Postcards from a baby holiday – Part 1 – Shakes on a plane

We all know that travelling with an infant is a trying experience. We all know that having a sick infant is difficult. We all know that being sick and being a mum do not work together.

Accumulate all three together and you are actually in hell.

After our successful, albeit stressful, test run of the airport and plane a few months ago with the baby in tow, I had approached our holiday abroad with the same military plan of attack. Dare I say it, but knowing we were travelling in a group this time had made me slightly over-confident (idiot). Everyone who was asking me how I was feeling about the impending holiday got the same response: “Yeah it’ll be fine, he was ok on the plane last time and we have help.”

The suitcases were organised and packed, we had researched milk and nappies abroad and we had literally bought every travel baby device known to man (including three different mosquito nets, a pram fan, microwave sterilising bags, a beach tent and headphones for the plane). We even had to pay for an extra suitcase to get all the baby paraphernalia in (seriously there is so much crap!).

The word organisation does not go far enough to describe what we were.

And then the day before we travelled we woke up to a baby that had done a green mucous poo and couldn’t keep any milk down. Excellent.

We were lured into a false sense of security the morning we went when he seemed to keep his milk down and the diahorrea seemed to no longer be soaking through every nappy. Excellent, we thought, just one of those 24 hour things. And then we got to the airport. How wrong we were.

I’d begun to feel slightly queasy on the drive over but dismissed it as my usual overactive airport nerves (where is my case going? Will we get all the milk through passport control? What if I’ve left a random lipgloss in my handbag? Will the pram make it to the other side with any wheels intact? What if we don’t have enough time to get to the gate? What if we’re delayed?). 

On heading for food after checking in, it dawned on me that this was not nerves. I eyed my baby boy suspiciously and tried not to throw up while perusing Giraffe’s lovely, albeit spicy and exotic (groan), menu. One bite of a plain chicken sandwich and the return of the baby’s projectile sick sent me over the edge and before I knew it I was running to the smelly, grubby airport loos (why are they always so disgusting?) and seeing the contents of my stomach in reverse.

Still, I had false hope. I felt a bit better immediately after and thought it might be like when you’re drunk and you need to be sick but then you feel ok to have another few gins. We hadn’t even boarded when it washed over me again, and again on the plane, and again and again and again.

Of course it’s in this state that we are on a plane that sits on the tarmac for an hour. And of course it was a hot day. And of course the baby and I were taking turns at throwing up. Meanwhile, the baby had also shit through all four outfits we’d brought for him.

I remember at one point my husband decided to order a ham and cheese toastie and I didn’t even have the strength to tell him to stop being a twat and that I’d be sick all over him. But then they didn’t have any toasties left and offered him a tuna sandwich instead and I literally nearly died inside (luckily he turned it down but only because he was being fussy about the contents, not because he was thinking of his fragile sick-spraying wife).

At times the baby screamed so hard I thought he was going to choke and nothing would calm him down. The irony of it is, I think he wanted his Mummy half the time but she had her head between her knees holding a sick bag like a security blanket. All I can say is thank god we were travelling in a group.

I counted the minutes down until we arrived. On emerging from the plane smellier, more dishevelled and frankly sick stained, we then lurched from one transport nightmare to another. Those little airport buses that drive around like the drivers are on speed and fruit juices with added colours and preservatives. A special thank you to the taxi driver who took a bend so fast I nearly vomited over the back of his head – you dodged a bullet there pal.

We reached the villa and I lay on the bed, face to face with my baby boy wimpering “we’re both poorly monkeys baby”. 

Just when I thought we’d made it to the finish line and we were all in bed drifting off to sleep (praying that it would be gone by morning), there was a panicked commotion as my husband lurched up out of bed and ran for the toilet. The night was a mixture of sick trips, runny nappies and shivery fevers.

The long and short of it is, I can’t believe that I was worried about the baby being too noisy on the plane and whether I should or shouldn’t take the play gym only days before.

And the sickness didn’t pack its bags and do one the next day. 

Of course, there was no option for me the next day and during the night but to get up with the baby even while still feeling ropey, but as those of us with husbands are all too aware, they really do suffer through these things much more intently than us women folk (the poor little lambs) and take to their beds like they’re a waif in a Jane Austen novel.

Happy holidays!


I’ve moved into the doctor’s

I have moved into the doctor’s surgery. 

Ok, not literally. But I may as well have.

In the last five months, I have been to the doctor’s, I’m guessing, the same number of times I’ve been during the rest of my life. Slight exaggeration but I’ve totally been on average twice a week.

