Just like that and three weeks was up! We had a wonderful visit back home in Australia, spending lots of time with my mum (Grandma), sister as well as family and friends. Despite my plans otherwise, it ended up being a very full and busy trip and I was pretty tired towards the end. When you live abroad there are so many people to catch up with and usually that’s pretty full on anyway, but you add a baby to the mix and it was a lot to handle.
The best parts of my trip were seeing the joy my mum and my sister (and others) got from spending time with the baby. My heart ached every time I thought about how sad it is that he doesn’t get to see them on a more regular basis. I did have to adjust my expectations a bit about how much help my mum would be though, as while she was very keen to be helpful, she struggled to be as actively involved as I would have liked. That was really tough in the first week when the baby jet lag meant I was really suffering from lack of sleep. I also had a massive sleep debt from the previous two weeks where he had been ill so I was quite a wreck the first week.
But then the baby adjusted to the timezone, he got used to my mum’s house and the travel cot and we found a kind of flow. We went out and did some Christmas shopping, we took some beautiful photos with Santa (I went a bit crazy and bought all the photos like a nuts first-time-mum does), we went to lunch, we saw friends – it was as it would be if we lived locally.
Leaving was awful and never seems to get easier. I always worry that I may not see my mum again every time I leave. While her health is stable and she lives a fully independent life, she has a terminal leukaemia and was not expected to live as long as she has. I encouraged mum to try and come to stay with us for Easter, if her health and treatment allows it. If she comes much later in the year than that the Mediterranean heat is simply too much for her (which is why she didn’t come with baby N was born).
Baby N absolutely adored his grandma and also his aunty and it was so beautiful to see them all together. I really felt the distance with me living over the other side of the world from my family. I feel bad for them that they’re missing out on him and also for baby N that there is half his family he has very little contact with. But such is life when you’re in a cross-cultural relationship. No one thinks about these details in the heady early days of a relationship!
Throughout our visit baby N was a very chilled and wonderful baby. There were times where he was tired and grumpy, but so was I so how could I blame him. I don’t know why people think babies should be cute and smiley all the time because adults are not! I’ve got to say that I am very fortunate to have such a flexible baby who let me drag him across the world and then around to all sorts of unfamiliar places and people.
Then there came the return trip home on the plane. This was the same journey I made previously, but in reverse. I hadn’t thought much about it, but it turned out to be a much, much harder journey in reverse. Why? Because the length of the overall journey (around 28 hours door-to-door) and the timing of the departure meant that I messed up two nights of his sleep. On the journey to Australia I’d only messed up one night and this had a big enough (bad) impact.
On our return trip, we left Australia around midnight (scheduled departure 11pm) which meant that at the time baby N is normally going to bed, I was putting him in a car and driving him to an airport. He then had all the stimulation of an airport – noise, lights etc – just when he should be sleeping. At the scanning point they also made me take him out of the Ergobaby so that woke him up too.
Once on board I was hoping to be able to put him in the bassinet to get a good sleep, but the issue with this is that you have to take the baby out if there is turbulence. I put him in there the first time and literally five minutes later the seatbelt sign went on so I had to get him out, waking him up. The seatbelt sign was on for about 90% of the 15 hour flight and so I was thinking pretty hateful thoughts of the captain for most of the journey. Apparently he left the sign on “just in case”. Grrrr! Baby N ended up sleeping with me on my seat and we kind of dozed together. I think he slept a bit better than me but neither of us were particularly well slept.
After our 15 hours in the air, we had about 3 hours transfer at Abu Dhabi airport which was unremarkable. Baby N was full of smiles and charm as it was daytime in Australia and so he was feeling all the joy! But then the next flight – 5 hours in duration – came at the time when he should be going to sleep in Australia. And he couldn’t sleep. So he reacted accordingly by crying a lot. He also decided to puke up on himself and me more than once so we all smelled like vomit. Obviously I changed his clothes but still the smell of vomit doesn’t leave you easily.
It. Was. Awful.
The longest five hours of my life ever.
At one point the cabin crew lady was giving me a hug as I cried and baby N cried too. He was just so overtired the poor boy and I was very flustered by all his crying. I wouldn’t normally be but when you’re in the enclosed space of the plane, travelling by yourself it’s easy to get in your own head and think everyone is staring at you. By the time we got to the third airport and our last transfer I was a mess. I had a huuuuuuge spot on my jawline which seemed to represent exactly how I was feeling! The transfer time was very short so we were amongst a small group of passengers who were personally escorted to the gate. Thank goodness for that as I was so in need of help that the airline lady ended up carrying my passports and mobile phone while I juggled the baby (they made me take him out of the Ergobaby again) and all our hand luggage.
The last flight was 1.5 hours and I was on the very edge of my coping ability but bless him baby N just passed out and slept in my arms for the journey. While I couldn’t move or eat anything or do anything at all I was so happy because he was silent. I spent that journey just staring at the window at the Mediterranean islands below and wishing time would disappear so I could stop being on a plane with a very over-tired baby.
My wish was granted and my now-angelic baby and I finally finished our plane journeys. All we had to do was go through passport control and collect our luggage before meeting my hubby who was collecting us. And you know what happened then? One of our suitcases didn’t turn up. So I had to stand there waiting just in case – though I had the vibe it wasn’t there – until all the cases had been delivered. I then had to go to the lost luggage people who I’ve got to say really need to work on their customer service charm as it seemed I was disrupting their personal chats to report my lost luggage. So hear I am carrying an exhausted baby, looking like I was living rough with crazy hair, massive bags under my eyes, a huge zit the size of a unicorn horn on my jaw and then these people were being useless with my lost luggage. They are very lucky I was too exhausted to have a proper fight!
Anyway, my suitcase was identified as being at the previous airport and was then sent on to me the next day. Thankfully it was the suitcase containing my stuff, not the baby’s so there was no massive issue with the delay. Finally, we made it out of the airport where hubby was waiting. He asked me if I was glad to be “home” and I responded that I was mainly just glad to not be on a plane anymore with a baby!
Now that we’ve been home two days I can say it is good to be back. It’s nice to have the support of my husband, but also it’s so great to be sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow. Not enough credit is given to the magical healing power of the pillow.
Baby N has suffered a bit with jetlag – going to bed early and then waking up in the middle of the night for 1-2 hours – but overall he’s been better with the jet lag heading west than east (which is normal). One of my friends did comment to me today that I seem traumatised by my plane journeys and I’ve got to say that is true. However, I would say to anyone planning to travel a shorter distance that it is entirely do-able and not so bad at all.
If I could change one thing about our trip is that I wouldn’t fly alone again. Not because I couldn’t handle it because I think I’ve proved that I can handle it (albeit it was so incredibly tough) but that you really need another pair of hands. If there’s two of you you can tag team it – to visit the loo, to eat, to try and get the baby to sleep. If you’re alone then literally EVERYTHING comes down to you. I’ve now learned how to pee while wearing a baby carrier and sleep vertically while holding a baby amongst other things. I almost feel like the skills I’ve learned in the past three weeks are worthy of inclusion on my CV. I am sure that a certain fortitude has been developed as part of all this so at least I can be grateful for that.
Like my friend said to me, if you can handle this trip with baby N by yourself then you can do ANYTHING!