Have Baby, Will Travel - To BlogHer?
This time last year - just over a month before BlogHer in San Francisco - I was on bed rest. I'd given birth to Jasper a few weeks prior, and was laid up with a bad case of birthblasted nethers. I wasn't doing much other than nursing, applying ice-packs, and fretting over whether Jasper's big sister was getting enough attention. Oh, yeah, and I was mentally plotting what I would need to pack to take to BlogHer a few weeks hence.
Because, seriously. Like I was going to let a little post-partum recovery - and an infant - get in the way of my annual pilgrimage to be with my virtual soul-sisters? Hellz no. I was going, and Jasper was coming with me.
And he did, indeed, come with me. He flew with me from Toronto to San Francisco. He rode the weird little shuttle bus to the party at Guy Kawasaki's house with me and some of his virtual aunties and at least one virtual uncle. He shat on this lady, who was very gracious about it. He sat in on the MommyBlogging session, and got his picture taken by the New York Times. He accompanied me to the session at which I was a speaker, and - when his appetite struck mid-session - got nursed at the front of the room while someone held a microphone for me. He stared a lot at this lady - who can blame him? - and got rocked a lot by this guy - who has formidable arms - and basically just made himself right at home. He was eight weeks old.
It was awesome. It was also terrifying.
I did it because I wanted to go, and because I couldn't go without bringing him. There's an argument to be made that the most healthful decision for me would have been to not go - I was still recovering from his traumatic birth - but my only real concern was whether it was a healthful decision for him to go, and our pediatrician said sure, why not, so we did. And as it turned out, the trip was totally fine for him, and really quite discombobulating for me. I didn't tear anything anew, or drop a uterus or anything, but it was mentally extremely challenging - I was in the throes of and taking medication for post-partum depression - and I felt it. Oh, boy, but I felt it. You can read about it here. It was hard.
I was asked many times, during and after the fact, whether I was glad that I'd done it, glad that I'd made the trip, and would I do it again? And then Shannon wrote a post the other day asking, elliptically, the exact the same thing. The truthful answer was, is, yes and no. Yes, I was glad that I'd made the trip. Very glad, despite how hard it was. Would I do it again? Harder to answer, but if you'd caught me in any of the moments when I was sobbing in a corner, overwhelmed by hormones and maternal anxiety, I'd have said no. But as it happened, I went on to take Jasper to three more conferences in the 8 months after BlogHer, so. Clearly the answer was not a wholesale no. Would I tell another mom to go, or not go? Neither. Only you can tell you whether you're up for it, whether it's worth it. (For my money, if you want to go badly, it is worth it. I'd rather face the challenge and deal with whatever struggles than cope with the regret. Then again, I'm also the one who cried like a baby the whole weekend, so.)
(Also, keep in mind that I was there with a newborn. In some ways, a newborn is easier than a bigger baby because they're so, you know, portable and sleepy and stuff. But you're more vulnerable. Bigger babies demand more attention because they're more squirmy and wakeful, but you'll be less hormonal and prone to random bursts of sobbing.)
So, let's say that you do want to go with your very little person. Here are my tips on how to take a baby to BlogHer and preserve your mental health:
1) If you can, room with somebody that you trust and who is sympathetic to babies. Someone who you know will be happy to watch over little Sigfreid or Brunhilde while you take a bath or weep in the corner.
2.) Travel in a pack - yes, even from the moment you leave home (there's gotta be other BlogHers flying out of wherever you're flying out of - try to arrange flight seating in advance) - with supportive women (and other women with babies are always a boon.) If you can make sure that wherever you go there's a pair of eager, trusted arms ready to hold baby and give you a break, you will feel much more comfortable and safe.
3.) EXPECT to feel uncomfortable and unsafe and overwhelmed at times. Your body is flooded with new mom hormones, and you have your baby with you, and ALL THOSE PEOPLE and ALL THAT NOISE - it's going to feel threatening and oppressive at times. Know that and plan for it. Promise yourself that you'll take yourself and little Engelbert away from the thrum whenever you start to get twitchy.
4.) Take breaks. Take LOTS of breaks. Do not plan on doing everything or seeing everybody. You will need quiet time. Baby needs quiet time. So bail on a few session in favor of in-room naps, and feel free to leave the MamaPopRocks! Sparklecorn Extravaganza early.
5.) Leave the computer in your room - or even at home - and use the extra space in your bag for extra diapers and wipes and clothes and blankies. If the gods are willing to summon epic shits when you walk out your front door at home, what do you think they have planned for you when you wander into lunch with a thousand bloggers? Yeah. Expect the apocalyptic shit. (Mine came at Guy Kawasaki's house. By his pool. I cried.)
6.) Say yes when people ask to hold little Helga. And don't be afraid to ask - that person behind you at the coffee urn would probably love to hold her while you stir your decaf. Let her.
7.) Bjorns and slings and strollers, oh my. Whatever your baby is comfortable in, bring it. And use it. Jasper was slung through many a party, and it's pretty cool to be able to feel your baby snoozing against your chest while you sip (go easy) a Chardonnay with your friends.
8.) What I said in #3, above? Double it. You will be stressed out. BlogHer is stressful even if you've nothing to manage but yourself and your Ativan, so when you've got baby along, and you're mothering AND BlogHering all at the same time? DOUBLE stressful. Triple even. Expect it. But also expect that if you know that this is worth it to you, you'll manage, and be glad.
9.) Come find me. I'll hold your baby for you. And better, I'll whisper all about how I know exactly, exactly, how you feel. Because I've been there.