‘Enjoy traveling now because that will change with kids.’ People acted like my life was over.’: Traveling mom reassures parents ‘it doesn’t have to end with a baby’

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“I never really considered not traveling with my future family… until I became pregnant. I’ve had a passion for travel ever since I was little. My parents, brother, and I would go on a trip or two every year as a family. It was a fantastic bonding experience. It created great memories that we still enjoy reflecting on. The opportunities I had to travel growing up created an insatiable desire to continue traveling throughout my life. I dreamed of traveling the world when I grew up, and I also dreamed of having a family of my own one day. I married my high school sweetheart, and a couple of years later, I got pregnant.

mom and dad traveling with their children who are teens
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

Cheers of congratulations were met with negative comments about how my life would evolve once the little baby inside me was born. I was told to enjoy traveling now because that would change with kids. People acted like my life was over once I had a baby! I was confused about how my parents traveled with us if it was really that impossible, and I was concerned because travel was a huge part of me. Exploring the world made me more excited than anything else. Despite what everyone had to say, I hoped to have two of the things I wanted most in life without those things conflicting with one another. I wanted to have a family and travel.

woman who traveled to a canyon while pregnant
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

After having my baby, though, I felt much different than I expected. I loved my baby more than words, but I struggled with some of the worst sadness and hopelessness I had felt in my life. It was the strangest combination. I felt like I had lost myself and my life looked different than I had imagined it. Having a newborn truly felt all-consuming with little uninterrupted sleep, breastfeeding around the clock, and trying to take care of a tiny, adorable, yet helpless human. I felt like the naysayers were right; there’s no way I’d be able to travel with a baby. The highlight of my day was having a few minutes to myself in the shower! There was no way I would be able to trek across the country or the world with the exhaustion I felt.

Then, my parents went down to a beach house in Florida, and they invited us. Our baby, Adaline, was only 2 months old. Still, I was so excited to get out of the house and do something I was passionate about. We researched and researched to find the best supplies to bring and how to handle breastfeeding on a road trip. We decided we’d drive separately to go at our own pace with the baby. It was not easy; my husband drove while I pumped and then fed our baby out of a bottle, with the next pumping and feeding session always right around the corner. The trip was enjoyable yet different. I stayed up after the baby went to sleep and visited with my family but was awakened by tiny, hungry cries in the middle of the night. I had fun playing in the sand and soaking up the sun, but I still had the heavy duties of being a new parent. It was no relaxing vacation, but it was a fun trip! It gave me a glimmer of hope that I needed; travel with a baby is possible.

mom holding her new born daughter
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

We went on our first flight with our baby about a month later. We went on this cross-country trip with my mother-in-law, and I was very grateful for her advice as our baby had a meltdown at the gate. My husband and I were extremely nervous about flying with our baby as new parents. I remember hardly being able to sleep the night before the trip. I was worried we’d be those people with a screaming, inconsolable baby while trapped over 10,000 feet in the air with nowhere to go. We arrived at the gate, and our baby was crying before even boarding the plane. We felt the stares and judgment of some future fellow passengers around us, and we started to argue. My mother-in-law, a seasoned mom of five, calmed us down as we were bickering back and forth in frustration and nervousness.

She gave us advice that I still think back on whenever I am out in public and anxious for my baby to stop crying. She told us the baby could sense our tension. She also said to realize that many people at the airport are parents themselves and empathize with you. As we chilled out, we were better able to problem-solve and realized our baby was crying because she was teething. We gave her some medicine to help her gums, and she behaved great the entire flight. She even slept almost the whole time! This trip felt less tiring than the last, as I was starting to get the hang of this whole motherhood thing (keyword- starting). It also helped that my baby was sleeping better at night now! I felt like I really enjoyed traveling with my baby during this trip. I hoped we could continue to travel often.

mom and dad on a beach with their daughter
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

While we enjoyed traveling as a family, there was a lot of uncertainty in my husband and I’s careers. We had just moved across the country, back to our home state, Georgia, for me to begin physician assistant school while 7 months pregnant. Despite everyone telling me it would be impossible to do without any maternity leave offered and a 28-month-long rigorous program. I was sure I’d be fine. I attended for one week and was in tears every night. You may say it was just the pregnancy hormones, but something seemed off. I couldn’t miss those precious first moments with my baby. I talked to my program directors and decided to defer a year. My husband’s future career had a curveball too. He was supposed to be starting medical school a few months after our baby’s birth, but he didn’t get in. We were a little lost and confused.

