Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Friday, August 26, 2016

14 Months


When we returned from Europe, Baby A had just turned 14 months and was into all sorts of things she couldn't reach before we left, like the counter tops. She was a different little person than the baby we left with. Suddenly sturdy on her feet, she has started running to and fro, for no reason in particular. It really feels like we left with a baby and returned with a toddler. Her Auntie Bex described it best:
It was especially amazing to watch Autumn transform from a baby to a toddler in front of our eyes in just a couple of weeks. All her pics before and early in the trip she looks so small (and adorable), then day by day she looks noticeably more toddler-y until she just is full toddler. I've never watched it happen so fast! You could almost pinpoint the moment! Must be so cool slash slightly sad as a parent to watch your child keep changing so fast right before your eyes!
This month included a trip to Oregon, and a weekend in Morro Bay. Some things I always want to remember about this month:
  • Imitation - Grandpa DeWitt was making hollow noise by knocking his head. She watched and then started hitting herself on the head in an attempt to make same sound. Using our cell phones.
  • At the airport, she slowly walked around in a circle to get dizzy. In Oregon, in play-yard she walked into the playhouse and said "Buh-bye!" and closed the door. She did the same thing before she walked off in volleyball field. Or, the other side of the gate we were putting up for safety with the stairs. We were concerned with adhering it to the wall when she closed the gate, headed to the stairs with my husband and on on the other side and exclaimed "Buh-bye!" And, later in the month when we were sitting in the front and she said that before walking down the sidewalk, or before she closed the bedroom door. 
  • 8/7 Started leading Trevi around on the leash - even down the driveway. Intent on doing it all by herself.
  • Exclaimed "Oh!" when she saw horses we took the gator to see. Tries to honk horn and drive.
  • I was pushing her in the swing and covered my face in peak a boo and she covered her face. Putting the slinky down the ramp and running up and down grandma's new ramp.
  • I love how when she waves, she rotates her whole hand. She can say "bye" or "buh-byeeee" and "Hi" now, and will sometimes say it randomly to people when we are out. If they don't answer her, she will repeat it. She will point to my eye (more accurately: put her finger in it) and proclaim "Eye!" She will also take my hand or my husband's hand and move it in a certain direction if she wants us to do something, like pet a dog.
  • How when we ask "Where is your bracelet?" She holds her wrist out and puts it on display.
  • She was perfect at the wedding reception, and fell asleep right on cue just after 9pm. Although it was noisy, she slept without stirring in her stroller until we were ready to leave around 11:30pm. (Who needs a sitter?) She transferred into and out of the car without waking, and went right down.
  • When she finds a little ledge, like the window in Baja Fresh, she will go sit down. Sometimes, right as she sits she will sigh "Ahhhh..." as if she's really taking a load off.
  • "Ahhhhhhhhhh..." after she takes a drink.
  • I was driving home from work and on the phone with her Daddy. He prompted her to "Say hi to Mommy!" and clear as day, I heard "Hiiii!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mom's Interview

An invaluable gift came in the mail this week. An interview with my Mom, Paula DeWitt, is in chapter 8 of The Crafting of Grief: Constructing Aesthetic Responses to Loss. My daughter is mentioned too, though not by name, as I was only 6 weeks pregnant when Lorraine met with Mom and I at our dining room table. 

This interview was one of the only times that Mom and I spoke about her not being here. See, I still have trouble saying it. About her dying. With all my work that I had done leading grief counseling groups and reading on the subject, it remained the elephant on the table throughout the 14 months of her illness. But that was how she wanted it to be, and I was following her lead. She said early on that she didn't want "any bad news" from the doctors. And so, my husband and I filtered it. We stayed behind after doctor's appointments and asked questions like "How much time are we realistically looking at?"


But talking about death does not need to be negative. The focus does not need to be on loss, but rather on legacy. As you will find in the skillfully formed questions, Dr. Lorraine Hedtke is a master craftswoman, carefully carving out meaning from the mundane. 


Who knew crocheting could hold so much meaning and serve to connect past and future generations of women? 



































I read a draft version of the chapter, but have yet to finish a read again. So, if you made it this far, thank you. Mom was a very private person, but obviously granted her permission for this to be used to help others. And that's just what this book will do, in due time. For now, it's hard to read through the tears. Although the focus of this interview, chapter and book is on the positive, and I remember being content that day, I am currently battling regrets that creep in when I think of her, and overshadow our would-be happy memories. From regrets that I didn't take leave from work and stay home with her those last months to regrets that I didn't stop her treatments earlier. 

But how was I to know? And what would she say to counter this? "Don't be silly, Meggie. You did all you could have, and it was more than I could have hoped for or needed. And now that you have Autumn, you finally understand just how much I loved you, and how much I love you still. You wouldn't want Autumn feeling this way, just as I don't want you to shoulder that burden." I just have to let her voice be louder than mine, because I know it's the right one. Besides, the what-ifs will continue indefinitely if I let them. I have a ways to go, and work to do, as we approach the second anniversary of her death on October 8th. I hope to report to you in a few years time that I am past this phase, but still feel as close and connected to her as ever. Because that's the goal of this approach; actively fostering connections instead of "letting go" or "moving on."


