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Traveling while Pregnant

Writing is essentially a work-from-home job... unless you haven't "made it" yet. Until then, there are conferences and networking events that can be helpful to attend, and even after publication, travel is often necessary to promote a book release. And for those of us who still need to work our day jobs before breaking into the world of authorship, commuting remains an inconvenient reality.

And I just found out HOW inconvenient travel can be while pregnant.

Last night, I returned from a three-day journey to the faraway land of Minneapolis. I thought this would be an easy, short trip, so I had no objection to going even after I found out I was pregnant. I guess I should have set aside my blissed-out pregnancy hormones and considered all the stuff than can (and often does) go wrong during travel.

I was prepared for some of the situations that arose, but not all. So here is what I learned about traveling while pregnant--much of which also applies to traveling with children or traveling with a disability.

1. Dress comfortably and pack efficiently. This was a business trip, so I wanted to look nice and professional. But I also can't fit into my pants and needed to be comfortable sitting for long stretches of time. Minneapolis is only a short hop over Lake Michigan from Lansing, but of course the plane ticket I was given required me to take a two-hour bus ride to the Detroit airport, then take a roundabout flight with a layover in Chicago. What could have been a one-hour flight, due to budget restrictions, was to be a ten-hour day of travel.

For the entire trip, I wore loose-fitting dresses with either a light, structured jacket or a dressy cardigan to go on top. Layering is good for temperature changes, and it also allows for lighter packing with mix-and-match options. No pregnant woman wants to be lugging a 40-pound suitcase all day. With my dresses, I wore either a pair of flat sandals or the new heels Mr. G picked out for me, pictured above. Let me tell you, these are magic shoes. The label is called Sofft, and they are a breed of those old-lady work shoes with the squishy soles and arch supports and flexible, rubber-grip soles, but dressed up sexy and trendy. The upper portion is real patent leather, so it flexes and conforms to the foot without chafing. I paid $80 for them (on sale at Younkers) and have never been so pleased with a pair of shoes. They proved more comfortable, even after two long days of walking around, than any of my flat dressy shoes. The only thing more comfy is a set of running sneakers with insoles. Hott!

2. Physical needs come before decorum. Those needs include eating, sleeping, peeing, and temperature control. IT IS OKAY to be a bitch while pregnant, when your health is at risk. I was forced to be "rude" on several occasions to preserve the safety of my unborn child... and possibly to save me from committing homicide.

First of all, some of the people I work with are, ahem, old hippies who carry certain assumptions. There is one woman in particular whom I always run into at these events. She is one of the wise sages of our tradition, a highly respected professional, intellectual, and spiritual leader. She's also a snarky old broad. Every time she sees me, she makes a snide comment about my appearance before even saying "hello" and then lapses into stony silence. I'm pretty sure she views me as the antithesis to everything feminist. Assumption: High heels are equivalent to the shackles of slavery. No self-respecting woman would wear them. Ever. On every prior occasion, I have smiled indulgently at this woman's (and others') jabs about my attire and went on without saying anything.

Not while I'm pregnant. I will not keep that extra high blood pressure inside.

On this particular trip, I received a few compliments about my shoes. Many of them included backhanded implications about their moral decency as well. To these comments, I replied each time with a loud and detailed speech about why I chose my footwear, as if it were the most important thing in the world (thereby saving face for the "deep" person who is clearly uninterested in personal appearances, yet couldn't speak to me without commenting on my wardrobe). "First of all, it is not the 1950s, and no one forced me to put these on. I'm sorry if someone tortured you with high heels in your youth, but really, I went to the mall and bought these with my own money and wore them voluntarily. Why? One reason is that I have a bone deformity in my left foot (true) in an area that is relieved by shifting pressure to the ball of the foot. Dressy flats are painful for me, and if my only comfort options are high heels or orthopedic nurse shoes, and I'm giving a presentation, please choke down your bad memories and prepare to look upon my pumps. Oh, speaking of looking, you can see me clearly when I'm six feet tall, can't you? Because I am already tall, heels do not make me appear "cute" or "helpless" to men. They make me intimidating. Men get serious and stop talking down to me at this height--which makes me confident and powerful--and the only people who snipe at my physical attributes in heels are supposedly feminist old women. Besides, walking in heels strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which will benefit me through pregnancy and labor and lessen my chances of being in a diaper at your age."

