on a trip and that we would be separated for a few days. I told her that she would stay with her dad, that in the morning she would go play with her nanny and that at night there would be no breast milk to drink. I also mentioned that I would call her every day and that I would miss her every day too.
Before leaving, I prepared a sweater that sometimes I wear. I left it unwashed and snuggled her with it a couple of times.
The breastfeeding issue
The “breastfeeding issue” was probably the one that unveiled me the most. I had so many questions; what was going to happen when she wanted to go nurse at night and couldn’t find the breast? Would she have a melt down? What was her dad going to do? Would she miss me or hate me? The days before leaving, we “practiced” with dadt. He had the milk ready so that when she woke up during the night, he could give her a bottle immediately. However, during this time of practice we were never able to make her fall asleep without breastfeeding.
I also had many doubts about what would happen after past 5 days. Would she want to wean? Was I ready for that? I had read a lot about respectful weaning (do not deny, do not offer); I knew that a respectful weaning could not happen before 2 years old and I knew perfectly well that this was the least respectful way to do it.
And still, with all those unanswered questions and a half-finished process with the bottle, the day finally came and I ventured myself to my destination.
The trip: perfect days, nights… not so well
While I was trying to have some fun, her and dad were spending busy days at home. He kept her distracted as much as he could. He took her to play with her nanny, to the beach, the park and the play ground. He bought her new toys, took her to play with other children and let her eat some junk food.
The nights were not so easy. The first night she cried a lot. The old techniques of smelling mommy’s sweater and in the end taking her on a long car ride in order to make her fall asleep were needed. The following nights they handled it better with a few discomforts. They went to sleep together, but instead of pushing her to do it, he let her play in bed and when she was ready, she looked by herself her place to cuddle, no milk and it even seems she woke up less times…. while I was waking uo thinking on them every hour. After 4 nights, dad and baby developed a very special bond.
Meantime, my breasts were hurting a lot. I carried my pump and my bottles, but even though I pumped whenever I felt I needed to, my breasts did not stop bothering me. Giving small circular massages helped me a little towards the end of the second day. I was very surprised by the large amount that I still produce and also gave me a lot of sadness to have to throw it away at the end of each extraction.
Panama City, Casco Viejo and the San Blas Islands (from what I will tell you in another post) are lovely destinations with a lot to see. I tried to enjoy every second of my trip. I swore that I was going to sleep until 10 every day but I was up at 7 a.m. every day. I called them as I had promised, some days I even called a couple of times but avoiding the chaotic hours like the night.
The day I returned I simply could not wait to see them! The return trip was not so simple despite being Costa Rica and Panama neighboring countries. There is only an hour between Panama City and San Jose, but there are 4 hours between San José and our home in Guanacaste and watching the traffic on the road was driving me crazy.
My husband let the baby sleep a long nap in the afternoon so that we could see each other in the night. By the time I finally arrived, she was still asleep. We tried to wake her up but it was not until the next morning that I was able to actually hug her. While for me to see both of them again felt like a roller coaster of emotions, she did not seem to be very impressed. Maybe she thought she had a dream? Or maybe she understood very well the whole thing I told her about being away but then gpong back to normal?
The truth is that she remembered very well who her mom was and the special bond we have. She didn’t forget the breast and wanted it immediately, and of course I let her do it. We are not ready to wean yet.
The moral of the story
“Who returns from a trip is not the same as the one who left”
Despite my enthusiasm for doing some things I had not done in a while (having a drink, or two, talking to others without interruptions, posing for the camera a thousands times and exploring every detail of a new place); I missed my husband and my baby like crazy; I counted the nights left for the trip to be over and they were in my thoughts most of the time. People tell you to try not to think about it although that is not alway possible and there is nothing wrong with it. I can’t simply pretend that they are not a part of myself now. This trip taught me that.
I did experience some guilt. There are some who criticized me for leaving such a small baby at home or for putting myself as a priority for the first time in a year and a half when deciding to take a pleasure trip. It’s the same guilt they give us when we return to work, when we look for someone to help us with the baby for a couple of hours or when our baby has had an accident. I felt like a horrible mother when my husband told me the first night in literal words “she is absolutely miserable right now”. But after taking this trip and seeing how much I enjoyed myself and how much they enjoyed spending time together and solving their own issues, I’m convinced I would do it again. We all need space to renew ourselves and as mothers we have the absolute right to decide how, with who and when we will do it.
Tell me in the comments if you have experienced those mied feelings as well! Don’t forget to suscribe and to follow us on IG and FB!