I leave you with two photographs of Mom taken three years ago today. Right after she was diagnosed, had brain surgery and moved to Tustin to be closer to us, we walked to the park across the street from their new apartment. We put the diagnosis and fears aside and had a wonderful evening at a production of Hairspray. This is how I want to remember her, and her and I together. And this is how I want my memories and thoughts to be, instead of cluttered with the what-ifs.





Friday, August 19, 2016

Vienna, Prague and Budapest

We took our 13 month old with us for three weeks in Europe and it was an amazing experience. Although we were worried that we didn't know what we were getting into, I would do it again in a heartbeat. This posting is just my travel journal detailing what we did. You can read some of my tips on what to bring and tips on traveling with a baby here. I like to think that someday, she will read this and maybe go back to some of the places we visited.

Day 1- We flew into Zurich from LAX, but our flight into Prague was cancelled. After flying for over 11 hours, we were almost at our final designation...only one more hour+ flight to go. It was very disappointing because we were already boarded when told we all had to de-board. There was a really nice play area in the airport, which we were able to spend some time in while my husband got everything straightened out.
The airline gave us a free hotel which didn't seem bad at first, but the bathroom a few minutes in to my shower. Autumn went down 4pm (home time) and slept until 7pm. She was awake from 7-8pm, but went back down and slept through until morning!
Day 2- We flew to Prague via Swiss air. We were able to board the 777 from the ground which made the size that much more impressive. Walked by my IVF clinic and old town Prague, becoming acquainted with the city we would be returning to at the end of our stay. Found an old catholic church and snapped some pics of my husband throwing her up in the air.  Went to sleep 2pm our time afraid it was just nap, but she slept through until almost 9am! Surprisingly, already adjusted to the time change in spite of the 9 hour difference.
Day 3 - We started our day with breakfast at the Hilton. We walked around toward Old Town, first visit to Gennet, my would-be IVF clinic and ended with a night walk and saw Prague castle up on the hill. It was 9pm, and still light out. We both love walking around and getting a little lost. She went to sleep at 2pm back home which is 11pm Prague time. She was already starting to prove herself as a flexible, easy traveler. Visited a huge toy store called Hamley's.

Day 4 - We had my IVF medication on ice, and took a train from Prague to Budapest.  A woman at the train station told us there was no room for our luggage, but man behind us who was headed to Croatia because "I like to party" said that was bollocks. The next train was sold out, but there was plenty of room for our luggage after-all, and we still don't know what she was talking about. So many beautiful views of the countryside and our hotel in Vienna was perfect. The train ride took about six hours, so it was almost dark by the time we arrived. As I stepped out of the cab, my first view was of a beautiful Russian orthodox church that Putin had visited a few years before, it's gold dome spires reflecting what light was left from sunset.
Day 5- Such an amazing day wandering around Vienna. We walked the whole Ringstrasse! Baby A slept a record 14 hours (9pm-11am) so we got a late start but still saw a lot! Loved Belvedere Gardens, Judenplatz, St. Stephen's Cathedral, university of Vienna and a playground we found.
Baby A had her first spare ribs at dinner that night. We loved the restaurant in the Jewish plaza because there was no street traffic, and Baby A could wander all around. 
Day 6 - Took the subway to Shornbrun palace to meet my instagram friend and her daughter, who was also an IVF baby. Tiergarten, oldest zoo in the world. Met an instagram/fb friend who lives here and her fellow IVF baby! She was kind enough to meet us in our hotel lobby and help us navigate the subway. We went to Tiergarten, the world's oldest zoo, which was founded as an imperial menagerie in 1752. We walked by the Schönbrunn Palace and beautiful grounds. Then we relaxed at the pool (it was a hot day!) and headed out to dinner in the Ringstrasse.
View from Dinner
Day 7- On our last day in Vienna, we found the perfect Christmas outfit for Baby A before catching the train to Budapest. In the first class section of the train we met an interesting character named Ronald. If anything was good, he would exclaim "That is supa!" I won't tell you what he said if something was bad. Once settled into our hotel, we had dinner overlooking St. Stephen's Basilica. Baby A kept eating the mac and cheese, eating not only what I had reserved for her, but what I was going to save as her leftovers. 
Day 8- Early morning walk - a high of 97 degrees - found Parliament and the Danube. We got a little lost, one of our favorite things to do. Had breakfast and Baby A tried to catch some birds, amazed and surprised when they flew away. She shared her first ice cream cone with me. Quick stop at the park nearby before heading to the pool and an afternoon nap. My coworker/friend arrived with her daughter.
Day 9 - Grabbed Starbucks and an "American pancake" for Baby A. Met Janice and Hope and walked with them to Parliament. Realized, thanks to her GPS, that we have been averaging 6-8 miles a day. We crossed the chain bridge 
Chain Bridge
and went to the National gallery, which is located in what used to be Buda Castle, where the first royal residence was built between 1247 and 1265. We just do not have that kind of history back in the states! Pool time and then out for dinner - Baby A's 1st time eating spaghetti. Woman who sat next to us did not speak English, but loved Baby A and kissed her cheek before we left. There was a quick downpour of rain, and thunder and lightning which continued once we were back at the hotel. Baby A fell asleep at my side watching the sky light up and listening it through our open window.