Ahem. Okay, I didn't really say all that, but I dished out some of it, and the responses of those feisty femmes ranged from interested surprise to admiration. End of bullying behavior.

Second, I had to contend with a prissy Southern flight attendant after having sprinted across an airport to just barely squeeze through the closing door, Indiana Jones-style, and find myself on a sweltering hot, fully booked plane with broken air conditioning. People were dripping sweat and panting. My body chose that moment to bust out with a pregnancy hot flash. Luckily, I had layered, so I simply whipped off my dress jacket and fanned myself, wearing only a sleeveless cotton dress. The flight attendant pursed her lips, leaned down, and stage whispered, "Darlin', your bra is showing." I looked up at her and answered, as if to a slow child, "Yes. It is." Excuse me, but if you're going to cram people into a sauna-plane with no air conditioning, you best keep your pecan pie hole shut even if I strip down to my skivvies. Your delicate sensibilities are not worth my having a miscarriage over.

Third, I ran into some trouble when I could not access a nutritious lunch at lunch hour. Some planning genius had arranged three main food vendors for 3,000 people during a one-hour lunch block. Only one of those vendors sold anything containing vegetables. I cut in line (something I never, ever do) and said "no" when I was told to be in the presentation room early. I'm all for professionalism, but it will not do to faint during the presentation I'm supporting and drain my baby's blood sugar. I made it to the conference room on time--carrying with me a tray full of food and a death stare for anyone who might try to stop me--and finished my lunch during the presentation. I had packed granola bars to keep with me during the whole trip, but a pregnant lady cannot live on granola bars alone. Meal skipping is not an option.

Fourth, my most problematic pregnancy symptom has been fatigue. There are days when I sleep or rest from morning until night. Many days I have to take naps or else nod off in my chair like a narcoleptic. When colleagues encouraged me to attend a 7:30 a.m. meeting after checking into my hotel around 10:00 p.m., I simply said, "No. I will be sleeping." My body cannot make compromises. I either sleep in, or I fall asleep during a workshop or presentation later and fall into my neighbor's lap. I felt that the former would be less disruptive.

3. Whenever possible, channel the blissy, magical, earth-mother hormones of pregnancy. Being a bitch ALL the time is not advisable. Being rude or stubborn when necessary is fine, but anger and other blood-pressure-raising emotions are best avoided. I don't know about anyone else, but I have been having strange perceptions that everyone I meet is my new best friend. That could be a little dangerous, I guess, but so far my instincts have been good. I've found more confidence to ask people to do favors for me as if they were buddies of mine. I've gotten some strange looks and stutters, but almost total compliance.

For example, on my return trip, I was feeling anxious to get home. My flight to Minneapolis had been fraught with flight cancellations, mass confusion, and ornery employees and even ornerier passengers who were in a tizzy due to tornadoes and earthquakes that ended up shutting down O'Hare Airport completely and screwing up everyone else. My boss and I both got to Minneapolis, but only by two separate and terribly unlikely twists of fate, and I didn't want any drama coming back home. I especially did not want to risk spending the night on an airport floor--which I have done more than once before, but not while pregnant. So I went up to a desk and asked if they could rebook me on a direct flight instead of a connecting flight. Basically, I was asking them to please book me on a more expensive flight instead, for no additional charge. I received my usual response, a couple of blinks followed by a stuttering, "Uh--um..." followed by a small sigh and doing just what I had asked. Yay! So without any trouble other than asking nicely, I got to skip O'Hare and take a direct flight to Michigan, arriving earlier than my original itinerary.