The receptionists now know my son’s name. I know the good places to park. I’m starting to recognise other ‘regulars’ who nod at me as though to say ‘you’re one of us now’.

I didn’t even realise it was possible to be a regular. It’s like the world’s worst pub – I see the same people I have to make small talk with, you don’t get served in the order you arrived, there are never enough staff, the air con doesn’t work, the toilet is always busy and it always closes too early, but you don’t even get alcohol and it’s closed on the weekend.

I know the adverts on the little TV screen off by heart but I still jump every time that train hits that little girl stopped on the tracks with her bike, I have to turn away when the Facebook story of the boys who played chicken comes on and don’t even get me started on the ghost smoke fingers warning against lung disease. 

I’ve read every leaflet in the waiting room, including the surgery handbook, which is really just some A4 sheets of paper in plastic wallets, and ironically I know as a result that I’ve definitely spent far too long waiting for appointments. 

I know how many appointments were missed last month (144 – seriously who are these dicks that are booking appointments and not turning up and causing people – me – to wait for ad hoc emergency appointments?) and I know the receptionist (Brenda) has a 13 year old daughter who has gone from being ‘such a lovely girl’ to ‘a right little madam’ (her words, not mine) but is ‘beautiful so she can get away with it’ (other fellow regular patient’s words, not mine).

I even have the out of hours process down to a fine art to the extent that I was able to tell the operator where to send me for an on call appointment after she’d snottily tried to tell me I couldn’t see a GP ‘because it’s bank holiday, you know’ (like my boobs should have known to wait until Tuesday to contract mastitis).

You might think at this point that I’m a hypercondriac or that either my son or I am quite ill. Neither is the case – turns out there is just a lot of crap when you have a baby. And honestly I really could have got by with half of the visits if some of the doctors had actually listened to me, but that’s another story about baby reflux which we don’t have time for today. 

I know the ‘rules’, i.e. when the appointments open up, the best times to call, how to quickly get a repeat prescription etc. With this also comes the knowledge that the reception staff have some majorly rude patients to deal with and that at least once a month I will receive the backlash of this (Soz you’re having a bad day Brenda but I don’t think telling me to come to the surgery every morning next week with my baby in tow on the off-chance a GP will be able to see me on one of those days is a good answer as to why you can’t give me an appointment until 2045).

Luckily I’ve got a good reputation at the doctor’s. I turn up on time (no mean feat with a 5 month old and something I struggled to achieve when I used to only have to haul my own arse there pre-baby), I am polite to Brenda even when she’s being a bitch (though I did complain about her once after a particularly unpleasant encounter) and I make small talk with the doctors. Plus I have a baby who loves being the centre of attention in the waiting room, so he’s a big hit. 

But it would be nice to not have to go just for one week. Brenda and co will wonder where I’ve gone when I go on holiday and I’m pretty sure I must have made the invite list for the Christmas party. Well if I haven’t, I’m sure my baby has!

Doesn’t he look like his Daddy

No new Mum can hear enough of: “Oh he looks just like his Daddy, doesn’t he?” 

You’ve gone through nine months of carrying him, four days of stop start labour and then been the primary caregiver, which basically means you’re the first person to get pissed, spewed and shat all over, so to then spend the next 20 weeks with not so much as an unprompted: “he’s got your eyes” from anyone other than my mum, husband and mother-in-law (who were all in cahoots trying to make me feel better) does actually start to grate.

By unprompted, I should say the people that I haven’t told he has my eyes as a response to ‘oh he’s like his daddy’ and then waited expectantly (menacingly) for them to agree.

I’m the first to admit he looks like my husband. For the record he does have my eyes though. I have been completely unable to contain my disdain at the people that have claimed his eyes are like my husband’s (I’ve been unable to control the facial muscles and so they’ve received a look that basically communicates ‘what you have just said to me is on the same level as if you had just pooed in my hallway’). It’s the one thing I have people – they are big and blue like mine. The chances are they are going to change because his Daddy’s are brown and that’s dominant so seriously just give me this frigging moment and let me enjoy that he has something that looks like me!

On reflection, my mum wasn’t just trying to make me feel better. She was doing what all mums do – it’s like some kind of law that every mother thinks their grandchild looks like their child (or their other children, i.e. the new aunties and uncles). Again, it was impossible for me to hide the look of disgust when my mother-in-law said that something about my boy was like my brother-in-law (the words ‘over my dead body’ and ‘not a chance in hell’ come to mind).