Day 10 - Hop-on-hop-off bus to Castle Hill. Lunch, walked across chain bridge. My husband watched the girls while Janice and I went for a Thai massage. Everything is so reasopnable here. The hour-long massage cost $40 US, and dinner for the three of us was averaginf $30. Again we had Italian food followed by ice cream. This time, baby A kept going back for seconds, opening her mouth like a little bird. 
View of Parliament from  Buda Castle
Day 11- Laundry day! Yes, this was an exciting day! First, I started with lunch at Nobu in our hotel. I loved it because baby A was going to bed later and also sleeping in. We walked to find the Bubbles laundromat and found a little park on the way. The laundromat served beer, wine and coffee and had children's play area. Walked to Jewish quarter for dinner and found a bar with outdoor patio area down an alley. It was 8:30 pm and children and families still out. Every place, even bars that serve food, have high-chairs. Walked to Fashion street for ice cream. Baby A was hard at work pushing her stroller when a group of women saw her and marveled at, I assume, how stinking cute she was. One woman rushed over and kissed her hand. I am loving how culturally different it is here, and how people are not afraid to show affection toward babies. 



Day 12- More rain! We walked to the central market and Gellert baths.
We stopped in for a cake made in front of us at Kürtőskalács (On a side note, their character looks just like our poo emoji). We grabbed a seat right by the women making the Hungarian specialty, which Baby A loved watching, and the women were kind enough to interact with her as they worked away.

Day 13- Walked to indoor play yard called millipop that was 3 stories high. Afterward, she explored a wooden play yard. I've never seen anything like it! Then, w ducked into a bar for lunch and a woman, who didn't speak any English, outstretched her arms to hold Baby A. She held her for quite awhile, talking to her in Hungarian and showing her things as she pointed. I like to think that someday, she'll encounter one of these people. They'll have a brief interaction, or pass by each other and think "she seemed familiar." Another thought I have is that this is Mom's way of sending her love, or physically holding her in the "real" world. I don't actually believe this (I wish I did), but it is a comforting thought. The Red Bull world championship air races were going on that day; they had been delayed one day due to rain. It was amazing to see the planes racing above the Danube and actually going under the chain bridge! We stopped and watched them on the way back. Again we had Italian food at Cucina for dinner. My husband bought me a Pandora charm of a lion, representing the lion on the chain bridge.
Day 14- Another 6 1/2 hour train to Prague. Baby A was a trooper on the train. Ordered her ham and cheese room service. Nice room - started looking into things to do while here.
Day 15- Astronomical clock and old square. Crossed the St. Charles bridge. Visited Czech senate and Charles IV exhibit. She had as much fun as she did at the zoo, just looking at the peacocks, koi fish and pigeons on the grounds. She pointed to the bird and exclaimed "dooo" We found a great playground on the Vltava river with an unreal view of the St. Charles bridge in the background and stayed for awhile.  We returned to the room around 5pm for a nap (baby and Daddy, while I read and blogged) and then headed out to dinner around the corner at 9pm. It was still light out! As we were waiting for our food, I took her out to the courtyard where they had a daily farmer's market. She found a "friend" a girl of about 4 or 5 who she walked over to, arms outstretched for a hug. The girl didn't speak English, but knew a few important words such as "uh-oh" and "wow." When the girl carelessly tossed some rocks behind her back, Baby A belly laughed. She cried when I took her back into the restaurant, but was easily consoled by some of my potato gnocchi.
Day 16- walked to Petřín Lookout Tower.
 Now this was a hike! Especially for Daddy, who was pushing our sleeping girl in the stroller, weighed down with all of our stuff. About 60 pounds up the steep switchbacks. I climbed to the top of the tower, which is a very small, pathetic copy of the Eiffel tower (really, they were inspired by a visit to it in the late 1800s'). We went in the mirror maze. We were relaxing in the shade, with Baby A was eating fruit when a bee started buzzing around the container. I shooed it away and she though it was the funniest thing in the world and erupted with more belly laughs. Went for Italian food (starting to seem like more than when we were in Italy!) and we were told there was no room at the restaurant. But we pointed to an open table outside and were seated. This became a story we retold to each other for the remainder of the trip. "Do you have reservation? No. That is problem. Why? There's an open table right there." Baby A had fun walking around the small square that the restaurant faced and she even walked a block while we were waiting for food. I realized we were just down the street from the old catholic church we visited at the very beginning of our trip. As we walked up the street, she blew a kiss to a man standing, smoking a cigarette and on his phone. He couldn't help but smile and wave. She has so much fun wherever she goes, and loves interacting with people. 
Day 17- Low-key day. She now knows the way to the elevator and we let her lead the way, and push the buttons. We did some souvenir shopping including a dog for baby A and hand carved and painted Santa for us all.
Day 18- Prague Castle, farmer's market. Dinner by old town square at Hotel Černý Slon. Afterward, we had crepes and sat in the square. Birds flew over and were illuminated by the lights flooding Týn church. I will always be able to close my eyes and picture her like this, toddling around and engaging with people, often pointing up with her middle finger, as they looked up at nothing in particular. Then, as she wandered back to me and outstretched her arms for an embrace a few feet away.
Day 19 - First, mommy and me shopping. Long nap at hotel room, rain and out for pizza with a play area. There was another girl a bit younger than A in there. A walked slowly over to the girl, mouth agape, to give her a kiss. Twice. It was the sweetest thing, but the mom did not speak English  so we couldn't explain what she was trying to do.
Day 20 - Daddy bought us both matching garnet bracelets, as garnets are mined in Prague and will always remind us of being there. We had lunch overlooking Tyn church, and went to mass there later in the evening.

