Dear Prudence

Baggage Restrictions

My family wants to cancel our remote vacation because I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe.

Photo by Teresa Castracane

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Prudie is off on Monday and will be back to chat on Jan. 12.

Dear Prudence,
My family planned an important vacation for this coming June. This vacation will be in a remote location, a helicopter ride away from medical services, and it is important to us for cultural reasons. Surprise, surprise—I learned I’m pregnant, and I will be 36 weeks at the time of this trip. I asked my doctor, and she said it was pushing it to go on vacation at that time. I have already had one easy, uncomplicated birth. Also, my husband will be coming with us, and he is a doctor. My sister is threatening to cancel the vacation for everyone because she is too worried about me going. I’ve assessed the risk as minimal, if any, and in any event, I am an adult! Should my sister shut her trap and let us all go on this vacation? We’ve agreed to respect your advice.

—Traveling Preggo

Dear Traveling,
Since I get to decide, you’re staying home. I hope your family will reschedule for a more propitious time—meaning that during the hike, when you say, “My water just broke!” you mean your canteen fell on a rock. Even if your husband is a doctor, you don’t want him wiping off the afterbirth with banana leaves or cutting the umbilical cord with your sister’s nail clippers. I don’t understand why your doctor hasn’t told you outright not to go, but she’s definitely expressed her concern. The airlines are also likely to express theirs, since most commercial carriers limit travel for pregnant women after 36 weeks, and if you’re flying internationally, the cutoff time may be earlier. (Full-term pregnancy starts at 39 weeks.) That would put you right at the deadline. Just because you had one easy, uncomplicated birth does not mean you’re destined for another. To worry about having to call for an emergency evacuation in case baby No. 2 decides to evacuate in an untimely way is likely to undermine everyone’s pleasure during the vacation. And being 36 weeks pregnant is not the ideal time for rugged adventure, no matter what the cultural imperative. Yes, you’re an adult, but if something goes wrong, the risks aren’t minimal—they’re grave. I think you should thank your sister for speaking up; I’m thanking her for allowing me to play doctor without having to waste all that time in medical school.


Dear Prudence,
For the past five years, I’ve hosted an open house on Christmas Day. I went all-out, and even though I did everything myself, I loved every minute of it. In August I accepted a new job two states away. I threw myself a goodbye party and had 50 relatives and friends over. It was expensive and a lot of time and effort, but I love these people and wasn’t sure when I’d see most of them again. It’s been hard being in a new place alone without anyone nearby to visit on the holiday. I sent out some presents as well as a ton of cards, and by the time Christmas Eve came, I had nothing, not even a card, in return. Every one of these people knows my situation and that I am alone. Then a friend sent me a message on Facebook telling me she is “sure missing the Christmas party this year.” I lost it because all I could think was that her free ride came to an end. I’m supposed to go back at the end of January to clear out a storage space, and I am thinking I should just go and not tell anyone. What do you think?

—Was a Santa, Now a Scrooge

Dear Santa,
So you had a friends-and-family holiday plan that you now see as a leeches-and-ingrates plan, but please don’t sneak into town and vow never to see these clods again. You spoiled them, and they came to expect your Christmas exertions as a tradition that spared them the effort of providing their own ham and wassail bowl. Their lack of reciprocation and their inattentiveness to you in your absence understandably sting. But you say you love these people and miss them, so don’t blow up these relationships out of a sense of pique. For one thing, Christmas cards are in decline—a lot of people think there’s no point, since Facebook allows you to know what everyone’s up to all year long. For another, if you haven’t been in closer touch, you should use social media to keep up. I don’t see your friend’s Facebook remark as someone moaning over the end of her freeloading. I think she was saying she truly missed the wonderful times at your home, which is a tribute to your capacity for warmth and hospitality. You should make an event out of your return. Ask a close family member or friend to host a potluck for you so that you can catch up with everyone. Or get a private room at a restaurant, have a buffet, and invite your (formerly) nearest and dearest—make sure they know in advance what it’s going to cost per head. You’ve got the post-Christmas blues, but don’t let that color your new year. Given your entertaining abilities, I don’t doubt that by next Christmas you’ll be throwing a memorable bash with your new friends.


Dear Prudence,
I’m an only child, and my mother and I have always been close. She taught me to take risks, try everything at least once, and encouraged me to find a husband and a career that would challenge me. I’m a happy and successful 34-year-old. My mom is 70 and retired from teaching 15 years ago. She goes shopping, visits the local art museum, takes vacations with my dad, gets her hair done, and paints as a hobby. But she is largely isolated, and it’s taking a toll on her conversation skills. Now she’s more concerned with the local grocery store being out of her favorite yogurt or an episode of Dr. Oz than talking about politics or art, which used to interest her. Her mother lived to be 94 and worked until she was 90, and the conversations I had with her in her 90s were more vibrant than the ones I have with my 70-year-old mother. I know she is living an enviable life, but it breaks my heart to think that the creative, ass-kicking mom I grew up with is now seemingly gone. Is there anything that can be done to bring back my much more interesting mother?

—Standing by With the Smelling Salts

Dear Salts,
The life you describe your mother living is an unattainable dream for most people. She has the time and money to do whatever interests her—which by your lights is not enough. Since you two are close and she encouraged you to grab at life, I think it’s fair for you to gently encourage her to be more engaged with the world, for her good and others’, given her smarts and skills. Maybe this former teacher could spend a couple of mornings a week tutoring at a local school. Since she has a passion for art, she could become a docent at that local museum. There are endless volunteer opportunities that might challenge your mother and reignite that spark you so admired. If you have this conversation, you have to be prepared that she will feel judged and hurt—you are judging her, after all. You also can’t make it about your despair at how dull she has become. Given her mother’s longevity, she might have another quarter-century of life ahead, so tell her that since you appreciate how she always encouraged you to experience everything and take risks, you wanted to remind her of her own good advice. Then once you’ve brought this up, you have to let it go. Nagging your mother about how to make more of her life is only going to make your conversations with her even more stilted.


Dear Prudence,
Recently my husband and I had a beautiful baby girl. As a gift to us, my (part-time) photographer brother-in-law offered to do a newborn session. I was thrilled, as money is tight and we would never have splurged on this ourselves. He told us we could have a couple of prints and anything else would be at his cost. He had taken about 20 amazing photos of our daughter, but we picked out a few for prints. I asked if we could have the rest of the photos on a CD. He told me he normally sells that for $1,000 to his clients. I was floored. He reiterated he would order us any prints we wanted (at cost). My husband’s family sees nothing wrong with this. But it burns me up to know there are some beautiful memories of my daughter that will just sit, unviewed, on a relative’s hard drive. The more I think about it, the madder I get. Am I crazy?


Dear Confused,
Sure, he could have been more generous, but he was generous enough that you got a bunch of professional photos of you baby. As long as the cost of prints is reasonable, you can get more. The real problem is the amount of time you’re spending thinking about this. Your brother-in-law may be a talented photographer, but these days anyone with a cellphone can take a creditable photo of an offspring. So start clicking. Decide to take a picture of your daughter every day, and then create one of those time-lapse photo streams of your little girl growing up. When your in-laws clamor for a copy, give it to them. Focus on the beautiful baby in front of you, not a few photos of her on a hard drive.


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