Baby N: World Traveller Extraordinaire

We are back. Since my last post, Baby N and I have journeyed to Australia and back again without any post-traumatic stress this time (hooray) and then gone on a family holiday to Greece.  It is safe to say that Baby N is now a legendary traveler but even despite that I am VERY keen not to go on any trips that involve airports, flying and packing (or unpacking) for a good long while. In fact, I was thinking to myself yesterday as I did the 7 millionth load of washing in recent days (approximately) how nice it would be to fly somewhere alone as an adult.  So relaxing.  So much less packing and coordinating needed.  Literally just show up and grab a coffee and get on a plane.  Amazing.

I have so much to say after all these adventures and yet it is difficult to know where to start. However, I will say that going into my Australia trip was so much less stressful than the first time. Just knowing that I’d done it once before and survived gave me some kind of comfort that I could handle most situations. As it was, I think it was easier to fly with Baby N as a 12 month old than as a 4-5 month old as I did previously. Or maybe I’ve just had more practice at being a mum with the requisite whatever-will-be-will-be attitude.

The journey this time was a flight of about 3.5 hours to Dubai, a short transit there (in the small hours of the night) and then about 13 hours to Melbourne direct. The timing of the first flight was evening so by the time I was boarding the plane Baby N should have been settling down for his evening sleep.  Hahahaha!  No way was he agreeing to that as the plane was SO EXCITING!

I was in business class thanks to the generosity of the inlaws (and also because hubby couldn’t come with me) and there was a small fold out table for a glass at my seat. This alone must have entertained Baby N for a good 45 minutes straight, albeit the noise of it clicking up and down nearly drove me bananas. He also found the cup holders fascinating and kept putting his hands in them. Actually he just found the whole seat entertaining and spent ages and ages crawling all over it and hitting his head left, right and centre as he got increasingly tired.  Eventually about 1.5 hours into the flight he passed out in my arms which was nice. He must have slept for an hour or so before the descent into Dubai started and the poor guy suffered a lot.  I don’t know if he had blocked ears or whatever (I did all the usual things to clear them) but he cried and cried and cried all the way down to Dubai.  As soon as we landed he was fine, which was great, but I was pretty stressed by then.

I think it was something like midnight on our old time when we landed in Dubai so the poor guy was very tired. He didn’t cry as we went around the airport (seriously, I must have walked 5km to get from one gate to the next) but he looked moody as hell. We stopped off in the lounge for a while and I requested us some yoghurts.  Baby N loves yoghurt so even though it wasn’t a snack time for him – it being the middle of the night and all – we had one just to keep him cheery.

Before long we were boarding again and this time we were on the new fancy Airbus A380 which is so massive that it’s only business class and first class on the top level and it even has a bar at the back of the plane!  I was not exactly looking well put together at this stage but even so I did take slight offence at the cabin crew guy who asked me if it was my first time in business class!  Also, I noticed that they would come around with a tray of drinks – champagne and juices – and they would always say to me “Would you like a juice?” No actually, I damn well want a champagne thank you very much!

There was some delay in leaving Dubai airport as a sick passenger had to be taken off the flight so we were on the tarmac for maybe 2 hours.  By this stage I don’t know what the time was? 3am? 4am?  Whatever time it was Baby N was suuuuuuuuper tired and needed to sleep. One of the nice flight attendants said I could lay my chair back a bit and we undid his seat belt.  The next thing I knew I woke up with Baby N snoozing in my arms, the plane in the air and no seat belt on either of us.  Hmmm…. Not sure that was meant to happen! I laid the seat back to be flat and tucked us both into the blanket and then the next thing I knew after that was there was severe turbulence, the flight attendants had been told to sit down but I was bouncing all over the place like crazy because I wasn’t wearing a seat belt and neither was Baby N (none of this recommended or legal probably).