The other thing that I’ve ‘had’ all along is that my boy has my personality. He’s demanding, cheeky and nosy. But something else is starting to emerge – funny. Our friends and family will tell you; I am not the funny one. Clever – maybe. Witty at times – sure. Sarcastic – always. Funny – not so much.

My husband is the flipping funny one. And now the little monkey is funny. He tapped my husband repeatedly on the back the other day to wake him up and then giggled when he achieved his goal. He started chomping on my nose like I was Sophie le Giraffe and then let out a noise that was a cross between a cackle and a cat crying. And just half an hour ago he lay in his cot staring directly at the baby monitor cooing and chortling because he didn’t want to go to sleep and somehow I think he knows I am watching at the other end. Damn it. 

I can feel what’s coming next and all I can say is if his first words start with D and end with ‘adda’, I am going on strike.

Why I’ll always tell my son he is beautiful

I tell my son he’s gorgeous every day. I tell him he’s beautiful every day. 

This may be controversial but even if he was a she I would be doing the same thing and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. 

I don’t believe in these scaremongering stories that if we tell our children they are pretty then they grow up believing in stereotypes and that looks are everything. Quite honestly I think this is a load of rubbish and children will only believe it if that is the example they are set. 

For the record, I also plan to teach my boy about diversity and variety. About tolerance and acceptance. And about how we are all made differently and why that’s ok and that beauty comes from both inside and out.

But for now, seeing as he is only four months old, just as you can never give a baby too much love, I believe it’s important to tell him he is gorgeous and perfect. I also tell him he’s funny every day. I tell him he’s kind and good every day. And I tell him he’s clever every day.

I want my boy to grow up with self confidence and self belief. I want him to know how precious his life is and to know how loved he is. My opinion is that he will only believe these things if I show him and instil them in him.

And so I tell him every day.

How to physically go swimming with a baby

I was determined from day one that my baby would learn to swim from an early age. The theory of this is strikingly different to the reality.

At eight months pregnant while I researched classes, one hand draped over my wiggling bump, I had visions of my baby squealing in delight, splashing around and generally loving the freedom of the water. In the fantasy I did not consider how much of a mission ‘taking the baby swimming’ would be and how I would actually achieve it.

In those early dark days after he was born (you know, the ones where you think ‘what the actual fuck is going on?’) I began to realise that a simple trip to the swimming baths was never going to be simple – hell, I could barely get all of our shit together and clean and feed both of us in time to get to a doctor’s appointment! 

Going swimming seemed impossible, I mean really how? How do you get all your crap there? How do you get ready and in and out? If the baby screams when he so much as sniffs water in the house how will I ever get him in the swimming pool? I never knew when he’d suddenly demand a feed in those early days so I had visions of a full scale meltdown and me popping a boob out in the pool. What’s more, how do you make sure they don’t drown and how do you even get into the pool while holding him?

Undeterred, I still took him at eight weeks. But I did what any self respecting 21st century mother does and googled the ass out of it first. This meant that the first time I took my boy swimming, I had three massive bags full of crap I didn’t need just to make the situation even more challenging. 

‘Helpful’ online posts had suggested taking a dressing gown for me for after getting out of the pool. Bullshit and unnecessary – we don’t live in the arctic circle! I felt so embarrassed when I realised this wasn’t ‘the done thing’ that I didn’t even get it out of my bag. 

They also advised taking spare nappies and food for the baby to the poolside. Again, completely unnecessary and the teachers looked at me part bemused, part confused about why my baby couldn’t last half an hour without a crap or a feed (he often actually couldn’t last that long without those things back then but it turned out swimming changed the rules and he could!).

By this point, I had no expectations of a gurgling, splashing baby. I’d seen him in action in the bath, which in those early days was frankly like having all of my teeth individually pulled out with no anaesthetic. I’d also seen the drama that ensued with a simple nappy change, never mind a full costume change. Added to this, my swimming costume still didn’t really fit and I was leaking milk left, right and centre. I was basically just praying we didn’t have a thunderbolt situation in the pool to top it off.

Then something amazing happened. My baby, who had spent approximately 85% of the week crying, was calm. I can only think that the combination of the sounds, lights and water together put him into some sort of trance. 

I wouldn’t exactly say he enjoyed those first few sessions (his face was a mixture of ‘what’s going on?’ and ‘are you nearly done with this Mummy?’) but he was calm and afterwards he slept like an angel. In fact, on one occasion he fell asleep while we were still in the water after he’d done his first submersion.

We’ve now been swimming for about 10 weeks and, don’t get me wrong, he’s cried in the water and he’s not too thrilled about being submerged, but it’s genuinely become one of the best bonding activities we do. The closeness of being in the water together, the confidence it has given him (which has transferred across to bathtime) and the songs make it actually really special and I’m so glad we’ve done it from an early age.

