Last week a girlfriend told me she was unexpectedly (but happily) pregnant and her only regret was that they’d have to cancel their summer vacation. What?!?! CANCEL VACATION? These words are absolute sacrilege in my book. I demanded to know where she got the crazy notion that you shouldn’t travel while pregnant! She answered “From you”. I was speechless (which is saying alot for me).
In theory, I am a huge advocate of being as active as possible during pregnancy – be it travel, half marathons or shoveling 3 ft. of snow off your driveway. I’ve enjoyed some amazing vacations during maternity months. However, I’ve also had several harrowing experiences that would make any expectant woman want to stay indoors for the full 9 months.
I decided it’s time to let others learn from my mistakes! Instead of fostering fear, I hope these maternity travel tales empower you to plan wisely, avoid the pitfalls of preggers travel and encourage you to get out and see the world, baby bump and all.
The First Trimester – Puking All Over Europe
Getting pregnant while living abroad was definitely not part of the plan. But a misplaced box of birth control pills resulted in a 3 wk. lapse while my OBGYN back in the states put my prescription on a slow boat to Switzerland. During this time, hubs and I practiced “Newlywed Naievety” and by the time Dr. Sundwall’s package arrived it had been rendered obsolete. I was pregnant with 3 mos. still left in our time as ex-pats. The first trimester hit me like a ton of bricks – nausea that killed my fondness for pain au chocolate and exhaustion made exponentially worse by 12 hr. work days. I fell in to bed each night at 8 pm with an empty stomach.
However, our last few months in Switzerland were crucial – my husband had been in school all spring and we’d planned several big excursions before we headed back to the US. Given my travel addiction, there was no way I was going to sit in our tiny flat and wait out the nausea. I figured I could tough it out – that my love for Europe would outweigh my pregnant misery.
First on the schedule was a visit from the in-laws. We gave them the baby news, everyone cheered and cried, and then we all crammed in to a tiny little rental car and headed up the backroads of the Swiss Alps. 2 days, 3 glaciers, 4 tram rides and 5 “scenic outlook” stops later, we headed for the Pradaschier Tobaggon I wrote about last week. In between us and Chur was the Furka Pass – a devastatingly steep and craggy mountain ascent. Sensing a challenge, my mother-in-law hunched over the wheel and powered through the narrow switchbacks with the speed and determination of Mario Andretti. As we whipped around each tight curve I turned a deeper shade of green and looked wildly around for a barfbag. There were none. The road climbed higher and the turns got sharper, yet our car never slowed. Just when I was certain my breakfast baguette was about to make a reappearance, we stopped. Hallelujah! I managed to lift my head to the window and there, looming before us, clinging to side of the cliffs at an altitude of almost 8,000 ft., was the Hotel Belvedere. I’ve never been so grateful to see a building in my entire life.
We did not intend to stay the night there. There was still a bit of distance we’d planned to cover in order to keep on our travel schedule. However, a glacier nearby boasted a must-have photo-op. And so, while the rest of the group headed off on a rickety bridge towards the ice, I took my husband aside. I looked him deep in the eyes and said, in a slightly panicky voice, that I was not getting back in that car with Cruella De Ville behind the wheel until I’d gotten a good rest. He knew I meant business when I threatenned to throw up all over his new shoes.
Thanks to the Hotel Belvedere (built in the 1850’s!) I had an amazing night’s sleep on a real feather bed. The next morning my father-in-law (who I think had noticed my misery) got in the driver’s seat. I survived the rest of the trip thanks to his mercifully slow and cautious steering.
THE LESSON: During those first pukey months of Trimester One, pass on road tirps. Vacay close to home or destinations that only require short flights. And if you must drive, for heaven’s sake, don’t let your mother-in-law behind the wheel.
Once back in St. Sulpice (the little village we lived in outside of Lausanne) I spent two full days in our tiny flat just lying on the bed, enjoying a complete lack of motion. But it wouldn’t last long. Soon I would be back in the car, this time hurtling down the autoban in Bavaria, with non-alcoholic beer and a bratwurst-eating contest waiting at our destination. And not long after that, there would be a sweltering overnight train ride to Rome, sandwiched between two very large, very sweaty, very italian men. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!