Friday, March 7, 2008

Travels with my children (2)... thank heavens for my breasts

Yesterday I breastfed Bella about one hundred times. This is a calculated estimate, not a wild exaggeration. Honestly, I don’t think she left the breast for longer than about 20 minutes at a time all day. This is not entirely her fault, I should say. It is quite true that my answer to pretty much any sign of discomfort with my babies has always been to try the boob. She has had a very snotty cold for nearly a week now and as a result I have found myself sofa- or sling-bound with boobs on permanent stand by. I simply cannot imagine how people cope with a sick baby if they are not breastfeeding.

And the same goes for so many other aspects of attachment/continuum parenting. My trip back to the UK, alone with two children, would have been hell were it not for breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping and baby-led weaning. Actually it simply would not have been possible. As it was I had one baby on my back, one toddler walking, her own small rucksack on her back, and holding on to the strap of one small wheely suitcase, while my hands were occupied pulling said suitcase and carrying my hand bag (you know what I mean – I don’t actually have a hand bag, but my shoulder bag whatnot thing filled with all sorts of things I should have left behind – really, I carried four copies of the Guardian Weekly and a thick novel around with me for three and a half weeks. I finally read the papers in an airport delay on the way home, and the novel is waiting by my bed) … oh and an inflatable booster seat thing that folds up small and straps onto chairs to act as high chair. I know that was a long sentence - it was a long trip.

This was all perfectly manageable, provided Jemima was in a good mood, until the moment we stepped inside the underground/train/bus/plane and started to overheat because I had cunningly dressed all of us in most of our clothes so that I could fill the suitcase with eco-disposable nappies that you can’t buy in most corner shops. Inevitably we would emerge from the underground/train/bus/plane with ten items of clothing tied around waists, onto suitcase handles, hanging out of the sling pockets, and me wearing Jemima’s rucksack on my front. Depending on the length of the walk then necessary to reach our final destination all our layers would then have to be put back on again… arrrggghhhh just writing about it exhausts me.

I suppose had we been able to afford to hire a car, take regular taxis, not cared about eco-nappies and not have friends and family strewn inconveniently across the entire country then this trip would have been a little easier. But had we needed to add travel cot, bottles, formula, a buggy, jars of baby food, baby toys and dummies (the latter two replaced by having fun looking out of sling, and my boobs, respectively)… to the equation, well I would never have left the house. The fact that Bella could eat whatever we were eating, could feed whenever she was hungry wherever we happened to be, and we could all share one bed made the whole thing possible, and more likely to be invited back.

So was it worth it? Absolutely. We got to spend lots of time with nearly all members of both our families, and my two friends with their new(ish) babies. I could not manage the expat existence without these regular trips home, so I would happily do the whole thing again tomorrow. Even Jemima agreed. I asked her after collapsing onto the tube one evening. She was exhausted and sobbing because she had had to carry her rucksack for five minutes more than she wanted because I simply did not have a hand free to take it from her.

“Jemima? Do you enjoy these trips back to England to see family or are they just too tiring?”

“I enjoy it!” she sobbed dramatically, “I really enjoy it!” I made sure the following day was a quiet one.

There were a few hiccups along the way. After arriving at Bangkok airport the night we left home, where we were due to wait for three hours before boarding our 12 hour over night flight to London, Jemima managed to shut her hand in the lift door. The doors jammed half open, her hand acting as an indestructible wedge. She screamed for what felt like three minutes before I could finally slide the doors to release her hand. Her fingers were squashed flat a la Tom and Jerry but no harm was done. Having no arms free to lift her, as I was pushing an overloaded luggage trolley, I had to convince her to walk with me to the lounge where I was planning to plead my way in.