I really wish people would film moments like this because I am sure if someone was watching they would have laughed as I was so flustered trying to find the seatbelt and do it up while not bouncing off my seat and holding a still sleeping Baby N down. Eventually I found my seat belt and did that up around both of us, laid back down and slept through the bounces. Baby N did a really long sleep of about 9 hours I think (I can’t remember) and when he woke up he was a delight.  We fed him some stuff (some of it baby food, some of it things he could eat off my meals like bread and fruit). He also had a wonderful time charming all the flight attendants and crawling around the bar area in his PJs.  I tried my very, very best not to think of all the evil, international germs he was getting exposed to during this but he seems to be just fine now so there you go.

Later he had another power nap so when we arrived in Melbourne he was all perky and happy which was just as well as I have a theory that airports hate babies as they make it so very difficult to travel with one. I had borrowed a Maclaren umbrella-style stroller for the trip as my Bugaboo is a bit too huge for travelling but the stupid airlines check in these strollers and give them back to you at luggage reclaim. Arggghhh!  So this meant that I had to carry Baby N, along with a backpack and a small wheelie all the way through the airport, do the passport control juggling passports, to the baggage reclaim. I then had 3 suitcases to put on a trolley and absolutely no one helped me.  No one. I really do fear for humanity at these moments.

It was then I worked out that the stroller came in at a different belt so I had to take my trolley with 3 big suitcases and small wheelie on it, push it with one hand while carrying Baby N in the other and balance the folded up stroller on top of the tower of suitcases. It was quite a sight! Anyway, I did it and all is fine. It was pretty much the same scenario on the return journey although I did give Baby N to the guy who was manning the oversize luggage counter so that I could unfold his stroller.  All I have to say to all mammas out there, keep up the gym work as it comes in handy to be very strong at this stage of things!

Our time back home in Melbourne with my family was bittersweet. It was lovely to see my Mum and Sister and see them develop bonds with Baby N.  My Mum is really doing very poorly these days so it was tough going on every level for me.  We didn’t get out and about very much as she wasn’t up to it but also she has a very low immune system so it’s not sensible to take her in public places where she is exposed to germs. She loved spending time with Baby N and it breaks my heart to think they may not have time together ever again, in addition to the reality of her not being in my life for much longer either.

Baby N is at a really adorable age too and he enjoyed opening and closing all of the many, many cupboards and drawers my Mum has at her place. He seemed unbothered by all the change and travel.  He did have jet lag of course, but so did I! I am always amazed at how I managed to birth such a chilled out baby.

During our two weeks with my Mum, Baby N went through a huge development curve and so when I returned back his Dad was amazed at the new guy he had become. His crawling skills improved dramatically and not long after we came back home he also started to pull himself up to standing.  Just this week he started the first stages of cruising around furniture, but I think walking is still a way off.

Our trip home was very uneventful with Baby N sleeping for 11 hours straight on the plane.  I mean seriously, 11 hours straight ON A PLANE. I even managed to eat two meals and have a nap in that time! For the shorter second flight he was more trouble as he was super wriggly and wanting to crawl absolutely everywhere, but I barely remember the details now. He also managed to do a poo just as we were coming into land so my first requirement on landing was to change him.  Babies have great timing for this.

Daddy was super excited to see his son.  Less excited to see his wife I think.  Haha! We were home just over a week – barely long enough for me to get the laundry done – before we were off on a beach holiday in Crete, Greece with the extended family. This is the first time we have done a full family holiday, which also included the grandparents, and my husband’s brother’s family (they have a son who is almost 3). We were staying at an amazing beach resort which was all inclusive and it was wonderful.  However, it was a bit intense with all the family there and by the end my husband and I were really pleased to come home.

It seems the 3-year-old is heavily favoured over Baby N (he is the first grandchild and has his grandfather’s name, as is the tradition here) so my husband and I were getting fed up of us having to adapt our schedule to fit with the 3-year-old. The grandparents were always wanting to follow the 3-year-old’s schedule which was not so cute after a few days, especially as I completely changed Baby N’s sleep times to accommodate evening dinners together.

BUT, I did get a tan and Baby N loved all his adventures in the sea and the pool.  He loves water so much that he just runs (crawls) straight into the water like a maniac.  I was having to fish him out of the shallows approximately every 3 minutes which was quite boring after a while! We would do beach in the morning until nap time, then keep him busy playing indoors for a few hours after lunch before taking him in the pool ahead of his second nap time. He loved it all!

