There have been quite a few traveling milestones since the birth of John two months ago, some of which I was prepared for and some of which came as a surprise. I still remember distinctly our trip home from the hospital. After receiving a detailed tutorial about the ins and outs of placing our car seat in the car, we thought that we would be totally ready to take our little boy home. We had each praticed a handful of times, and we had asked a seasoned parent to check our system to make sure that it was correctly installed. We thought we were ready. We were wrong.
As we prepared to leave, the nurse asked us if we knew how to use our car seat. We emphatically answered in the affirmative. Then Andrew went down to the car to retrieve it while I prepared John for his first car ride. Andrew set the car seat on the floor, and we stared at it in confusion. We knew exactly how to put the car seat in the car, but there was one important detail that we had forgotten- how to put the baby in the car seat. After about ten minutes of struggling with a million and one straps and buckles, JT was finally ready to go and the nurse had given us the thumbs up. So we trooped down to the entrance, ready to hit the road. We had had a slight hiccup, but at least we knew how to install the car seat. Or so we thought.
We had practiced popping in an empty car seat plenty of times, but we never took into consideration the seven pound four ounce difference between an empty car seat and a baby-filled one. Once John was secure in his spot- and we knew that we had installed the car seat correctly- we still found ourselves staring at the bright orange circle of death. Apparently we had done something wrong.
After another ten minutes of battle as we struggled to adjust the angle of the base, JT was safely buckled and secured in his car seat, and I finally took my seat beside him. We had already decided that I would sit with him rather than in the front seat with Andrew, a practice that we kept up until our first trip up to New Jersey for Easter (I was not about to sit in the back seat with a sleeping or screaming infant for three hours). I buckled myself in, and we began the most stressful hour-long drive of our lives.
Between John’s bobbling head in his car seat (even with the newborn insert, it wobbled everywhere) and the pouring rain, we drove home with our hearts with our hearts beating rapidly as we both envisioned the 101 ways that our first trip with John could end in disaster. Andrew drove the speed limit the entire way, keeping twice the required distance between our car and the vehicle ahead of us. Neither of us had been so happy to turn onto our street, finally entering the comfort of our own apartment complex, and finally our own apartment. And so our first trip with John ended, and we both wondered how we could possibly do it again.
But we did it again. And again. And again. Since that first terrifying trip, we’ve put in plenty of miles with our little man in the backseat. Over the past month, we’ve both made solo trips with him, praying the whole way that he doesn’t cry and holding our breath any time we hear him stir. We have travel with him down to an art. His diaper bag is always fully stocked and ready to go. There’s always a blanket and hat stashed in his car seat. Andrew and I have developed a system for leaving the apartment that enables two of us to use the restroom, one of us to have his diaper changed, and all three of us to be bundled and ready to go.
Two months after John’s birth, we’ve reached a point that we assumed was impossible. We’re actually comfortable driving with our baby boy in the backseat. We’re not as reluctant to leave the house, nervously anticipating the many potential messes that might occur: dirty diapers, shortages of wipes, puddles of spit up, pee-soaked onesies. Parenthood is often a balance between being prepared for the worst and taking everything in stride. There are only so many preparations that can be made. Just take our first outing to the zoo together- I had to use a baby wipe to clean stains on my shirt, John spit up after his bottle (which he resisted drinking), and we had to use a burp cloth as a blanket (it was clean, and it was more about protecting him from the sun than keeping him warm). Despite all the bumps that often come with traveling with a baby, it’s totally worth it. There’s nothing more enjoyable than hearing your son talking to himself in the backseat of your car. Trust me.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!