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July 19, 2016

Traveling abroad when pregnant: Part II

An emergency call to my obstetrician, staying sober in Ireland, and memories to last a lifetime

Katie's Baby Travel
3_Katie_Gagnon_Travel Bob English/for PhillyVoice

Katie at 29 weeks pregnant, pictured with her husband Ryan, overlooking the ocean while touring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.

When my parents surprised us last Christmas morning with the news that they were taking the family to Ireland, I burst into tears because I was so elated. My mom has talked about visiting the country of her ancestors for so long that it felt like a dream come true to go to the Emerald Isle with my husband, parents and siblings.

I was not pregnant when the vacation was announced. Once I learned I was expecting, my visions of the trip changed from drinking games to travel precautions. I spoke at length with my doctor, prepared for the long flight, and bought a new pair of shoes to ensure I’d be able to walk on swollen feet. When we left the Shannon airport for our first stop in Kinsale I was feeling fantastic, and I continued to feel great for more than a week as we explored the Wild Atlantic Way. I was delighted by my stamina and that I was able to enjoy every moment with my family and my growing baby bump.

Because of my pregnancy, I worried before the trip that I would not be able to keep up with my family and miss out on some of the fun in Ireland. But aside from that day of cramping, the only activity I didn’t partake in was drinking.

Nine days into the vacation, I woke up at beautiful Gorman’s Clifftop House & Restaurant in Dingle. I was feeling good but an hour later, after rushing to get dressed and packed, I started cramping on the right side of my lower abdomen. The cramping was painful, but moreover it alarmed me because I hadn’t felt anything like it while expecting. My mom immediately knew by the look on my face that something was wrong, and I burst into tears with worry. After I calmed down, I insisted that we proceed with our plans to head to Doolin. I knew I could rest on the large, comfortable van that was driving us.

Unfortunately, that van may have been the culprit of my cramping: the night before, our driver had stopped short to avoid hitting a sheep in the road. I was wearing my seatbelt below my belly, but it came up when we braked and pulled tight around the center of my abdomen. I hadn’t felt any cramping that night, but when the pain started the next morning I became very worried that something was wrong.

My husband and I were not sure if I should go to a hospital. It was 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the States when we placed an emergency call to the physician on call at my OB/GYN. I explained my symptoms and told her that I could feel the baby moving as usual. My obstetrician said that I would need to get to a physician in Ireland if I started bleeding or if the cramping persisted or became worse. She told me that if the cramping was localized to only one side of my abdomen, I was not going into early labor – which I had not even considered! I was so relieved to hear that most likely I was fine, had just overdone it a bit, and with some rest would be back to normal. My husband and family were very sweet, attentive and concerned. They had already been taking amazing care of me, but their efforts heightened when I wasn’t feeling well.

Once we arrived at the Atlantic View B&B in Doolin, I got into bed and rested for more than 14 hours. When I awoke the next morning, we were all delighted that I was feeling much better. I was confident to resume our Ireland adventure, but took the experience to heart, ensuring that for the last three days of the trip I rested more and went to sleep earlier. I saw my obstetrician the day after we returned to New Jersey, and she confirmed both baby and I were doing well.

NoneJoseph Barbere/for PhillyVoice

Katie and her sisters, pictured near Dingle, County Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland in front of the Three Sisters mountain peaks

Because of my pregnancy, I worried before the trip that I would not be able to keep up with my family and miss out on some of the fun in Ireland. But aside from that day of cramping, the only activity I didn’t partake in was drinking. At first I was a little bummed about that. I mean, who goes to Ireland and doesn’t have a Guinness?! But staying sober didn’t damper my experience or my fun. Sure I wished for a pint at the pub, and yeah it was weird to be at the Jameson Distillery and order a “virgin” ginger ale. Though I couldn’t sample the Irish whiskey, being pregnant on this trip made it even more special for me. And I indulged in different ways: fish and chips, Club Lemon soda, and lots of amazing ice cream. Plus, I didn’t suffer a single hangover and I remember every moment of this magical vacation.

Moments like walking on the beach in Waterville at sunset with Mom and Colleen; watching Kerry and her boyfriend Eli, so in love and happy together; toasting my brother Joe’s first round on an Irish golf course; seeing my dad’s abundant joy, surrounded by his family; singing Irish songs led by our sweet driver, Michael; sharing the adventure with my husband; and announcing our baby boy’s name to my family. One day, I’ll share these memories with my son. I’ll cherish them forever.

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