His developmental timing did suck a bit though as he decided on day two of our holiday to refuse any kind of blended food. This meant some creative hunting for us at the buffet and his diet for the rest of the holiday was quite unusual. It had a heavy focus on pasta and bananas, but fruit in general was popular with him.  One day for breakfast he ate the following (small amounts of each, but still): cow’s milk, oats with peaches, omelette, sausage, mini croissant, fresh figs, banana, kiwi and pancake with honey.

Now we are home now I am feeding him similar foods to before but just not blending it. The veggies and meat are cut up into very small pieces as he rejects anything without texture these days.  Some days he doesn’t like to be spoon-fed but I got around that at dinner last night by giving him his own spoon which he spent the entire dinner pretending to feed me with.  Every time I opened my mouth for him to put his spoon in he opened his mouth too and so I snuck the food in.  It seems this age is very much the age of do-whatever-works!

I guess I’m Writing That Book Then

After swearing off ever flying to Australia alone with baby N again, guess what I’m going to be doing again in a few days?  Yes, hello Europe to Australia flight(s) home, but this time with a 12-month-old rather than a 4-month-old as Baby N turns one on Tuesday! I think this may well be his one year old post as between now and then I doubt there will be much of an opportunity for blogging.

But back to the flying. It’s got to be easier now that he’s older, right? I mean last time he couldn’t even sit up properly or eat solid food.  Now he is crawling and an eating machine!

The decision to fly home has been a little spontaneous as my Mum’s health has deteriorated quite a bit recently and I’d really like to see her – and for her to enjoy Baby N again – before she gets too poorly to appreciate anything. I really, really don’t want to be doing the flying by myself again (the trauma of last time stays with me endlessly) but circumstances at home mean hubby just can’t join us.  He has once again started a new job so this means he is not so flexible in upping sticks to the other side of the world.  I am trying very, very hard not to be resentful of this but it does stick in my throat that when I’ve needed him badly he has not been able to help me.  On the flip side, each time I overcome one of these obstacles I feel like the biggest kick-ass-mamma out there.

I will say though that I have fought hard go business class which is INSANELY expensive. I’m almost embarrassed by the cost but on the other hand I do not know how he expects me to sit my very tall baby on my knee in economy for 25-ish hours (he’s too big for the bassinets), nevermind keep him entertained in that one spot.  At least with business, baby N can lie down on the flat bed and (hopefully) do some sleeping.

At one point hubby had found an option for me to fly business class to Australia and economy return. When he told me this was a good option (said by the person NOT flying with the baby) I managed to very calmly agree it was a good option but that if we were flying economy I would require a seat in economy to be bought for baby N. He then realized that the price difference for this was not that far off paying for business class and… voila… business class ticket it is!

As a side-note this has served to also be is a lesson for anyone thinking of hooking up with a lover from an exotic, faraway land.  When you are in the early throws of romance, bewitched by your lover’s cute accent and different culture, just keep in mind that if this goes somewhere then one day you will be travelling for 24+ hours with a toddler alone!  Suddenly your romance will seem less glamourous and far more inconvenient. I must say none of these things crossed my mind when I was first falling for my husband.  Haha!

So this week will be lots of fun for me.  Tuesday is BABY N’S FIRST BIRTHDAY and Wednesday we fly!  Nothing like a busy period to keep me on my toes or to grow me some new grey hairs! That aside, I scratch my head every day in amazement that I have an almost one-year old.  He’s crawling around like a professional these days and even moves from room to room if something in another room intrigues him more (helloooo daddy’s computer!). We do not have stairs thank goodness so his main dangers are jamming his fingers in drawers that he likes to open.  We have ordered some baby-proofing things for drawers and cupboards so they will be a welcome addition to our home!

In the meantime, he goes absolutely crazy for the cat water and cat food so I have to pick those up whenever he is roaming. Likewise I have to be careful that he doesn’t get in the cat litter. I have a small box of cat toys and he found those yesterday, absolutely delighting in anything that had a bell in it.  I’ve said many times before that there is a fine line between baby and cat toys and I’m pretty sure we are now at an age where that line is disappearing.