Day 21 - Franz Kafka museum and then some more farmer's market shopping for souvenirs before returning to pack and rest up for our long flight. 

As I finish this blog entry, I'm preparing to return to work on Monday. Traveling for so much of the summer did make it seem to pass by faster, because we were only home for a week total and didn't have time to get bored. But it was worth it. Having so much undivided time with her and my husband, while exploring three new countries is my idea of heaven.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

42 Inspiring Infertility Bloggers Share How To Stay Positive

I've met a lot of women through social media who struggle with infertility. Struggling when trying to conceive to the point of infertility affects 1 in 6 healthy couples. Being able to communicate with someone going through the same thing has helped me tremendously, not just with support, but also with information. From before my first IVF cycle up until now, as I search for a clinic for my third IVF cycle. I have a phone consultation this morning with CNY in New York, because someone on Instagram told me about their amazingly affordable rates. How else would I have known?

Lisa Newton from Amateur Nester recently wrote a collaborative piece for Ovulation Calculator and invited me to participate. 

You need a network of support. I understand that not everyone is as open as I am and may not share their experience with their friends, family, co-workers and anyone who will listen. That's where these bloggers come in. Click on the a photo below to garner support, information or just to relate to someone who has walked your path (full article here).

You can also find me on Instagram at @meg_swanek. Nice to "meet" you!


This was compiled by Lisa Newton from Amateur Nester on behalf of Ovulation Calculator. Ovulation Calculator is a tool to help women better understand their cycles as well as predicting when you ovulate. To date, over 10,000 women have recorded a pregnancy with them.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lucky Thirteen

Thirteen months is my favorite age. I know say that every month, but this time, I really mean it.

This entry is more of the personal online diary variety, documenting all of the things she has been doing that I swear I will never forget, but fear I could. As time moves forward, what was once in focus becomes blurry. There are things she's done on this trip that I want to remember until my dying day, and this is my insurance. This is my way of making sure that even when I attend her first dance recital, I still hold close to my heart the sounds she made while greedily gobbling up her fruit from our hotel:



It's more the type of posting that I hope she will read some day. The type of entry I wish I had from my Mom, containing the mundane, yet infinitely interesting details that I wish I could share with her and talk to her about. "Yes, you did that too at her age and it used to crack me up!" she would say.

So feel free to skip this one! Really, my feelings will not be hurt. In fact, I'll never even know. As adorable as my girl is, she's my girl and every Mom has an interest in, and love of, their own child that far surpasses any other. I have fallen in love with her even more this past month, which I did not think was possible. If this love continues to grow, which I imagine it will, how is my heart going to hold it all?

That is how my Mom must have felt. I was sitting on the cobblestones in the town square of Old Town Prague. My husband was with Baby A, trailing closely behind her as she wandered around, happy as can be, making eye contact with everyone that she could and smiling and pointing up. When she walks, she seems to be in a perpetual state of pre-face-plant, yet hardly ever falls. She'll wander in front of people, stop mid-stride or change direction on a dime, much like a tiny little drunk person. She throws her arms up and down, or lets out little shouts of glee. On this particular night, it was after 10pm, yet the skies were still a deep blue and had not yet turned black. Three elderly people stopped and were captivated by her. She stopped as well, and my eyes welled with tears, seeing how much joy she was bringing them, and knowing she would have brought my Mom exponentially more. "Go see Mommy" my husband said as he pointed. She locked eyes with me and was on a mission as she began stumbling my way. As she approached, she threw her arms up into the air and held them there, anticipating our hug. She threw her arms around my neck and fell into me. That. That right there is a moment I never want to forget,

It was right as the birds were circling and flooded with the lights from Tyn church. My "sign," and an absolutely magical moment. See, when I watched the faces of the three elderly people brighten as they interacted with Baby A and felt that pain of missing Mom so sharply, I absently wondered to myself, to God, to no one in particular "Why can't I have a sign? Please show me that you're there." And then the birds happened. Taken aback, I was slow on the draw with  my camera, and just like with everything, it's not nearly as captivating on my grainy footage as it was in person. Everyone in the square - hundreds of people - were all facing skyward. There were gasps and even a round of applause. All for what I asked for. Or so I like to think. Thank you, Mom I whispered and hugged my girl just a little tighter, feeling through my love of her the love that Mom had for me.



