“Would you do it all over again?”, asked my youngest sister. My mind quickly recounted slamming my hands into the mattress in a sleepless fury, while yelling, “I can’t do it anymore!”. And then I flashed to our self-guided nighttime walking tour through Rome, gelato in hand, engulfed by the romantic magic of a brand new city full of monuments older than Jesus.
Like life at home right now, traveling to Europe with an infant and a toddler was hard. And it was magical.
We had been planning for our Italian family reunion for the last year and also loosely planning our second baby around it too. September was our last month of trying where I wouldn’t be too pregnant or have too young of a baby to go.
As you might have guessed, I got pregnant. Our little seed of hope turned into a little baby girl and our family became four just two months before we would take off.
I was pretty anxious leading up to the trip; there were a lot of unknowns about how our independence-seeking, runaway two-year-old, and fresh into the world two-month-old would react in a new country. Germs, logistics, passports, schedules and other fear-based obstacles took turns making me question the plausibility of this trip.
There’s a Mark Twain quote that goes something like: when you look back over your life, you’ll regret more of the things that you didn’t do, than the things that you did.
So we went. For Mark Twain’s sake and for that vow we made to each other when we got married; to see the world together.
My mom dropped us off curbside at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. She kept saying how brave we were for going. Brave, or stupid, I kept thinking to myself.
I reminisced briefly on the last time I was in Italy. I wore an SDSU college sweatshirt, drank gin and tonics, and traveled spontaneously around with nothing but an oversized backpack. Here I was 10 years later, returning a slightly different version of myself. I wore Birkenstocks, drank beer (and also electrolytes) and traveled with four backpacks (and that was only our carry-on luggage).
We reserved the bulkhead seats and didn’t have too many annoyed eyes staring at us just yet. After a few hours of airplane food, Daniel Tiger, Fancy Nancy and sticker books, Maisley reluctantly fell asleep on her makeshift bed below our feet. Coura took turns sleeping in her bassinet and wrapped to one of our chests. It definitely wasn’t relaxing, but also wasn’t as crazy as I had imagined.
We stayed in Rome for the first two nights and then took a NASCAR style ride out of city and into the countryside of Tuscany, settling into a farmhouse outside of the small hilltop town of Cortona.
28 of Ryan’s Dutch, American and Russian family members ranging from ages 5 to 75 all met us there for a week of family bonding, site seeing and gelato eating.
The first few days were an adjustment. I had that “out of my comfort zone” pit in my stomach, coupled with jet lag, cranky babies not sleeping, and 4th trimester surging hormones. Things that helped me get through those first days: time, meditation and focusing on my breath, talking and connecting with Ryan, sleep, prayer and staying present.
We went on a few day trips to surrounding hilltop towns, organized a fun game of water polo with all of the cousins at the farmhouse pool, and ate countless pizzas, all under the 100-degree tuscan sun.
Maisley had a blast playing and swimming with her dutch cousins. She even learned how to say her favorite word in dutch: nee (pronounced nay). She can now refuse us in two languages!
Coura slept, cried, smiled and drank her way through our Italian adventure, seemingly growing from a newborn into a baby during our 11 days abroad. “Unique Places I Breastfed Coura” is probably a blog of it’s own, but two highlights were the refreshingly cool floor of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and hilltops with expansive views of bright sunflower fields.
Ryan and I took turns losing our mind, so that at least one person remained positive and calm at all times. We were saved by kind people at the airport who lead us to shorter security lines, quiet drives with napping babies, afternoon thunderstorms, and an amazon fire tablet holding our mini savior; a tiger in a red sweater.
After 20 hours of return travel, we arrived home with thankful hearts and extra tired eyes. We asked Maisley to tell us her favorite part of the trip. She replied with, “Sleeping on the airplane.”
While neither of the girls will remember this trip, it will forever be part of their essence and one Ryan and I will never forget.
We gained far more than we lost on this trip, and I’d do it all over again every time (although probably waiting until all kids are old enough to hold their own head up before we go).
In Maisley’s Backpack:
Under the Sea & Zoo Sticker Books by Usborne
Traveling pack of Fancy Nancy books
Amazon Fire Tablet full of Shaun the Sheep, Daniel Tiger and Moana
In My Backpack:
doTERRA – On Guard Essential Oil Protective Blend
No Jet Lag Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedy
Bach Flower Rescue Remedy Drops (for anxiety)
Lavender essential oils
Cozy airplane socks
Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration Powder
Other Secret Weapons:
Mother and father-in-laws
Family members who can calm your crying baby
Snacks, so many snacks