On the contrary to what you might think that kids and traveling don’t mix, I totally believe otherwise. It can be done; however, it takes a lot of preparation and physical strength to go through one trip and survive, left alone sane. My recent trip to Singapore and Malaysia for six days with my newborn baby made me learn this lesson the best way possible—from the getting of the passport to the actual trip itself. Believe me, it was one tough and challenging experience!
Challenge #1 Securing my baby’s birth certificate
I know, I know. You would probably ask, “Who, in her right mind, would think of traveling with a newborn six weeks after giving birth?” The customs officer at the airport even gave us a disapproving look and an unsolicited advise, “The baby is too young to go on a tour.” That would be that last thing on a new mom’s mind, right? Well, not for me.
This trip was planned way ahead of time even when my baby was still in conception. I booked the ticket with the intention of attending our company’s conference on December 14, 2011. It was a big event I didn’t want to miss out. I knew I was giving birth some time in October, but only God knows the exact date. So while I was infanticipating, I was counting the days left for the passport processing. During the waiting period, I was having second thoughts of pushing through with the trip.
Finally, when my baby boy arrived on the last week of October, I made follow-ups to expedite the release of the birth certificate from the hospital. While waiting for it to be released, I called the Department of Foreign Affairs and asked for a step-by-step guide in securing a passport for a newborn. The staff mentioned a minimum of 14 days is needed. All I need is a certified true copy of my baby’s birth certificate, which can be done by submitting the original copy from the hospital and have it stamped/certified by the Civil Registry.
Due to the holidays during the first week of November, the original birth certificate from the hospital was only released the day before we were set to go back to my hometown. On the day we arrived Cebu, I then asked my husband to run to Cebu City Registrar to have the certificate stamped as true copy.
When my husband came home, he was a bit discouraged because he found out that we needed to get the certified true copy in Davao, where my baby was born. The thing is, we just arrived from Davao, and we were up against time. It was Thursday, and if we apply for my baby’s passport the following Monday, given we have secured the said document, we have two weeks for the passport to be processed, then and only then can we buy my ticket. By then, the ticket won’t be that cheap since it will be two weeks prior to departure, but we thought that it was better to be sure we have the passport rather than incurring charges for cancellation later on. Leaving him was also out of the picture because I was breast-feeding fulltime, and I didn’t want to prematurely end it just because of the trip. I was really set to bring him, and though at that point it seemed challenging, I knew it was possible.
I didn’t name him Napoleon for nothing (I read in Think and Grow Rich written by my baby’s namesake, Napoleon Hill, that the first emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, struck the word impossible in the French vocabulary. This made my husband and me all the more inspired to name him Napoleon.).
The first thing we did was to call the Civil Registry of Davao. We asked for the process of securing a certified true copy of the birth certificate. We also asked if we can send a representative, and what do we need to send the person with to act in our behalf. The staff said we needed to issue an SPA (Special Power of Attorney). A scanned copy of the SPA will be permissible.
Second thing we needed to do was figure out who will do the task for us. We called several of our friends in Davao, but they were all busy. Good thing a friend referred a person who was in this line of business. At first she told us she had prior commitments, but after I explained our predicament, she told us she will make a few phone calls and will get back to us the next day, Friday. Our request was that it be sent via LBC on the same day, so we can receive it on Saturday.
When our contact in Davao finally agreed to do the job, we had the SPA made, scanned, and sent to her on Friday morning. She later on told us that she encountered a few challenges herself in securing the needed document. In fact, after receiving all the scanned documents, she went ahead of the task. It took a few hours of waiting before it was released. She was very hopeful that she can accomplish the task only to find out that the signatory was out of town and won’t be back till the following week. So she just tried to ask if someone can act as an OIC and sign the certified true copy of my baby’s birth certificate. Good thing she didn’t give up. Her persistence made it possible for her to send the document before the cutoff time that night. Of course, we paid a premium for her services.
The following day, we waited for the document to arrive. Nighttime came, and the document didn’t arrive. We tracked the package and found out that it was still in Manila instead of going straight to Cebu. At this time, we were a bit anxious and angry already. We paid for the document to arrive swiftly, and LBC had to route it to Manila first before arriving Cebu. The staff said it will be delivered on Monday noon or early afternoon. Since we want to file our passport application early in the morning, we wanted to get hold of the document earlier than the scheduled delivery. We decided to get the document at the receiving point instead of have it delivered. When we finally got it, we let out a sigh of relief.
