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Thread: To leave or not to leave

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
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    63

    Default To leave or not to leave

    I love my daughter. I love my job. The problem is my job requires international travel in the developing world. My daughter is currently 5 months old and I have been asked to go to Ethiopia in early October (she will be 7 Months). At first I thought I would bring her along, but this would mean putting her on malaria prophylaxis, taking her out of her normal routine and leaving her with someone neither she nor I know during the day, plus I often work evenings on these trips and it would be very stressful to juggle both. I am obviously also concerned about exposure to disease. Alternatively, I could leave her home where she has a 9-5 caregiver she loves, her grandmother and grandfather would come to stay in my absence and her father is here. None of them have the breasts my daughter nurses at, however. I have enough time to store up milk, although it will require a lot of work. But I worry about keeping my milk supply going when I am away for 10 days. How long can pumping in the absence of baby keep the supply going? I worry about causing psychological harm and stress to my lovely daughter. Most postings about work travel talk about leaving for 2-4 days; I'd be gone 10! I worry about how I will handle the separation; it already makes me cry. For the record, my company is a small company and there isn't any one else who can do the trip for me. If I said I couldn't do it, my colleagues would understand but it would cause some problems for the company. Lastly, I would actually love to do the job. I knew I would cross this bridge at somepoint but the reality is a bit sooner and much more difficult than I expected. Feeling guilty, confused and stressed.
    Last edited by International Mom; July 24th, 2006 at 03:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    323

    Default Re: To leave or not to leave

    Wow, that's a tough choice.
    I know, for me, there's no way I would have left my dd for so long at 7 mo.
    but, of course, everyone must find the best solution that works for them, and so must you.

    Firtsly, I wanted to tell you that I have been to Ethiopia, admittedly before I had my baby, but I did see 1000's of people there with babies, most of them breastfed .
    I did, however, give birth while backpacking in Brazil, and I travelled with my infant all the way to Patagonia in southern Argentina and from there overland through Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvadore, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US to Canada. We arrived in Quebec when my dd was 16 months. So I think I know a few things about taking babies into the third world

    Ethiopia is an amazingly beautiful country, and I dont think you will regret taking your baby. Where exactly will you be going when you are there? not all of the country is a high risk malarial zone and not at every time of year either. its definately worthwhile to check it out if you will actually be in a high risk malarial time/ area.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that malaria prophylaxis is no guarantee of being 100% protected from malaria. It merely reduces the chance, while wreaking some health problems of its own. Furthermore, if you do catch malaria while taking the anti-malaria drugs, then it is much harder to detect and diagnose the disease and much harder to treat.
    I dont want to scare you, but it is good to be informed. I recommend reading as much on malaria as you can.

    A very good method of avoiding malaria is simply to avoid mosquitoes. Get a really good net (we had one big net for us all to sleep in and one little net, from a crib, that was the perfect size to put over the baby and I could hang it just about anywhere) and a good quality natural or at least child-friendly mosquito repellant. you can get solutions of DEET (which is a really nasty chemical but extremely effective) to spray on your clothes and mozzie net. Though I dont really recommend putting DEET directly onto the baby's skin, keeping the baby in a net, with loose clothing covering all exposed skin, and put some natural insect repellant on the baby (we used to use diluted citronella oil) and DEET on her net and outer clothes.

    Eat plenty of garlic (mozzies hate it) and DONT eat ANY sugar (mozzies love it). i travelled through many extremely high-risk malaria areas (India, Cambodia in the Monsoon season, Africa from Cape town to Cairo...) and using only a diet high in garlic, low in sugar, and citronella oil (the mozzie net we added after the baby was born), I never got malaria, while i know a few people who were taking prophylaxis that did.

    And also, your breastmilk will offer a great immunity to your baby, and there are very effective homeopathic malaria prophylaxis available.

    I'm sure you will be able to find a great person to watch over your baby while you are working, the great thing about the developing world is that most everyone knows really well from experience how to care for babies, and most of them practice Attachment parenting by default - culturally they never stopped co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, etc. by the way, the traditional ethiopian baby-slings are amazing, bring some back for friends with babies at home, or sell them on EBay for massive profits!

    Okay, the other hand:
    You will be able to pump enough milk while you are away to keep your supply up, but it may be difficult. you should definately be pumping to practice in advance, and make sure you have a spare pump - you might not be able to get a replacement if something happens to yours. but you will have to set aside a bunch of times every day to pump, preferrably a similar frequency that you would be nursing or pumping at home, as well as waking up in the night once to pump.
    If you are confident that you can pump enough in advance to store for her, feeding shouldnt be too much of a worry.

    But there is a chance that when you come back your dd wont easily go back to the breast, if she does at all. and you will definately miss her like crazy, and she will miss you.

    I think the most important aspect here is not to feel guilty about whatever decision you make. Go with your heart.

    Let us know how you go...

  3. #3

    Default Re: To leave or not to leave

    I love what the previous poster said. What a knowledgable person!

    You'll need to pump as often as baby normally feeds. Also consider the electrical outlets available - will you be able to use an electrical pump, will the ones from your home work where you're going, do you have a way to keep it clean? Are you planning to save the milk for baby to drink later? Or are you planning to pump and dump? Replacement parts if you lose/break something? Most (all) manual pumps are effective enough to keep up your supply over several days of exclusively pumping.

