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Traveling to the birth - alone or with family?

Traveling to the birth is an extremely significant and exciting moment, albeit also a little nerve-racking. You travel as a couple or as a single and return as parents. During your stay you’ll be taking care of logistical matters such as nesting, developing the relationship with the surrogate, shopping and preparations, and taking care of bureaucratic matters after the birth. After the birth you’ll be preparing yourself to be parents, learning how to care for the baby, how to change diapers, feed, burp, getting up at night, washing and sterilizing bottles, and so much more...

I often get asked whether it’s better to travel alone (meaning just the couple or the parent) or to be accompanied by the grandparents, siblings, or a good friend, or alternatively to hire the professional services of a nanny or pregnancy nurse in the US.

As you’ve already realized, there’s no one right answer for everyone here either. It depends on you and your degree of independence, on whether it’s a single baby or twins, whether you can financially afford to go, and on what’s more important to you – convenience, or intimacy with your spouse, and of course it also depends on your parents or friends and whether they even want to join you. So complicated!

Sometimes the relationship with your parents or your spouse’s parents doesn’t allow for this kind of a joint trip, or they work and can’t take time off, or maybe they’re too old for such a long trip. In some cases, both sets of grandparents want to come along for the trip. Long story short, it depends on you and I’ve already seen people who do the unbelievable and fly on their own as a single parent for the birth of twins, and I’ve seen couples who fly with their parents and also bring along a nanny to help them with one baby.

I’d like to give you my two cents from my own personal experience. It was very important to us to be there with our parents. We shared the stay in the United States with my parents and Roy’s parents and aside from the amazing experience for everyone involved, we felt that we were sharing this special stage of the process with them. Without all the surrounding hustle and bustle, day to day life and work commitments, a new family unit formed together with our parents.

In our case we had twin girls, and we were both inexperienced with childcare so the help we got from our parents was invaluable. In hindsight I can say that we still would have managed had we traveled alone, but the help was a huge bonus that put us at ease. Even just the fact that we could all take turns feeding or having someone to share the “night shift” with.

It’s important to be ultra patient in this situation. When you live with people in a house that’s not your home, along with all the stress and lack of sleep, it’s really easy to step on each other’s toes, get pulled into arguments or power struggles. It’s important to be open and honest even before the trip and to clarify to whoever is coming with you that you are the parents and you will be the ones setting the tone, and to set expectations that whoever is coming along will be doing so in order to help, and not to add any extra stress or to domineer the experience.

As I mentioned, I’ve heard about couples who traveled without any help at all, and that alone time brought them closer together as a couple, and they had the opportunity to start parenting as a private family unit without any outside pressure that awaited them home.

In such cases you can hire local help when you arrive, a night nurse who takes over the night shift and lets you sleep, or even go out on a brief date for a change of scene. Even if you spend the entire meal talking about the baby and your new life, you can take a breather and spend time alone as a couple. It’s important for the relationship as well.

Remember that help is not just in the weeks right after the birth, but also on the numerous flights and stopovers at the airports, and sometimes also at the consulates.

On a personal note: It’s wonderful to get help from someone who’s already raised children. It gives you an opportunity to develop a different type of family relationship that you don’t normally have, mainly with the spouse’s family. It will enable you to share the workload and focus on the bureaucracy as well, and it will mainly make the entire period easier for you. But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Some people prefer to bring mom and dad along, some prefer to fly with a good friend, and others prefer to manage on their own.

The best advice I can give is to speak to as many people as possible who have gone through it and to hear what they have to say about all the ups and downs, pros and cons.

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