I have been really delighted to see Baby N’s crawling progress after a somewhat slow start. I have adhered to a strict policy of no baby jumpers or activity centres where you put the baby in the middle with their feet on the floor, and definitely no walkers. I know this is a controversial topic, but our pediatric physiotherapist who Baby N saw for his wonky neck was so vehemently opposed to them it totally freaked me out.  She showed us various case studies of how they make the child walk incorrectly and develop wrongly which can not show up for many years, but later on have some serious issues for the child so that was an easy decision for us. We were coincidentally at a friend’s place for dinner this week and their 8 month old was able to walk with the help of an adult but he walked really strangely.  I was puzzled by him until my husband told me they leave him in a walking device during the day so he has effectively learned to walk only on his toes.  Anyway, he’s a delightful baby in every way so I thought none of my business but it did lodge in my mind.

The past few nights Baby N has been difficult to put to sleep, which is very unusual and when it’s accompanied by howling crying it is totally out of character.  I am highly suspecting it is more teeth (he has 5 so far) because after some Calpol (baby Panadol) he is usually fine and sleeps through the night.  Last night we were out for my father-in-law’s birthday so the lady who looks after him while I’m at work came to stay with him. I told her if he is upset to give him Calpol but I don’t really know what happened other than the fact he was still awake (but happy) when we came back around 1130pm and finally managed to get him to bed at midnight. Let’s just say today he is suuuuuuper tired!  He woke up at 9am and went back to bed at 1030am after some breakfast and playing. I didn’t even manage to get him out of his pjs yet.

Now that he’s almost a year old I am starting to move him onto cow’s milk properly. I know there are wide opinions about the human consumption of cow’s milk but both my husband and I enjoy it and Baby N has no allergies so that’s the road we are taking. I am keen to ditch the bottles in the near future but I have decided against any such big changes until we are back from Australia.  In the meantime I have started giving Baby N some cow’s milk in a sippy cup alongside his breakfast. The first bottle to go will be the breakfast one so I want him to get used to the concept of having milk out of a cup so that when I make the change it is not so enormous for him.  He only has two bottles a day – morning and night – and so I think I’ll just focus on the morning one for a while and then ditch the night one later on. Once he learns how to take milk out of a sippy cup I will move his night one to a sippy cup too in the hope that this makes the progression more easy.

I do let Baby N hold his own spoon now and he has the idea of how to use it although doesn’t really do a lot of self-feeding with a spoon.  He is excellent at self-feeding with his hands though so I expect this will come soon. I do a combination of baby led weaning and spoon feeding – this guy eats a lot so I want to make sure the food goes in – but I can see he is increasingly preferring to feed himself.  This is a win-win situation (mess aside) as I have realized I can enjoy my meals slightly more when he is feeding himself. Yay! It will be really interesting to see how he goes with plane food but given that he loves yoghurt and fruit I will just request lots of those if all else fails.  I have also packed about 20 different prepared food sachets which I don’t love on a normal basis but you gotta do what you gotta do when you’re in a plane for 25 hours!

I am also wondering what toys to pack for him as there is just me carrying all the luggage! I have a couple of new things which are small but they are relatively untested for interest (I want them to be fresh when he sees them).  He really loves basic things like cups so they’ll come with me but also homemade things like a plastic water bottle with bits of dried pasta in it.  I might make him one of those for the plane as it won’t matter if it gets left behind but might provide some entertainment. If anyone has any easy suggestions I am happy to hear them (keep in mind I’m leaving in 3 days so no online shopping is possible at this point).

Finally, I would like to report that hubby and I finally, FINALLY broke our dry spell the other day and it was so great! It all came about in an organic fashion during Baby N’s afternoon nap.  Neither of us were working on anything pressing at the time and I kind of suggested it was a good use of his nap time.  Lucky Baby N got a bit longer of a nap than usual as a result but there was a very happy pair of parents thereafter.  A couple of hours later hubby asked when shall we do it again and I joked “Oh we are good for 2018 now so we don’t need to go knowing we had made some progress.

As my mum says, all good things come to those who wait.

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.