Despite my initial anxiety about how we would do it, it’s not nearly as stressful as you would think. So, for the Mums like me that want to prepare and be thorough, here is what I’ve learnt about taking your baby swimming:

  • Preparation – try to take one bag that comfortably fits your stuff and is easy to manoeuvre. I’d advise bringing a big plastic carrier bag so you can dump wet things in there quickly and throw it into your main bag. I always put my swimming costume on at home under my clothes so that all I need to do is strip off to get ready when we arrive and can focus my time on getting my boy sorted.
  • What to take – my advice is to keep it simple. I literally take the usual changing bag items, along with two towels for the baby (one to take poolside to wrap your baby in immediately after you get out and one to cover him like a blanket and dry him when you’re in the changing rooms), swimming costumes and a towel for me. Don’t over complicate things by bringing extra rubbish with you!
  • Double nappies – your baby will need the double nappy system, i.e. one disposable or reusable swim nappy and a neoprene nappy over the top. Make sure you check the weights the neoprene ones are for as they need to fit well around the waist and legs. The double nappy system is designed to prevent little accidents in the water, though I still have paranoia every single time we go that my baby will poo and it will leak and I’ll forever be the mum whose baby shat in the pool and ruined the lesson. Touch wood and with fingers crossed, he has never even pooed at swimming so far let alone leaked, which was quite a feat in those early days that I swear I literally did nothing but change turbo turds. Though I can’t say the same for wees and, seeing as he does one  in the bath every night, I can only conclude he has a tinkle every lesson!
  • Swimsuits – there are tons of baby swimsuits on the market but I opted for a wetsuit style one that would keep my boy warm while in the water and that acts as a barrier to prevent his eczema outbreaks. You might want to consider how these fasten up as my boy’s first one had a really simple zip on the front which was handy while we were getting used to the swimming process, but his new one velcroes at the back and is more tricky. 
  • Feeding – try to feed your baby so they have finished at least half hour before you get in the pool. This means they are unlikely to be hungry while you are in and gives it time to go down first to reduce the chance of them being sick in the water. My pool luckily has a coffee shop on site so I usually arrive an hour before the lesson and feed my boy with a cuppa knowing I’m there all ready to go.
  • Getting changed – most swimming baths have benches and some even have baby changing tables so make use out of them where you can. If there isn’t one available then a travel change mat is a good idea. I always get myself undressed first so that once the baby is changed we are ready to head straight for the pool (this keeps my baby who does not like getting changed distracted). On getting out of the pool, don’t try to be fancy. Now is not the time to start showering and washing or drying your hair (and don’t even think about taking make up unless you plan to do it in the car afterwards when the baby inevitably falls asleep) – this can all wait until you get home! I usually strip off my costume first and put my towel around me so that my body can start to dry and then focus on getting the baby dried and dressed. Once he is sorted it’s then usually just a case of throwing clothes on. 
  • Prams and car seats – some places won’t allow you to take these in. My baths luckily do, but to be honest with you I’ve tried both with and without them and it doesn’t make a shred of difference except I’m maybe slightly less panicked after getting him dressed because he has somewhere proper to sit while I get changed, but slightly more panicked during the class that someone might steal my pram or seat from the changing room so it’s swings and roundabouts. 
  • How to physically do this shit – you get help to get them in and out of the water so don’t worry about trying to hobble down those silver ladders with your little bundle tucked into your costume. And babies are surprisingly buoyant and light in the water, so you quickly get used to holding them. In my experience, a fab thing is the instructors, who really know their stuff and are very supportive in the water. They are also used to the odd meltdown, sick spillage and hiccups outbursts so won’t be phased by whatever your baby throws at them. A gentle bounce or splash of the water to distract them seems to work 99% of the time anyway, or lifting them a bit more upright and raised if they are a reflux baby like mine. And finally, submerging your baby is actually terrifying. Even if you know that they have a reflex that prevents them swallowing water under six months, I still get scared every time. But they really do get used to it and it becomes less traumatic over time. 
  • You won’t know until you try – I’d be a dick if I thought all babies were fine in the water and I am fully aware how lucky I am that my boy has taken to it (trust me, that is not usually the case – I have sat through countless baby massage classes as the Mum of the boy who screams relentlessly), but if you are thinking about swimming and are apprehensive, just give it a try. If it’s a drama you don’t need in your life you can just knock it on the head. But it’s worth a go as my experience was definitely that the initial stress was worth it.

Why is there so much crap?

