“We’ll have to move out of the apartment at the beginning of July,” my husband told me mid-June. This was yet another move and we only had two weeks to prepare for it. Living in China, we are used to moving apartments–either because a contract is up, the landlord wants to have the apartment back sooner than agreed upon, or because of renovations. This time, the apartment was being renovated. We have a two-year old son, and my in-laws live close-by. Upon hearing that we needed to move out just two weeks short of me taking my son back to Austria, they offered we could stay at their place. The only drawback: Their place is a teeny-tiny apartment with hardly enough space for two people, much less five. This was when I decided I’d travel solo seven months pregnant to China’s Far West for two weeks, coming back just in time to pick up my toddler son and head to Beijing to catch our plane. My husband, who had to work, and my son would stay at my in-laws’.
My husband agreed instantly. For the next two weeks, I put things in our old apartment into moving boxes, prepared the suitcase for the trip to Austria, bought train tickets for my trip to Xinjiang, and spent my free time with my son.
Throughout my second pregnancy, my husband had been busy working in his recently opened shop. His parents would help out taking care of our son when we were working, and I would take care of him on my own in the afternoons and evenings. My husband only got to spend the mornings with our son. So whenever an issue came up between his parents and me–usually parenting-related–I’d deal with it. I would try to communicate the problems and suggest solutions. I speak Chinese with them, but Chinese is not my mother tongue, and communicating in a way they’d understand proved hard. The combination of working, being pregnant, doing household chores and taking care of our son was exhausting (albeit really worth it), but it needed to be done and I didn’t want to hand over my son to the in-laws every time I didn’t feel full of energy (which was often).
Solo Travel with Bump
Thus, solo traveling was a reward for all the hard work I had put into making family life work. I was not only rewarded with enjoying a great trip and sleeping through the night, but also surprised about my husband. He often sent pictures and voice messages. He took off earlier in the evenings to play ball and go on an evening stroll with our son and bring him to bed. He managed to join him at the in-laws in the afternoon and read stories until our son fell asleep. Our son would even wait up for my husband to bring him to bed at nap time, rejecting his grandpa’s efforts to do so. My husband would also step up and communicate issues with his parents when they arose.
Traveling solo seven months pregnant was the best decision I made. It was not only great for my health, but also put my mind at ease. I know now that I don’t need to worry if my husband ever needs to take care of our son on his own. He won’t just leave him at the in-laws and party away (or work as though he was still single).
Photos courtesy of Ruth Silbermayr-Song
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