Since we had some time before medical school or PA school, we decided to make lemonade out of lemons despite our confusion, uncertainty, and worry about the future. We had a lot of credit card points saved up that we were planning to use for some fun trips before having a baby, but because of the pandemic, we never had the chance to use the points. I was determined to find a way for us to travel with little money, so I researched how to house sit. I applied to several locations, mainly in Europe, and we were able to house sit for a month for a wonderful family just outside of Barcelona. We used our credit card points for airline tickets and hotels for the week after to see other parts of the country.

mom and daughter in matching swimsuits on a beach
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

This month traveling with my family of three in Spain was one of the best experiences. I absolutely loved traveling with our baby! Something people said would be miserable. I wanted to shout from the rooftops that traveling with a baby could be fun! The life you dreamed of doesn’t have to end with a baby. I wish I had someone to encourage me and show me how it was possible, as I felt like I was drowning during the first couple of months of motherhood. So, I started posting my experiences traveling with my baby on TikTok. I even made a TikTok featuring The Bucket List Family, one of my biggest inspirations for traveling with a baby. The next day, I woke up to them dueting my video! I was star-struck.

My TikTok began to grow exponentially as I shared tips I learned during our month in Spain. My family and my husband’s family really love to travel, so we had a couple of upcoming trips. Those trips were unforgettable and gave me the chance to gain more experience traveling with my baby. As I began to share our experiences, there were many ups and downs, and I thought about quitting several times. I would have days where my TikTok grew. I received some amazing opportunities that made me feel like creating content could become my actual career.

mom and dad at disneyland with their daughter kissing her
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

I would even receive messages from new parents telling me I helped encourage them to travel with a baby or that my tips worked on their recent trip. Other times, my videos would flop. I’d be bombarded by hate comments. Many of my friends and family would make fun of me for posting, and I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing my ultimate goal, which was to help people. My husband was my support system during those moments. He pushed me, helped me realize my potential, and encouraged me that I was assisting and encouraging others to travel and enjoy life with their babies.

My goal behind my social media channels is to show people that traveling with a baby, toddler, and in the future, multiple kids, is possible and fun! I want to inspire new and future parents by showing them life doesn’t end once they have a baby, despite what others might say. I offer tips I learn while traveling with my baby (now toddler) to help make it easier. It’s definitely a learning experience every day, and there are challenging moments, don’t get me wrong. The first night we arrived in Spain was one of those difficult times.

Our baby was teething really badly and dealing with a 6-hour time change all at once. She woke up screaming in pain almost every hour, which was rare for her, so I knew something was wrong. I woke up every hour with her while jet-lagged myself. I usually run on some adrenaline when traveling, but that was long gone. My husband is great at being helpful with the baby during the day but conveniently seems to sleep through the cries of our screaming baby during the night. I remember thinking to myself, ‘What the heck am I doing? Should we even be here? Maybe everyone was partially right. Maybe we can make smaller trips with our baby, but not a huge international trip like this. I made a big mistake.’

mom holding her daughter up on a bus
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

Thankfully, our baby’s teeth popped through her gums two nights later, and she was sleeping through the night again. We had some other minor hiccups, as to be expected, like taking the wrong metro or forgetting sunscreen and towels on our hour-long drive to the beach. It was also very different than our ‘carefree’ travels before baby Adaline. We were back home for the night well before 8 p.m. almost every night, and we had to lug baby supplies everywhere we went. We also were required to be more flexible depending on our baby’s needs. Overall, though, the experience was nothing short of magical. Traveling with a baby and watching her discover the world was even more fulfilling than my carefree travels before a baby. The trip was one of the absolute best trips of my life. I never wanted it to end.

Since our month in Spain, our adventures haven’t stopped. We’ve had the privilege of flying on over 20 flights with our now one-year-old, taking her to 4 different countries, 8 states, and many more adventures to come! Creating content sharing my tips and experiences with my audience has become a career for me. My physician assistant aspirations are put on hold, but I have found something I greatly enjoy. I am getting paid to travel the world with my family and make unforgettable memories! I firmly believe I didn’t feel good about PA school that first week because God had other plans for me, but I couldn’t see them yet. I cherish these memories and travels together more than anything. I’ve learned that experiences are what matter most in life.

As far as my husband’s medical school plans, he is accepted this year and begins in August! I am excited for him but definitely nervous about how this will affect our family travels. I believe it will make me even better at relating to my audience on social media, though. I plan to incorporate how we handle making time to travel in our busy lives!

mom dad and baby at the canyon traveling
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

I’ve learned that life is what you make it and if you want something to truly commit and go for it. You can truly do anything you set your mind to, whether that be traveling with kids or starting a business. Also, most importantly, I’ve realized that life is short! If you wait until that perfect moment to travel, it will never happen. As the Buddha said, ‘The biggest mistake is you think you have time.'”

mom dad and daughter on a beach swing
Courtesy of Kiersten Brooke DeCook

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kiersten Brooke DeCook from Atlanta, Georgia. Follow her journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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