I’m pushing my two month old in a stroller up a skinny street in Valparaiso, Chile. The incline is mad, my thighs are burning, and I’m gasping for air. It’s the first challenging workout I’ve had in a while. For a long time–during the pregnancy, and since the birth–I haven’t felt like myself. But now, sweating, exhausted, and out of breath, I feel like I’m finally me again.
We planned 5 months of maternity leave travel before I became a mum. It sounded awesome at the time. But when Ashna was just two weeks old, I broke down crying in the shower, overwhelmed and seriously regretting our travel plans. Can I really do this? Will this be awful for me and her?
There’s nothing more stressful than my baby crying, so I handled the stress of being a new Mum the same way I handle the stress of being a Founder of a company: Analytics. With numbers, spreadsheets, tracking devices. I downloaded apps that helped me time exactly how long I was breastfeeding, which boob, how long her naps are, how much I was pumping, weight gain/loss, and almost every other thing I could measure.
Like every mom in the word with internet, I did a ton of “research”. And similar to Googling medical symptoms, the internet became my best friend and my worst enemy. Slowly, amongst the avalanche of advice and information, I created a perfect environment for Ashna to cry less, sleep more, and put on weight. But in the process, I became a different person.
I spent a tremendous amount of time at home worrying. And I became scared of doing anything not centred around Ashna.
“She’s sleeping 6 hours when I start her bath-swaddle-singing-sleep routine at 8pm… Kyle why would we risk that by leaving the apartment for dinner!!!”
As we board our first plane, Ashna was 7 weeks old. I’d spent weeks practicing breastfeeding in public, starting with friends at our house, then parenting rooms, park benches, restaurants, I even squeezed a feed in during a board meeting (Thanks for being cool, Team!). I felt confident about feeding… but everything else was scary. I feared baby jet-lag and all the progress we made going backward.
To add to the stress, the change in time zones meant my apps were completely out of whack. So I took a leap of faith and decided to put the phone down and go by Ashna’s natural cues. Surely it’s possible to raise a child without apps and the internet right?!?
Now, 6 weeks later rather than revolving my life just around Ashna and living in fear, I’m taking her on a journey of what makes me happy. We’re exploring, meeting new people, trying different foods. We usually spent 8 hours a day outside the home—because you can’t be in a new city and not explore!
And you know what? It works for her too. Aeroplanes white noise help her sleeping longer. She adapted to new timezones easier than us. She loves looking around all the new cities and parks, and seems to enjoy strangers cooing at her in Spanish and pulling on her feet.
In the morning family Vermeulen sleeps-in, eats and cuddles. Then we pack the baby bag. The biggest question we wrestle with each day is choosing the Manduca or Stroller to carry her—a question even Google can’t answer! We change her diaper in every possible place with a flat surface, including sidewalks and street medians. She doesn’t seem to mind, and had her first giggle while I was changing her in a dingy, dirty bathroom!
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I stayed at home, inside, googling advice.
Would I have been able to pull myself away from baby analytics? Unlikely.
Could I have fallen in to post-natal depression? Likely.
Would I be as confident taking Ashna anywhere, anytime? No way.
Would I have gone back to work too early because I needed stimulation? Most definitely.
I’m thankful for planning a trip I wasn’t ready for. And I’m proud of myself for persevering and taking a leap of faith to do something unusual.
If you’re a new Mum, It’s really important to find a way back to being you. It might not be travel or exercise, but perhaps it’s coffee dates, yoga, Netflix marathon, or sexy undies? Your happiness is infectious and it’s worth finding, for you and your bubba.