Not all moments of our trip were as magical. But you know what was? Her averaging 10 hours of sleep every night, and even a record 14 while we were in Vienna. I loved being able to let her stay up later and know that she would sleep in. Most nights, she went to bed after 11pm, and slept in until 9am. I didn't even know babies could do that. Being well-rested made the trip that much more enjoyable for all of us. Most days, Dad was even able to get in a nap while she did, and I blogged or read.

Before this posting gets too much longer (you're still with me?) here's a listing, in no particular order, of all the new and cute things that she did or learned on our trip.
  • She doesn't always give us a kiss when we ask, but sometimes does unsolicited, and those are the best. Like when were were in line at Billa, the grocery store next to our hotel, and she opened her mouth and leaned in toward me with an "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh" and then did the same for Dad. Or, when we were having Italian food and she was a few feet away in the children's play area and approached a girl a few months younger than her, mouth open and "Ahhhhh." We laughed and struggled to try and explain to the girl's Mom, who didn't speak English, that she was trying to give a kiss not bite her. 
  • Her joy in exploring each new hotel room, and how almost anything can seem like a toy to her. On this trip, we stayed in a total of six hotel rooms. She loved exploring each one, and quickly mastered the elevator routine, walking ahead of us from our room, helping us push the button, entering on her own with excitement.
  • Stairs. Stairs are a huge favorite of hers right now. She likes to crawl, or walk up an entire flight and is starting to learn how to walk down. She wants to do it on her own, but will hold my hand. Sometimes, I hold on to her clothing without her knowing, or trail closely one stair behind, acting as a professional stair-spotter. 
  • Moving furniture and pushing her stroller.
  • Hugs. Dad taught her to hug by hugging her puppy. She hugs us many times throughout the day but it is never enough.
  • "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" She still doesn't pronounce the 'g.' Birds, horses and other animals are still referred to as dogs. Sometimes we try and give her the correct name, other times we go along with it.
  • Spaghetti. We love how she will dig into her plate with two hands and grab fistfuls of spaghetti to put into her mouth. It gets all over her face and on more than one occasion, in her hair.
  • Ice cream! Her first taste was on this trip. Not sure what to make of it at first, she quickly became adept at shoveling it in, asking for more by opening her mouth and leaning in, like a little birdie.
  • Wearing flip-flops
  • Playing peak-a-boo by covering her face with her hands
  • Tickling or "getting" us. Like when we were in line at the airport and I said "go get Daddy" she walked over and tickled the back of his knees. She gives away her stealth approach by giggling excitedly from a few feet away.
  • Kiss attacks
  • Playing with Trevi when we returned. She will hold a ball in each hand, toss one about a foot and when Trevi goes for it, she laughs and laughs.
  • Walking around with a towel on her head.
  • Finding me with hide and go seek
  • How she interacts with people, especially in the town square in Old Town Prague. She would walk around the circle, making eye contact with anyone that she could. It was so surprising to me that across all ages and genders, people were captivated by her. From teenage boys, to elderly ladies, so many people spoke to her in their language and many of them kissed her hand, held her or touched her in some way. Culturally, this would just not fly in the states, which is a shame. She loved it! She would smile, act shy or point up, at nothing in particular.
  • Her pointing, at almost everything, especially birds. Right now, she points with her middle finger.
  • So much babbling, more so than last month. Its as if she is speaking in sentences and having a conversation with you, except that there are no real words, only approximations.
  • Using her pretend phone or the phone in the hotel. Starting to understand the concept.
  • Following directives such as "Give this to Daddy."
When we returned home after a 10 1/2 hour flight from Heathrow, it was the middle of the night Prague time, and she had only slept twice for 2 hours each on the plane. But she wasn't fussy at all, and was so excited to rediscover all of her toys that she hadn't seen in just over three weeks. She was also so excited to finally play with her own dog, after noticing and getting excited about every dog we passed on the street in the three countries we visited. The very next morning, she woke up and started playing fetch with her, even though we ha not taught her. Somehow, she seemed to understand that Trevi would only return the ball if she had one to take it's place. She squealed and belly-laughed every time Trevi chased the ball the foot she threw it.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Traveling Internationally with a 1 Year Old

We booked an international trip when our baby girl was less than two months old. She's 13 months now, and I'm writing this from Old Town Prague, as she naps quietly in the other room. It has been an amazing trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have some tips and suggestions that I'm going to share with you here, but the bottom line is: If you are considering something similar, do it!



Because we booked almost a year out, we had 12 months of people telling us we were nuts. Everyone, from friends, to coworkers, to our daughter's pediatrician asked things like "Are you sure you want to do that?" and "Are your tickets refundable?" Even when we explained that she was easy-going and we would be fine, more than one person countered with "Well, she won't remember it." True, but we will. And she will grow up with the narrative that she traveled to three different countries right after her first birthday. Beyond the photos, it becomes a part of her story. A part of who she is.

