Of course I was prepared for the fact that a vacation with a baby is not even close to resembling a vacation pre-baby. Long gone are the days when a beach vacay = hours on the beach in the sun day drinking followed by a little day napping, perhaps with a long walk on the sand thrown in for exercise. I heard someone once say or write that vacationing with an infant basically means you will do the exact same things you do with your infant at home, only in a more inconvenient way. Which is a little true. A three month old is not capable of suddenly morphing into adult habits just because she is at the beach. They still need to feed/nap/play in the same tiny little intervals that make it virtually impossible to do most things you would normally on a vacation. They also don't tolerate heat well and can't wear sunscreen which excludes many activities one would normally do at the beach.
But the upside is a 3 month old is still relatively portable and has that magic skill of being able to sleep anywhere, which does come in handy if you want to leave the vacation house at some point. And if you vacation with family you have insta babysitters, particularly if grandparents are involved. Also what is more adorable than a tiny person in a sun hat?
So really there are pros and cons about the whole travel with the baby thing. And as always with any first in life you learn some lessons. So for today's Friday Five I thought I would share what I learned/observed this past week:
As I've written about on here before, baby is not always a huge fan of the car. I would venture to say it is one of her least favorite things in life (right up there with the indignity of being dressed in clothes and when her pacifier falls out of her mouth). I was mentally prepared for the 5-7 hour drive (7 when you have to stop several times) to be absolute hell. However it ended up being pretty okay. Going both ways we left in the morning right when the baby is usually ready for her longest nap of the day which meant that both directions she slept well for the first long chunk of the drive. I parked myself in the backseat to be her royal highness' official pacifier putter-innner/court jester/butler. Before and after naps she did pretty well for short chunks (with constant entertainment, btw if you are ever in a pinch with a crying baby try to Youtube "newborn stimulation videos" and put your phone directly in baby's line of vision, it is incredible how long a baby can be entranced by these videos, which basically just show light or brightly colored shapes moving against dark backgrounds). When she started to meltdown it was usually time for a feed and so we would pull over to a Wawa or Chik-fil-a and I fed her in the backseat (thank you to the spaciousness of the second row of a Toyota Highlander! when I bought the car I did not take into account breastfeeding comfort as one of my concerns, but man if I had this car would have really fit the bill!). Naively I thought I could feed her bottles while driving but currently baby is deep into BOTTLE STRIKE 2016 (more on this in a later post), so short of positioning myself so that I could feed her while the car was moving (that would have been fun!), we had to stop. But it worked out because for the most part we timed it to get gas or food while I was feeding. Her only true meltdowns happened for the last leg of the trip North and a 20-30 minute crying spell somewhere in Maryland on the way back home. And they sucked. She would go into those wide eyed, red faced, crocodile tear fits, and you really feel like a jerk when you are sitting next to your baby while this happens. You can really offer only so much comfort while they are stuck in a carseat. And you just know your baby is royally ticked off at you and thinking "What is wrong with you giant slave! Normally when I cry you do my bidding and pick me up!" But all in all the car trip could have been so much worse so I am grateful we only had to deal with small spells of crying.
Oh to think of younger days, when all I needed on the beach was a towel and maybe a magazine or two. Those days are I think forever gone. This is the list of stuff we had to cart when we wanted to bring the baby to the beach: two adults chairs, beach mat for baby to stay out of the sand, beach umbrella to keep the sun away from baby, baby beach towel, baby beach hat, cooler, cart to lug all the aforementioned crap. It was like a 30-45 minute process to go from the house to the sand (and the house was literally feet away from the ocean). I can only imagine this process lengthens the older the baby gets, because soon she will require toys and entertainment, more extensive sun shelters, baby pools to keep her cool, etc and etc. We may need to find some kind of warm weather sherpa.
I didn't exactly expect Ryland to LOVE the beach or anything. But I did picture some Kodak worthy moments, her sitting in my lap happily as I sat in the shallow tide, maybe cooing in excitement over the feel of ocean water on her legs, her grinning at a seagull, her reaching for daddy's hat. The reality soon hit me however that for a 3 month old the beach is basically an assault on the senses. I mean think about it. You've been in the world for 3 months and have a basic grasp on your little climate controlled home environment. You've been outside but in places with minimal wind/sound/sun. And then you go to the beach and your little baby brain is basically overloaded. The beach is loud and bright and there's wind and tons of people noises. The air smells like salt and sunscreen. It's a lot. The two times we took Ryland out to the beach she had short periods of alertness where she basically either lay on the mat or sat on my lap completely dazed and bewildered (it didn't help that she had a cold that made her eyes puff up and water, which of course got worse out in the bright light of day) and then she promptly conked out on top of me. However I'm okay with it because her naps on me on the beach were pretty much my highlights of the trip. They say there's nothing more relaxing than having a little baby sleep on your chest. However I can now say that's not true, because there is nothing more relaxing than having a little baby sleep on your chest ON THE BEACH. We sat in the shade of an umbrella (I really am never going to be tan again am I?) and I watched the waves crash while she slept soundly. It was heaven.
4. You will spend a lot more time inside than you normally do on vacation, but when you get out without the baby it feels like a wonderful indulgence.
We spent a lot of time in the house. Between feedings and naps and just general babyness, there was a lot of indoor time. It's not my usual habit on vacation to stay inside so much. I'd much rather be out on the beach or out on a bike or doing something. However, life changes with a baby and this is part of it. You don't just get to do whatever you want on a vacation anymore, and that's a weird adjustment to make the first time you travel. But it does have its perks. I got to watch a lot of Wimbledon while feeding the baby. I didn't get sunburnt. Okay fine maybe there aren't a TON of perks, but I know I just need to put in my time in the baby zone trenches and in a few years I will be chasing toddler aged kids around on the sand and probably longing for lazy afternoons inside. My lovely mother-in-law did watch Ryley a few times though so we managed to get some baby free outings. My husband and I decided to go on a bike ride to the center of Sea Isle City and the initial plan was just to bike there and back. However once we arrived and saw the beach bars how could we not just grab one quick drink? We got Coronas at a place on the ocean and I felt simultaneously guilty and gleeful, like a teenager who managed to use a fake ID. And we did manage to get out of the house with the baby as well. I had the sling of course so we took her out for ice cream and to Stone Habor on our last night (although this was probably a mistake because she was so overtired at this point that she pretty much turned into a demon the short car ride home)
5. Baby colds are really sad.
This one has nothing to do with the beach, but like I mentioned earlier Ryley did come down with her first cold while on the trip and it was just so sad. Like heartbreakingly sad. Luckily this was a very short lived and minor cold, but it still broke my heart into a million pieces to see her little nose run and eyes water and puff up. I just knew she must be SO confused. There must be nothing more perplexing for a baby than to get a cold, because they don't understand bacteria or viruses or immune responses. They must just be thinking "What the hell!?" the whole time as they experience each new cold symptom for the first time in life. We bought some saline drops and a bulb syringe and that managed to help a little, along with some tylenol I gave her after 2 hours passed one night trying unsucessfully to get her to sleep (She didn't have a fever, but I reasoned that babies with colds probably get headaches and sore throats the same way adults do, only she couldn't tell us if she was hurting)
Overall I would say the trip was a success. The most important part is that Ryley got to spend time with her dad's side of the family, especially her adorable older cousin.