Challenge #2 Filing for my baby’s passport
My husband had to wake up really early to get a priority number. Here in Cebu, the DFA limits the number of applicants per day, so you have to fall in line hours before the office opens at 8:00 a.m. Little did we know that infants automatically get a priority number. So when we got the document, we went straight to the counter and paid. I got the express rate, thinking that the passport will be released 12 days after filing. I estimated its release at the end of November.
When we were waiting for our turn for the picture taking, I saw the releasing date on the receipt: December 14, 2011—the date of our departure for Singapore. I thought, “This can’t be. After everything that we went through to get the certified true copy so we can file early for the passport, and then this?” I went to the cashier and asked why it will take too long for the release of the passport. There was a time when the new electronic passports were released after six months of application, but we were informed that it was faster this time. The cashier told us that the reason why it will take a month was because the DFA will transfer to a new office, and if I wanted to get my new passport earlier, I have to write a letter to the director, but this will still be for approval.
I didn’t take no for an answer. I wrote the said letter and explained to the director my situation. I said I needed the passport latest on December 1 as I have to get our return tickets. At that point, all I had left to do was pray and wait.
After 14 days, I called the DFA to make a follow-up. There was another holiday coming up the end of the week, so I wanted to make sure I was getting the passport before then. I was told that the passport was not in the system yet, that I can try calling the following day. That was what I did the next day, and thank God, after several phone calls, the staff said I can pick it up that afternoon. When I had my baby’s passport on hand, I was totally ecstatic. My, I didn’t get my own passport not till I was in college, and this guy just got his at one month old! That day, we have proven another thing: nothing is impossible. It is only impossible if you think so.
Challenge #3 Touring while breast-feeding
As I have mentioned, my baby was six weeks old during the trip. All throughout the airplane rides (a total of four rides—CBU-SG, SG-KL, KL-SG, SG-CBU), he was just nursing from me, and he was perfectly fine. He nursed every two hours; hence, my breast-feeding shawl really came in handy. Whether we were in the bus, in the botanical garden, at the top of Marina Bay Sands, or even going around the city of Singapore, it didn’t stop me from breast-feeding my baby. I just had to take in a lot of liquids so I won’t get dehydrated and get catnaps when we were on the bus. Also, it helped that I bought a lot of nursing bras and button-down shirts for the trip. Whipping out a boob was made so much easier than wearing a shirt without buttons.
During the convention in Malaysia, my husband and I took turns in holding him. He got a bit fuzzy during dinner I guess because of the spicy lamb dish that I ate. He kept on crying, and I didn’t know what to do since I just fed him. He had a hard time sleeping as well because it was too noisy. I was just glad that the convention was finally over, and we were back in our hotel. My baby and I were so tired that we just slept through the night.
On our way back to Cebu, we were at the airport several hours before our flight. We still wanted to go to the city of Singapore, but there was a slight rain. Since it was too early for check-in, we can’t go around carrying all our bags. Plus, we had our baby, so we didn’t want to risk it. Contrary to our airport here in Cebu that doesn’t have a breast-feeding station, the airport in Singapore allocated a small room for nursing mothers, complete with hot water and a sink where you can wash your baby. It even played some classical music while you sit on a comfy little bench. I was really glad a found a nice, breast-feeding friendly place to wait for our boarding.
When we finally got home, I was so tired that I just rested the whole day. It was one fun trip. Given the chance, I wouldn’t do it again though. But at that time it was the best option. That experience didn’t stop me from traveling with my baby.
A month after our trip, I travelled with him again to Manila for a business meeting and a quick visit to his grandparents, who saw him for the first time. Good thing my husband bought me this really neat stuff, a baby sling. I travelled alone going to Manila and just met my husband at the airport, who flew in earlier from Iloilo. A lot of people were looking admiringly at this cute little baby who was tucked neatly in this cocoon-like carrier in front of me while I was pulling my small luggage. I was getting to be an expert on this. I guess after that international trip, domestic trips will be a cinch. It just takes a lot of courage to do it though.
For some, the idea of traveling with a baby will elicit a frown or a loud “no, thank you unless there’s a nanny with me.” I, on the other hand, can say that I’m enjoying it. Given an ample time for preparation (not to mention, an extra pair of hands to hold him in case I need to go to the toilet), I would love to bring my baby anywhere with me and show him the world. It’s never too early to expose your kids (in my case, my baby) to the world. In fact, he’s tugging along again to Davao next week!