On the bus ride from Detroit back to Lansing, two women sat next to me who were laughing about their own arduous travel drama and worrying about how they would get from the bus stop to the airport this late at night (after Lansing's public transportation no longer ran). The charter bus stop was a whole city away from the airport. So I chimed in, "Oh, I live near the airport. My dad is picking me up, and I can have him drop you off." The women were kind of stunned, looking hopeful yet maybe... suspicious? It only then occurred to me that it was totally weird to jump in on a stranger's conversation on the bus and offer them a ride. However, I started chatting with them and found out that I knew one of their husbands through work! The woman then recognized my name and felt comfortable accepting my offer. But the tables turned when they found out that the woman's husband had arrived in town early enough from his own trip that he could come to the bus stop--and so then they offered ME a ride, and my dad didn't have to stay up late and come out to drive me home. Aw, how nice.

4. Don't do it. The big lesson I learned was that if it's at all possible, don't fly while pregnant. It's awful. When I made it home, I took a solemn vow not to travel long-distance again for the next two years. Unless it's some kind of life-or-death situation, henceforth I will not be bringing my pregnant belly or my infant onto an airplane.

And that's exactly what I told the guy who tried to sell me a Delta Miles credit card.

So if you absolutely MUST fly while pregnant, remember to dress comfy, pack light, demand that your physical needs be met before all else, and try to follow your hormonal instincts. Best of luck to you.


  1. I loved this post! Genie, when I was pregnant, I went to Hawaii in my 6th month. I thought it would be a "mystical hawaiian" experience for my baby and I, but it wasn't fun. What was I thinking? Now, I chalk it up to being brain-addled from pregnancy hormones.

    The sleep is the best part. Towards the end, I told my husband that I would rather have 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep than anything else. If you have the luxury of working from home, when the baby is born, you'll take naps during the day, too. The more you sleep, the happier you will be, and therefore, the happier your partner will be, too.

    My husband learned early on to just let me sleep, otherwise I was like a velociraptor. read: MEGA BITCH.

    I'm trying to get pregnant again myself (no small feat at 36-- my eggs are close to their expiration date), so I'm admitting that I'm living vicariously through you.

  2. Wow, sounds like you had an eventful trip! Thanks for the advice, I'll definitely keep it in mind when I'm ready for babies!

    Also, I'm really bummed I haven't been able to make it to Thursday nights -- I've wanted to congratulate you in person!

  3. *grinning* oh dear...haven't been pregnant myself (no man in the equation at the moment so not plausible) but my cousin just had a baby and I've travelled with her when she was what she called "ballooning"...and I thought normal travelling was stressful!

    On a different note, I think we could all do with some expressing of feelings...never being rude back can't be good for your health... ; P

    Love the new Blog background and the photo btw!!

  4. It's been too long since I visited my fellow Writers Chroniclers (although I still have a link to this blog on mine.)You all seem to be reproducing. I take that as a promising sign for the human race. Fantastic that you've still got your career in your sights. This looks like a very useful list of taking-care-of-yourself tips for those of us who are pregant--with small humans or literary masterpieces. I've just blogged about approaching your career at a reasonable pace. Thanks a bunch for the tip about Softt shoes! I'm gonna check em out.

  5. Wow. Um...quite the blog. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for the "Reasons I'm wearing these shoes" dialog. :)

    When I was pregnant, I kept tripping and falling, even in sneakers. I'm jealous you could wear such cute shoes and remain standing.

  6. PC: I hear you on the need for sleep! I've been exhausted. Good luck adding to your family. :)

    Meika: I haven't made it out to meetings either lately, but I hope to this Thursday.

    Tessa: Yeah, being pregnant is teaching me to stand up for myself and be a little bolder. That could be good for most women, pregnant or not.

    Anne: Really, we all are?? I should look around. :) And the Sofft shoes are amazing. I linked to their website in my post.

    Melanie: I've been walking in sky-high heels since I was 15, so it's not so bad... especially if I make sure I'm always sitting or lying down as much as possible! But I have a feeling that later in my pregnancy, I'll be shopping for Crocs.

  7. Holy crap, girl! That's quite the trip. I never traveled far when I was pregnant, and I couldn't wear heels, but for good reasons. I think they look fantastic on you, and I can't believe the impertinence of the people around you. I would have smacked some heads with no guilt whatsoever. I was not a happy pregnant woman.


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