While we were confident in our decision at first, these comments did start to seep in, causing us to doubt ourselves and our plan. My husband even asked me "Are you sure you want to do this?" two days before departure. We were nervous and worried, right up until the plane took off, and there literally was no turning back.

But it couldn't have gone better. All of the things I worried about were not an issue. Jet lag and the time difference? She adjusted after the first night. Finding milk for her bottles? Available everywhere, including every hotel we stayed at, at all hours.

I'm writing to tell you that you can do it. And it's not that big of a deal. However your child behaves normally, at home, is how they will behave in a different country. You may need to take it easy on some days and not pack in too many things to do each day, but that just makes it more of a vacation. Go for it. Remember, they're only 10% of the plane fair while under two (internationally, free for domestic travel). Once they turn two, you're out another ticket.

Some things I packed have been a life-saver, while other things I brought with me, but did not need. Before we left, I searched for advice on what to pack for an international trip with a one-year old and really couldn't find anything beyond window clings, which are a choking hazard. She attempted to eat one after about 30 seconds of playing with it.

So here's my list of must haves and don't needs, in no particular order.

MUST HAVE

  • Baby carrier. As long as they are used to using one, this will be a life saver. Our little one would get tired of being pushed in the stroller when we were out all day, and the carrier offered her a nice change of scenery, especially in the outward facing option. I used the Ergo 360. This was also perfect for the train stations and train rides, so that she was secured and safe.
  • Food storage containers. Not too many. I brought along more than I
    needed. Depending on their age and quantity of food, two containers for fruit for the day, an insulated thermos for milk and an insulated container for left-overs to bring on day outings. We brought along freezer packs, but it was a hassle to ask the front desk to freeze them and ice melts. We also brought along an insulated container for the milk, but ice melts and we didn't use it beyond the first few days. I started bringing an empty, clean bottle with us once I realized I could get milk anywhere, at any time. We let the front desk know we would be emptying the minibar and kept everything in there. Leftovers from dinner work as a snack for the next day, or even breakfast. I shopped at a grocery store for fruit for her. Bring a plastic plate, and I used a butter knife from room service. Didn't bring any foil but that would be useful, as well as a few extra plastic bags. 
  • Backpacks. Just your regular JanSport variety, nothing too big or with metal frames. We traveled with two large suitcases, two backpacks and one diaper bag. My husband was able to pull the two suitcases, we each wore a backpack, and I pushed the stroller with the diaper bag on it. It would be impossible to have four rolling suitcases with the stroller. Also, when I was wearing her, we pushed all of the bags in the stroller.
  • Benadryl. Okay, this one sounds bad I know, but hear me out. All those people who thought we were crazy for traveling with a 1 year old? Well none of them had done it before. But my friend's sister, who happens to also be an ER pediatrician and mother of two, told us early on to take some benadryl to have on hand for the flight. She had traveled to Italy and other countries when her children were young and said it was a lifesaver. Do not do this without speaking to your child's pediatrician for approval and the correct dosing (we used 2.5ML for our 22 pound 13 month old). Also, if you're going to do this, it is best to try out at home once to make sure they don't have an allergic or paradoxical (read: hyper!) reaction. We did this at a time when my husband was planning to stay up late and could watch her. I have to say I felt super guilty even considering this, until I did get her doctor's blessing. On the 11 hour flight from Los Angeles to Zurich, she was asleep before dinner was served, and woke up after breakfast. She had a solid 10 hours. DISCLAIMER: There did happen to be 30 extra business class tickets, and she was able to have her own seat that reclined completely flat. This will not be the case on the way home, and this is where my baby carrier will come into play. 
  • Business class seats. If possible, do this. We are both in education and never could afford $5,000 seats (each!). But my husband is a mileage guy and knows that the best value on miles is when they are used for business seats instead of economy. You have to book a year out because they don't release many award mile seats for business, but it is so worth it.
  • Large stroller with inflatable tires. We love our BOB. I love how big it is,
    how much it can carry, how it absorbs shock and provides almost complete sun protection. It reclines flat so she can nap in it with no problem. But we almost did not bring it with us, because we thought it might be too big, too "American" for Europe. Best decision we've made. I do not know how we would get over cobblestones with an umbrella stroller, or even a stroller with larger wheels if they were plastic. We've even seen a man pushing one get caught on the trolley tracks while crossing the road! 
  • SPF blanket, sunscreen, hats and an umbrella. The SPF blanket was perfect to drape over her legs on days when she had on shorts and was being pushed in the stroller. I carried with me a loose-fitting pair of pants for her too since the best sun-protection is a physical barrier. The umbrella was great for when I was wearing her.
  • Children's Tylenol, children's Ibuprofen and a thermometer. Fortunately, we did not need to use any of these. But from my experience when we were in Oregon, they are good to have on hand should she spike a fever Over here, the grocery stores do not carry any OTC medication, not even for adults. They are sold at special pharmacies who have limited hours from what I can see. Our doctor also gave us antibiotics for her, because she had a bit of a cold before we left, but we never needed them. Our health insurance works here and the standard of care is just as high.
  • Purred fruit/veggie pouches and any favorite snacks. While I did not use the pre-packaged toddler meals, these were a great way to get in fruit and vegetables (she loves the kale, spinach and kiwi pure and also the blueberry and oat breakfast pouch) and worked if food was taking awhile after we ordered or if we were having a slower start to the day. In the future, I will focus on ones with veggies and grains, since fruit is readily accessible at the grocery store and easy to prepare, while vegetables need to be cooked. Buying fresh-baked bread and keeping it with is in the stroller while we were out was perfect. Her tummy is smaller and holds less, so she needs to eat more frequently than we do.
  • Dish soap, bottle brush, sponge. You can pick all this up at the store, but it was nice to have on hand for the first few nights. We flew into Zurich, and were all set to catch our connecting flight to Prague. But the flight was cancelled, and there were no more for that evening. By the time we got to the free hotel the airline booked for us, all the stores were closed. 
  • Multiple bottles. We brought 5, more than she uses in a day. I liked keeping a clean, dry one in the diaper bag just in case.
  • A backpack/leash. We brought one and did not use it because she still has that slow stagger of a walk that looks like she's going to do a face plant at any time. However, if she were a bit older and able to run or sprint, I would have used it in areas that are seemingly pedestrian, but there can be bikes or Segways. Be aware of your surroundings! Many pedestrian streets and even closed-off squares that seem traffic-free will have a restaurant delivery person on a moped zoom through. 
For example, below is a picture of our girl walking toward St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. Looks like it is a pedestrian area, right? But do you see those black poles? That is a narrow part where cars zoom by at 30 MPH. When in a new setting, stop and scope out the area for awhile before letting your little one explore, even if you're by their side. I never would have expected there to be cars, because for blocks walking up to this, there were none allowed.
About 12 feet from where there are cars.