I’m trying to remember a time when I could leave the house with just a little handbag for a whole day or go away for a few days without needing to somehow relocate my house. Although I’ve got pretty good now at packing for a few hours away from home – helped by the fact that the explosive poos are now occasional rather than the norm so I don’t need to carry six spare changes of clothes everywhere – anything above and beyond this or with additional activities requires a lot more effort.

Last week we went on our first proper mini trip away to Anglesey in North Wales. It’s safe to say we took everything except our furniture. The car was full to the brim. My husband’s casual analysis of the situation was “Where will the other child go when we have another one?” (Er excuse me – the other one? I’m still working on this one and have my hands pretty full here sweetheart so don’t be getting any ideas!)

I should probably mention at this point that there isn’t a baby gadget out there that we don’t own. I would never have believed such a small person needs so much stuff, but between our own approach of haphazardly buying anything anyone has ever recommended to us for a baby in the hope that it will get him to sleep, eat or not cry (or a combination of those things) and my mum’s approach of doing the same and then some more, Mothercare has pretty much thrown up in our house. So when I say the car was full to the brim, I mean it was like babyland on steroids in there (because what’s the point in having all this crap if you don’t take it everywhere with you).

Bottle making machine, bottles, play gym, changing mat, a whole suitcase of varying temperature outfits (thank you British weather), room thermometer, sleep pods, baby monitors, sterilising machine, bath toys, books, blankets, toys, sling, pram, Calpol, teething rings, teddies, beach tent, lotions and potions, enough nappies and wipes to sink the Titanic etc etc get the picture (this could go on for a while). And this was us packing ‘lightly’ (basically means we didn’t bring the night light, beanbag, bumbo chair or furniture).

Comparatively, I brought one small overnight case for myself which had a random jumble of half-matched clothes and shoes thrown in (pre-baby me would be horrified my outfits weren’t coordinated with an array of accessories), toiletries, sunglasses and (don’t ask me why) a book. 

I have no idea why I thought I needed a book. I didn’t even crack a page. It turns out a holiday with a baby is just the same as every other day except you’re not at home and you eat ice cream and your body weight in foods you don’t let yourself have at home (this does not bode well for the summer beach body project which has thus far failed to get off the ground).

It’s not the end of the world that the car was full – that’s the beauty of a staycation, right? That you can just throw everyting in. Except that this amount of crap just stresses me out. I had to go into full military, PR planning, control freak mode to remember everything. There were checklists for the checklists!

On the positive side, we had a really lovely time so the military hysterics were worth it and it was a good practice run for our holiday abroad over the summer as it taught me that we definitely do not need to take all this stuff, which is a good job as we would need about six suitcases. 

The reason I know this? We didn’t use most of it. We packed it up, put it in the car, drove it there, unloaded it, unpacked it, carried half of it around for three days, repacked it, reloaded it, drove it back, reunloaded it and reunpacked it. What a waste of time!

The one thing we didn’t bring that we needed? Absolutely bugger all! 

It’s worth it for a clean house

My house is clean and tidy for the first time in 17 weeks. 

Yes I’ve finally cracked how to achieve cleanliness of my son, myself and my house simultaneously: pay someone to do it for you.

We caved and got a cleaner. I’d love to tell you it’s bliss and I am so relieved to have a clean house once more, and I am, I really am, but my OCD is on overdrive.

Every little sound that came from the room she was in and I wanted to leap up and grab whatever she was cleaning from her. I had to resist the urge to say ‘this is how I do it’ multiple times. 

At one point there was a crash from upstairs and I nearly yelled: “you’d better not have broken anything!” I restrained myself only because my husband was giving me the look – the one that says ‘darling that’s not socially acceptable and calm the fuck down’.

My husband reasoned with me that I drop and break things all the time. That’s different though really – it’s my house!!

The ironic thing is that we spent hours tidying for the impending arrival of the cleaner and then afterwards had to rearrange everything she had moved back to where they belonged (OCD – it goes half an inch to the left of where she put it – how did she not realise that when she put it down? Arghhhhhh!) so some might say we could have used that time to clean ourselves. 

Especially when you then factor in the post cleaning inspection that I did of every room. To be fair she had done a pretty good job mostly but she did seem to spend an awfully long time dusting random things that really didn’t need it.

And I could have lived without the awkward initial meeting where she turned up and just hovered in the doorway until I suggested I showed her around. And I could probably do without having to tell her next week not to bother dusting the toaster but it’s worth it for a clean house. Repeat it’s worth it for a clean house. It’s worth it for a clean house.

I really need to chill out.