Overall, traveling with a newborn was easier than I teed it up for. The baby loved her time by the beach—she went in the ocean for the first time, and the sun has given her skin a hint of color (but not too much, as we still kept her covered or in the shade, and put a bit of zinc oxide on the exposed parts). She’s eating well. Her baby acne has cleared up. And not only is she smiling every day, she gave me her first laugh the other day, to which I teared up with happiness.
Traveling with a newborn is so doable, so long as you plan ahead and know how to handle any emergencies. But it’s also about going with the flow, and giving yourself room to adjust to change. Its hard to do that as a new parent, and extremely hard to do it as a new parent in a foreign country. But it’s possible. And so rewarding.
Here’s what I learned in the last few weeks of the trip:
Panicking does nothing. Duh, right? But I did it anyway. “The baby’s breathing weird!”–I thought she had pneumonia (she wasn’t, and she didn’t). “There’s a bump on her foot, what is that?” (nothing). I got bit by three mosquitos– “I must have dengue fever!” (nope.) I didn’t stop relaxing until E’s mom joined us for the third week of the trip. It was as if having parental supervision for not only the baby but myself gave me permission to chill. With someone around to confirm that I was doing a good job of parenting, I had exponentially more fun. I got exponentially fewer mosquito bites, too.
A&D ointment saves everything. The combination of Caribbean heat and newborn drool created moist skin folds around Q’s neck and diaper area. Common, but those red, shiny marks made me cringe. I had used A&D regularly to her bum to avoid diaper rashes and on any sore skin patches of my own, but I applied some to her irritated neck and leg folds, and it cleared the rash up within hours. I went through two tubes of A&D in two weeks. Other parents also swear by Aquaphor as the same cure all for such skin issues. We also used Desitin on the rough patches towards the end of the trip, which also worked like a charm. It glides on a bit chalky and stays on the body for at least two days, but it does successful dry out those moist folds so the rashes clear up. Cornstarch is also helpful.
Harry Belafonte does, too. We sang songs from his “The Essential Harry Belafonte album“–“Jamaica Farewell,” “Angelina,” “Hold ’em Joe,”–to Q in the morning, during diaper changes, feedings and just to dance around the apartment. If you want to soothe a crying baby, this album surely does the trick. Island inspired tunes about love and travel make for great singalongs.
The most obvious tricks for parenting are not obvious at all to new parents. When E’s mom came to visit us halfway through the trip, she not only talked us off of the ledge from thinking our child had pneumonia, but also helped us navigate beach life with Q easier. For example, we brought our car seat down to Cabarete, but only used it in transport from the airport to the apartment. “Why don’t you put Q in the car seat to sit next to you at the beach?” suggested the wise grandmother. Made total sense–Q happily took several beach naps in that car seat, which was more comfortable than a towel draped across our laps. She also relaxed next to us during dinner in the seat while I rocked her back and forth with my foot. It lulled her to sleep before we cleared the dishes. Grandmothers know everything.
You never know who you’re inspiring with your presence. While I was panicking over feedings, bugs, mosquitos and other challenges, there were women looking longingly at E and I , smiling politely. There was one woman who was staying in our apartment complex, a beautiful blonde women with perfect hair and an athletic build, who looked like she had fully acclimated to her expat Dominican lifestyle. She always had a beach chair and sliced up pineapple out in front of our complex each day. A few days before we left, she introduced herself when E and I were taking pictures of the baby. “I really admire you two for taking this time with your baby in such a beautiful place. I wish I would have done the same with my three kids, who are all in university now. You all are doing parenting right.” If only she would have seen me panicking about pneumonia a week or two earlier.
This is the best idea my husband ever had. I spent the last month of my maternity leave on the beach in a sunny locale instead of in cold, snowy New York. I had uninterrupted quality time with the most important people in my life. I got a tan. I ran on the beach. I made jerk chicken. And I stared at my baby for hours in bed while listening to the ocean and not police sirens or construction workers. I am so glad E convinced me to do this trip. We’re already planning our next family adventure—Q’s passport needs more stamps, you know.