DON'T NEED

  • Packaged toddler meals. I bought a ton of Gerber meals, which she never eats at home. I was worried about not having food for her, and thought these would be perfect. I've thrown most of them out. Bring a few of their favorites to get you through the airplane ride and first night, but beyond that, you won't need them.
  • Too many clothes. We will have been gone a total of 3 weeks, and made it until day 11 without needing to do laundry. I was out of clothes but she still was not.
  • Too many toys. Bring a few of their favorites. At her age, 13 months, everything is a toy. She has had fun: clicking together the ketchup and mayonnaise mini jars from room-service; taking all of her barrettes and sample packages of diaper-rash cream out of a zip lock bag and putting them back in; playing with the hotel-room phone and remote; putting things in the trash can; taking things out of the trash can; walking around with a towel on her head and being invisible; getting tickled. Plus, you'll want to buy toys as souvenirs. 
  • Diapers. Well, you obviously need some, but depending on where you're going, they may be cheaper than back home. I brought a ton because I was worried about the quality and brand, but so far, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all had the Pampers 12 hour diapers that I use.
  • Any childproofing, unless you're really into that sort of thing. I don't really use any back home, so I didn't bring any on this trip. At home, we moved all of our cleaners into the garage, up high, and have one of those child-proof doorknob covers on the interior garage door. I have one latch securing my cupboard with photos and cards, but that's it. We have a coffee table with rounded corners at home, so when we were upgraded to an executive room at the Marriott with a small living room and *gasp* square corners I was a bit worried. But it's been a non-issue. We're always right there with her, and as it turns out, kids don't go around looking for sharp corners to head-butt.

Thanks for reading! If you've traveled internationally with a child of any age and have any tips or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below for other readers, and myself! We have another trip booked in December, this time to Italy.

UPDATE- We survived the flight home, a short one to Heathrow and a 10 1/2 hour one from Heathrow to LA. Because the flight was during the day, we did not use any Benadryl on her, so she was awake for most of it, with a 2 hour nap and a 2 hour sleep that would have turned into sleeping through the night, but we landed. She cried for 5 minutes twice, but that was it! I broke my self-imposed "No TV under 3" rule and tried to get her to watch Finding Nemo, which she did for about 15 minutes at a time.

When we landed, it was 5pm LA time, which is 2am in Prague. It was evident that she was really tired and she almost fell asleep again on the car ride home, but she still wasn't fussy at all. Just like my Mom was, she is easy-going and happy all of the time. 

After weeks of getting excited by every dog we passed, she was so happy to finally see her dog and squealed with excitement when Trevi greeted us as we walked in. By greeted, I mean ran around like a maniac and hopped up and down while simultaneously running in circles. She rifled through her toy box, pulled out her favorite doll and then settled down with me and a bottle in bed.

Four hours later, she was awake, thrown off by the fact it was now the middle of the day in Prague. After an hour of babbling, she was back out for another four. All in all, it was so much easier than we ever expected.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cancelled IVF Cycle

When we flew into Zurich, we had about an hour to make our connecting flight to Prague. We made it to the gate with plenty of time, baby, luggage and stroller in tow and boarded last to minimize her time on the plane. We were belted in and ready to go when it was announced that the plane had been leaking oil and could not be flown until inspected and we would have to deboard. But not just yet, we would have to wait on the plane for 30 minutes until they were "ready" for us. Oh, and there were no other flights for the night.

