Dispatches from Down Under

That’s right, baby N and I have made it to the other side of the world and we’ve lived to tell the tale!  Thankfully, the journey itself turned out to not be the hard bit, but baby jet lag is a special kind of hell! To anyone contemplating a journey with a small person with significant timezone change involved, BE WARNED! If there is only a timezone change of a couple of hours, then I suggest you keep to your home timezone while you’re travelling, but with a nine hour time change, that was not an option for us and I sure paid for it!

I’ve been relatively absent from blogland of late because we have had quite a time of it recently and there simply were not enough hours in the day to cope with life and then write about it. It all started out 10 days before we were due to fly when baby N came down with his first cold.  No big deal.  In fact, I was pretty happy about it as I figured if he was sick then that would mean his antibodies would be nice and high by the time we boarded any planes and exposed him to new, foreign germs. The only downside was that he was sleeping very poorly because of all the sneezing and blocked nose that he was suffering.  So I was pretty tired at this stage but thinking it would pass soon enough.

The weekend before our trip baby N was starting to seem better and so I was quite relaxed.  Then on Sunday night he came down with croup.  CROUP!!!  I didn’t recognise it at first, I simply went into his room at about 10pm when he was having a bit of a cry to realise he was gasping for breath.  This is NOT a good thing to see in your baby.  I had a little panic, there was some shouting for hubby and a call to the paediatrician for an over-the-phone diagnosis. I already had an appointment scheduled with her the next morning – albeit for a vaccination which was blatantly not going to happen – so she said to keep watching him and if he got worse to go to the emergency department of the hospital for treatment, otherwise she would see us in the morning.

We made it to the morning (somehow), but I must have checked he was breathing about 100 times that night, aka I got no sleep.  The doctor was great though and was very conscious of the flight that coming Thursday so prescribed some cortisone with a nebuliser.  But have you ever tried to put a face mask connected to a noisy machine on a young baby?  It did not go well.  He did make some good progress in the next few days, even though I was pretty bad with using the nebuliser.  However, he was still sleeping fitfully and being woken by coughing so it was not the greatest few nights.  This was then compounded by the fact I knew I had to fly by myself with a sick baby across the world.  It is quite accurate to say that by Wednesday I was having a full mental breakdown. I was also massively sleep-deprived. These two things are definitely connected!

At several points on Tuesday and Wednesday I could be found in floods of tears sobbing that I couldn’t fly to Australia with the baby alone, that it was too much and that I couldn’t cope.  I tried to pack, but it is so hard with a (sick) baby in tow.  By Wednesday night I had such a high amount of anxiety with racing heart and fluffy mind that I felt ill and couldn’t eat anything. I genuinely had no idea what I had packed.

We visited the doctor again on Wednesday morning and she said the baby was doing much better (which gave me some confidence) and she prescribed me half a pharmacy’s worth of medications to take on board with me to cover all possibilities.  Of course I used none of the meds I brought with me but I think she prescribed them as a kind of mental health measure for me. It worked as I felt a little more confident knowing I had them all with me in case of emergency.

When Thursday morning rolled around – the day of the journey – I was beyond stressed and anxious. My husband practically forced me to eat breakfast and then I threw it all up again so I don’t think he will do that next time!  He even threatened to cancel the flights because I was in such poor shape.  These were the things that I was most worried about regarding the flight and how they actually turned out in reality:

