This past summer we spent our 3rd year vacationing at Universal Orlando, thanks to Family Forward. For those of you not familiar with Family Forward, it’s a 5 day family retreat for social media influencers and their families to grow stronger as a family, make meaningful vacation memories, and to enjoy getting your adventure on. And that’s exactly what my family has been doing these past few summers!
The first year my family headed to Universal Orlando (2014) the Family Forward team rolled out the red carpet and we enjoyed family time together in completely new and fun ways. We also discovered great brands and had a blast exploring all that Universal had to offer!
My husband’s favorite thing at Universal was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I think he could have spent the entire day there! Unfortunately, our 7-year-old son, Shaun (who was only 5-years-old at the time) wasn’t quite big enough yet to ride one of the rides, so they gave him a certificate to bring back with him the next time he was tall enough. I absolutely loved it because even though he was bummed out, he was more focused on proudly showing off his cool memento…SCORE!
Of course we took over Universal and got on every ride we could. We even got to take part in a cool flash mob with a bunch of Despicable Me Minions. Look at us getting our groove on!
But then in 2015, our 2nd year of getting ready and planning out what was quickly becoming our top family trip, we had other things on our minds. Ever since we had Shaun, my husband and I had always talked about having more kids. We wanted at least 4! But things had not turned out the way we had dreamed. After years of trying for a second child we turned to a fertility clinic with hopes of adding to our family. I spent months going back and forth to appointments, being poked and prodded a million times, trying out medications to get things moving along quicker and endured loss. Each month brought tons of anxiety and sadness. My spirit was broken but I kept moving forward for our son. So, despite how I was feeling I wanted to make our annual trip to Universal as normal and awesome as possible.
Shaun had just started school for the year and on the morning of his first day of 1st grade I was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment for my fertility treatment. Missing this window of opportunity wasn’t possible so I rushed my son to school that morning, wished him luck, hugged him hard and raced to the doctor’s office. Just a few days later we were headed off to Universal Orlando and I was glad to take a break from all the stress of trying to conceive. It was exhausting.
Luckily this trip was the distraction I desperately needed. It was even more special because not only did my sister, who is also a blogger, and her family come along, my mother flew in from New York as well. It really was a family affair!
We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and I was in heaven! I just couldn’t get enough of the comfy beds and loved just looking at the room’s decor. It was so pretty! If I didn’t have days of activities with my family planned I would have easily cuddled up in bed, ordered room service and watched TV. But there was tons of fun things to do and we did it all!
Thanks to Family Forward we had the chance to experience Universal through their VIP Experience. It was SO worth it! We were escorted by a guide on a tour of many of the best rides and even had priority, front of the line access. The kids were flashing their badges to anyone that would look because for those precious few hours they were treated as Universal celebrities!
My husband and I knew that our trip wouldn’t be complete without heading over to Shaun’s favorite, The Simpsons Ride. The year before we rode it 4 times in a row and this time we were determined to ride it just as many, if not more.
But by the 2nd time I rode it, I felt horrible, just sick to my stomach which was really weird because I love a good roller coaster (this ride isn’t!) and would hardly ever get sick on them. I’m totally an amusement park gal so this really threw me off. I also kept feeling the need to shield my belly, too. It was such an odd feeling but I could tell something was up so I opted out of riding again and waited for my son and husband to go on once more.
The remainder of the trip I took it easy on the rides and held back for fear I would get sick. I thought for sure I was coming down with some sort of virus. My heart wouldn’t let me feel otherwise.
So, we took our parting photos of Shaun and our favorite spots at Universal, packed up and headed back home.
With all of the excitement and distraction of our trip, I had completely forgotten we had reached our countdown to pregnancy. It was the moment of truth. I remember thinking that I had snacked quite a bit while at Family Forward, but who could resist? There was so much great food and goodies! At the time I just figured I was just famished because of all our walking and that my crankiness was just from being tired from all that we had been doing. But I kept thinking about how I felt on The Simpson Ride and how if I even THOUGHT about going on it again I’d probably hurl!
It was the moment of truth. I grabbed a pregnancy test, went into the bathroom and waited. IT WAS POSITIVE! I did a happy dance and called my doctor to make an appointment to confirm but I knew in my heart, that moment at Universal Orlando, the feeling of nausea on the ride…I didn’t need anyone to confirm what I already felt. I was PREGNANT! This little nugget was with me the entire time at Family Forward and I couldn’t have thought of a better place to share in the love and excitement of family time. We were elated and grateful to have had that last family trip as a family of three. It will always remain in our hearts.
In May of 2016 we welcomed our 2nd son, baby A.J. to the family! We knew that having a newborn was a lot of work and to think of taking him on a trip would be rough but we had to bring him to Family Forward 2016. Back to Universal where we had the fondest memories as a family. To a time and place that even though was filled with uncertainty brought us lots of joy and entertainment during a time when our family needed it.
I cry every time I think about that trip. A.J. truly was the sweetest surprise I ever could have received and I’m so glad to have Universal and Family Forward forever apart of my son’s story.