If my life were a movie, this would have been an overt case of foreshadowing.

The whole reason we were going to the Prague at the beginning of our trip instead of the original 1 week in Vienna, 1 week in Budapest, and 1 week in Prague was to pick up my IVF medication and start the injections, As soon as my cycle started, which it never did.

Now we're carting around almost $1,000 is medication (Menopur) that  has to be kept cold. Have you seen how small European mini-bars are? The medication would cost us 4-5 thousand back home so we did save a lot, but we cannot do IVF here. Even if I started the medication tomorrow, there would not be enough time left in our trip for egg collection and transfer.

So we are back to considering IVF in the states, where it will be $10,000-$15,000 for the procedure, instead of the $3,000 that it costs in Prague. But at least we saved on the medication. Medication that I'm not sure TSA will let me back into the country with (if anyone has experience with this please, let me know!).

Another reminder that even the best laid plans go to waste. A lot of people travel for IVF - it even has its own term now, "fertility tourism." But it would be much different if I were just hopping over from the UK, where many of their patients travel from, and if I were getting the flights in time with my cycle instead of one year out and regulating with bc pills. 

At least we were planning to be here anyway and out trip was not created around this procedure, only modified for it.

I was down about it for a few hours the other day, but I have to remember just how blessed we are with our little girl. I want to make her a big sister, I do, but again I go back to there being a reason things work out the way they do. If our first IVF worked, we would not have her and I thank my lucky stars every day that it did not because I cannot imagine my life without her in it.



So for now, we remain a family of three. And my heart is full. She completes us. A sibling would be a bonus, but we are so lucky to have her. We always want more, and I imagine another her when I imagine having a second child. But every child is different, and chances are that the next one may not be the perfect world traveler. Many couples who struggle with infertility never have the luxury of trying for a sibling, and i am ever-aware of that.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gennet IVF Clinic in Prague - First Visit

Yesterday was a bank holiday here in Prague, but we scoped out the fertility center where I will be doing my 3rd round of IVF. The outside of the multi-story building was very sleek and modern, as was the lobby when we walked in today, 30 minutes early for my appointment.



Most employees spoke English, some better than others. The receptionist told us we could take the lift to the 2nd floor and wait for my coordinator. As we walked past her and to the elevator, it was as if we were stepping back into time and into a sanatorium. There were those outdated tiles on the floor and very old wooden doors juxtaposed with the modern. I wasn't expecting it because Gennet which opened in 2013 and the exterior was so new. 


My coordinator came over to greet us and the first thing I noticed was her acid-washed jeans. Not a big deal, quit focusing on appearance, I told myself. 

And then my nurse walked in wearing a get-up so similar to Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest that it seemed to be a copy.

The first thing my husband and I had to do was give blood to check for STDs. This is also required back in the states for IVF, but our tests were outdated. After that, I was taken back to the exam room for an ultrasound. The doctor spoke limited English, but did his best with "Take your clothes off and sit on table." He went back over to his computer as I waited an extra few seconds to see if he was going to leave or give me one of those disposable sheets to drape over myself. Nope, he just sat at his computer, so I did as he said. Now, this did not make me uncomfortable in any way, as I realize that us Americans are a bit more uptight than the rest of the world...but it was a noticable difference and I could see ho it could bother someone not expecting it.

He said everything looked good and went over my protocol with me, which you can see below. Due to my low AMH level, I am on one of the highest protocols that there is.

My husband and daughter came back in the room, as did my coordinator who helped translate for the doctor who could answer our questions, but was clearly more comfortable speaking Czech. I am now waiting for my cycle to start. I took my last birth control pill on the 4th of July to time it right, per their instructions, but it has not started. It's just after midnight here, and I'm worried that it's not going to soon, which will throw everything off.

And we have already purchased nearly a thousand dollars in medication. Don't get me wrong, this is a fourth of the price back home, but what good are they if I can't start taking them and have the procedure? I am very nervous about that. And tomorrow, we catch a train to Vienna.

As soon as I start, that will be considered day one, and I am to start the Menopur injections on day 3. They want me to have a scan on day 6. Since we will be in Budapest by then, it is impractical to return because it is 8 hours by train, and I will need to be here for 10 days later in the month for scans, trigger, and egg retrieval and then embryo transfer (provided we have one). 

They wrote me a letter stating what they need on the ultrasound day 6 (follicle count and size) so that I can have it done at a clinic in Budapest and then Gennet will know how to adjust my medications, and when I should return. So, other than willing my cycle to start, that is my mission for tomorrow; to scan the letter and start contacting clinics in Budapest to find one that can help.

One more thing. I have several boxes of the Menopur - six I think - and it needs to be kept refrigerated. We left it at the clinic and are on a mission in the morning to find one of those big insulated bags to cart with us on the train ride to Vienna. So much for packing light. We're going to be lugging that around to two more countries!