    A seven month old is very young baby, and you could potentially jeopardize the breastfeeding relationship. Baby may resume nursing immediately upon your return, or she may not. Read up on how to bring baby back to the breast after a nursing strike, so you're prepared for either option.
    Shannon
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    1,198

    Default Re: To leave or not to leave

    You are facing some tough decision and no one can really make the choices for you, of course. There are a few other things to consider -- not that you need MORE to sort through, but.... Consider the political stability of where you would be traveling and any possible impact on your safety. No, we can't just isolate ourselves and live in fear, but the simple truth is that bad things can and do happen. Would you be able to have a "what happens if" type of mindset before you go and put in place contingencies for the care of your family?

    Believe me, I do understand your situation somewhat. My career has alot of travel expectations as well and I was grounded at month 3 of my pregnancy and that meant having to cancel several trips...and yeah, that has impacted my career stuff. But somehow, that matters a lot less to me right now than a healthy, safe, happy family does. At this point, I've made the decision not to travel before DS is 2 years old - unless he can come with me. But since I'm not really anxious to travel with him, I'm basically just not going anywhere for a while yet! Granted, my MIL, who loves to travel, has basically said she would meet me anywhere or travel with me anywhere (I'd have to cover her airfare and some expenses) and help with DS if I wanted -- that's pretty cool!

    Our babies are this young for such a tiny percentage of their lives. Personally, I would like to think that I will never regret making the choice to invest in getting DS's life started with me there as much as possible (yes; this from someone who does work fulltime OTH....) even if that means some short-term setbacks on career-related things. My research focuses on diseases of developing nations - including malaria - so we have that bit in common as well.

    I don't know.... but I keep coming back to this: if you have the option in that it won't be totally prohibitive to your career (i.e., you won't get fired) to request not traveling for a while longer, then consider taking that stand. You'll never get the time back when your baby is this young. You stand to lose so much. Is the trip and the work worth the potential losses??

    I wish you lots of luck and peace of mind while you sort through all this.....
    -linda

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: To leave or not to leave

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful and helpful responses. I still don't know what I am going to do. My husband and I moved to India when dd was 2 months. It has been wonderful for many reasons but especially because I can afford to work mostly at home and have at home childcare as well as help with household tasks. MIL is close enough to come and help too and is great with dd. So, I have to start by saying I am SO lucky in so many ways. I think if I were in the states I would already have spent a lot of time away from dd. Our society really doesn't make life easy for working moms, or stay at homes for that matter.

    THe current scenario running through my head is to have my MIL accompany me (great minds think alike Linda). That way I would know dd is with someone who she knows and loves and vice versa. I have been to Ethiopia before and have supportive colleagues there. I would be staying in nice clean hotels for this trip (it is a condition of me going and everyone understands). Mostly be in Addis (no malaria) but a little in Oromia (malaria), although very close to Addis in case of emergency. With MIL there I could work in the evenings as well if needed. It would be expensive, but I can do it and, really, I don't care. I am not ready to stop breastfeeding dd and think I would regret it if my 10 days away broke our bond. It's worth a thousand bucks to me.

    So now I just have to get dad and MIL to agree to go along with this plan. OK, I will also have to deal with the new uncertainties, questions and anxieties I will face tomorrow, or tonight as I lie sleepless, once again, in my bed pondering what path to take.

    Thanks for your support. Additional advise welcome. Leela's mom

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    323

    Default Re: To leave or not to leave

    HI again, sorry I didnt post again for a while... you know how life can whick you away sometimes!
    I think you've come up with a great solution - bringing your MIL.
    And knowing that you're going to Ethiopia from India makes a big difference than going from the US. it means you already have a good idea of how 3rd world conditions are with a baby (not as drastic as everyone thinks).
    I'm sure you'll be fine.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    63

    Default Re: To leave or not to leave

    Thanks. I actually tried to get a colleague to substitute for me, but I work for a small company and everyone was already overloaded. Now that the decision has been made, I am pretty excited about the trip. The project administration in Ethiopia is being very helpful and supportive, which is a big plus.

    I have a friend who brought her daughter back to W. Africa, where she worked, when she was only 5 weeks old. And this was outback Africa, not capital city Africa. She has lived with both her kids in W. Africa for the past 8 years. She also works in Itnl development and her advice was that I should go with dd becuase I need to find out if this is something I am interested in doing or not - traveling and working with baby that is. Her perspective was that knowing would help me plan and negotiate better for future assignments and potentially future babies. I think she's right. My job requires a lot of travel and I think I have to test this out so I can assess my personal and professional situation a little better and figure out where my comfort zone is.

    Living and working in the developing world makes me both more relaxed and more stressed about the trip. First, living is much different from traveling because you have more control over your environment. Second, while I know how wonderful developing countries can be for children, I also know the health risks all too well. Even if I am aware of how to prevent (reduce the risk of) a lot of the nastier health problems, one never knows. One of the other responses said "bad stuff happens" and that's true. It is that, that gives me pause (of course statistically we're probably more likely to get in a car accident in the US than get malaria on a 2 week trip to Ethiopia, but still). It is not an easy choice, but I think I have to give it a try. If it works it could be a really enriching experience for all of us.

    Thanks again for your support. When I have done this and am back safe and sound at home, I will post any good tricks I learn for traveling in the developing world with baby (and MIL).

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