  • That I wouldn’t be able to cope with carrying the baby in the Ergobaby carrier AND carrying both a backpack and a small, wheelie suitcase.  So it turned out that actually it was actually very easy and convenient to carry him in the Ergobaby, he seemed to enjoy it and often slept in it as I moved from place to place.  And I was quite capable of carrying both the bags so that was good too. I carried only the necessities so the bags were not terribly heavy, but also I’m quite strong which is helpful. I hilariously packed a book to read on the plane. Hahahahahahahahaha! Needless to say, I did NOT read one word of it!
  • That the baby would be a big nuisance or would cry on the plane.  This also turned out to not be the case.  He had a couple of small cries here and there but nothing that couldn’t be attributed to being tired or hungry.  And they were quite short so anyone around me had no grounds to be mad.  The reality is that when he was awake he cooed and played with the toys I had brought, but he was asleep a lot of the time. The people around me even complimented me on what a good baby he was.  I really hope he is just as excellent on the return journey.
  • That I would be forced to give up the water for the baby bottles at the various scanning points for each airport transfer (I went through 4 airports – 2 transits in total).  This also turned out to be a misplaced worry.  One airport wanted to scan each bottle of water individually, another wanted them out of my suitcase but scanned them alongside everything else, and Abu Dhabi didn’t care at all and scanned them inside my suitcase.  They were way more interested in my belt! I had also been wrongly told by the Etihad social media team that I could only transport baby water in quantities of no more than 100ml.  That was also not true.  I started out with 7 bottles each with around 150-200ml in them and no one had any issues with that at all.  This just goes to show you that there is no consistent rule on these things, but I generally found that carrying a baby (especially alone) generated a lot of sympathy for me.

Overall I took 3 flights, the longest being for 13.5 hours with the total journey time door-to-door being around 27 hours long.  Despite being the shortest, the hardest flight for me was the first. The plane was smaller, more cramped and it was the first ever flight for the baby so I was really on edge.  Once we got through that one I had more confidence, the baby was more tired (and likely to sleep) and the planes were a bit bigger, thus giving me more opportunity to space out.

My paediatrician had recommended I give the baby Calpol (baby Panadol) about an hour before the descent started so I did that on each flight.  Obviously if your flights are shorter you should be careful not to give the doses too close together but mine were very far apart.  I think it worked too as baby N didn’t cry on descent thankfully.

On both of the longer flights I was complimented by other passengers who told me that the baby was very good and that he was cute, which of course I was delighted about.  On the second flight he did an epic poop that included dirtying his clothes (thanks baby) so that was the only minor drama. He also made another poop on the descent into Melbourne which meant I had to change him before I could finally see my Mum.  I think he was just testing my patience by doing that. (Side note: Melbourne airport baby change facilities were immaculate!)

But then we were there and my Mum was waiting to see her new grandson.  It was wonderful and it’s been a delight to see her bond with him.  He gives her huge big smiles which is really lovely.  In fact, he’s been super-gorgeous in between sleeping at the wrong hours and seems to be going through a huge developmental leap too.  He’s getting really great with his hands, has just discovered his feet and so spends half his day with his feet in the air staring at them and the other day he laughed for the first time. I somehow managed to capture it on video and honestly it makes me howl with laughter each time I see it.

But baby jet lag is truly horrible! We arrived on Friday evening, which was Friday morning in the baby’s head so I knew I would have some difficulties in getting him to sleep.  I bathed him at about 10pm which helped to let him know it was time to sleep.  I managed to get 3 hours sleep out of him then before we had a bit of a nighttime party for a few hours. He was all smiles and giggles in the middle of the night so that was cute, if somewhat unwanted. He generally tended to only sleep for a couple of hours at a time, sometimes up to 3 hours and it was epically hard to function on this.  With no daddy here to help I was really shouldering the load alone.  My mum has leukaemia and so I really didn’t want to ask her to help me during the nights, but she was great with making sure I had some dinner each night.

This pattern more or less continued for the following three nights (four nights in total) with 2am being the “party hour”.  I noticed the party period in the small hours of the night getting smaller each night and the sleep periods slowly extending.  However, the baby did have trouble settling if he disturbed at night so I was getting up every hour or so to get him to sleep again.  I started to go a bit insane with the sleep deprivation. The googling started again and I started to question whether he actually had jet lag or was having the four month sleep regression or I wasn’t getting him to nap properly during the day, or if the travel cot I was using wasn’t comfortable.  I basically lost all confidence in myself as a mother.

Then, just when I really thought I would lose my mind, on the fifth night he slept through.  I have never loved this baby more than after that great night’s sleep!  He also slept well last night and I’m hoping he does well again tonight.

During my googling frenzy some advice was that the baby needs to see midday sunshine so I made a special effort to take him out during these times to help his body clock reset.  I don’t know if it helped or just he found his way over time, but just to say that the jet lag seems to go eventually.  Like most things with babies, it too does pass.