Have you ever been to Bangkok airport? It is huge. So we walked side by side, Jemima howling with pain and exhaustion (it was 11pm), stopping for cuddles along the way, for about 15 minutes, while helpful passers by threw me disapproving looks because I obviously did not love my children very much to be putting them through all this. Her tragic condition did secure us a nice sofa and all we could eat for free in the first class lounge though. Good old Thai airways, BA would never stoop so low. Of course this brought us more unwelcome peers from above the laptops of some fifty be-suited business men. Apparently it is not customary to have to share your air mile privileges with a stressed out mother changing her baby’s nappy on the plush velvet sofa while her unruly toddler spills cake and hot milk all over the carpet. We blagged our way in on the way back as well :-).

I also nearly lost Jemima in the London Underground at one heart stopping moment. She simply stepped out of the doors at the wrong stop and luckily they stayed open longer than usual so that I could grab her and pull her back in. I cannot think what I would have done otherwise. She had no name tag or mobile number on her and I had not even discussed with her what we would do if she lost me because that simply was not going to happen. Oh god… Having Bella on me meant that I could have easily jumped out with her of course. If she were in a buggy? You see? Slings are gold dust. I love them like other women love their shoes. So much so that I now have the updated Ergo, softer, cosier and cuddlier, in beautiful blue to add to my collection. Another reason going back to the UK was such a good idea.


Hana said...

God, thank God for someone else who does it! My Bean's been snuffling (and I suspect may be teething V EARLY) all week, and he's been literally 'glued' to me.

I can feel the withering rolled eyes of the anti-'on demand' brgade on me every time. But Hardy (by name and by nature) has been an adorable, distinctly upbeat little patient (a million nite time feeds aside) so we must be getting something right!

There are so many pros and cons to being a far-flung mother, I suppose one is being instantly skilled in 'seat of your pants' parenting.

Love your blog and the new Myspace club, I'm so chucking out all the nazi nanny books!

Get well soon Bella.

Georgie said...

Absolutely! Bella smiles and claps between hacking coughs! Gotta be done! Hope Hardy gets well soon and thanks so much for taking the time to respond!


JaneyV said...

Glad you're back. I missed my daily (ish) fix of Motherland. I have 3 kids and I've always found that their portability because we co-slept and the younger two at least were breast fed into their second year, made my life so much easier.

Re almost losing Jemima on the Underground; when I went to Washington DC with my kids in '04 I drilled my older 2 what to do if we got separated. The crowds were so scary I was terrified they'd be pushed out onto a platform without me. If we got separated stand still. I'd get off train at next station and go straight back. I pointed out the transport police and said it was OK to talk to them but NOBODY else. I think I frightened the bejaysus out of them so they never left my side.

On a completely separate point... do you mind if I put you on my blogroll?

Georgie said...

Hello! It means so much to me that you say you missed the blog! Thank you! I have taken note of your rules - I had thought of the stand still one but oh god, the thought of tiny Jemima standing there... don't even want to talk about it right now! I once wrote our mobile number all over her body on a very crowded beach in England! yes of course you can add me to your blog roll - should I know about your blog? I am so sorry if you have told me about it - how remiss of me! Can you remind me and I will check it out and add you to me?!

JaneyV said...

I don't think you'd have a clue about my blog! It's just one of those "day in the life" ones to keep those who are interested in the loop. I have this notion that I'd like to be a writer of Children's fiction. However I have little experience so I started the blog for writing practice really. I'm trying to figure out if it's what I want to do. I found your blog while I was clicking around the blogosphere looking for other writers - just researching how it's done really.

Feel free to drop in any time if you fancy it ( but please don't feel under any obligation. And if you don't mind I'll just keep visiting Motherland from time to time!


Georgie said...

Oh lovely I will check it out and I hope you find it therapeutic and that it helps you get a feel for your future potential as a children's writer! How exciting! And yes please do keep popping in! I enjoy your comments!

Nicola said...

I have just found your blog via IWMM and I love it! Will be a regular reader in future.

Georgie said...

Thank you for visiting, commenting and coming back! Means a lot to me - feel free to share with your friends!