Flightmares, time differences, and a little holiday

The flight-mares have begun. In fact, they begun quite some time ago. Taking a 13-month old to the other side of the world in a plane filled with other people who probably just want to get some sleep fills me with dread. So we’re having a practice run next week.

Well, we’re not going all the way to England, and we’re not getting on a plane just to experience the sheer hell of travelling with a mobile baby, but we are having a bit of a holiday-trial.

Earlier this year, in a moment of careless disregard for our financial situation, I booked us a ridiculously over-priced holiday. There were lots of reasons to do this, and apart from the idea of putting the Little Mister on a plane, the only reason against booking the trip was that neither of us really have much of an income at the moment. (But, look, I’m doing a little work like this here.)

So, we’re off to Australia. Despite living here in Godzone for seven years, I’ve never been, and I thought it was probably time to get there before we return to England in January. Tony has three sisters on the Gold Coast, and so what better place to take ourselves? The Little Mister will get to meet his aunties, uncles and cousins, and we will get to have a good old-fashioned family catch up. We’re staying in luxury (or so it appears from the brochure) and I can satisfy my craving for genuinely warm weather, a splash about in the sea and a very nice hotel pool (with cute separate kiddy pool) to make up for arriving in London in the dark depths of winter.

The holiday too was a surprise father’s day “gift” from the Little Mister to his dad, so of course, there didn’t really need to be any other justification for it. (Not only was it Tony’s first father’s day, but the present also takes care of a rather large birthday in a couple of weeks time.)

So, super holiday in the sun, here we come. But wait, it’s not like it used to be. Throw beach dresses and hat in suitcase, drink some wines on the plane, and spend five days behaving like there’s nothing in the world to trouble the soul. That kind of holiday, I fear, is long gone.

The only trip we’ve done with the Little Mister was up to Auckland when he was not even four months old. Of course he was a dream on the plane – any hint of a grimace and I fed him. It’s different now. This boy has places to go. How on earth is he going to sit on my lap for four hours?

It’s not only the confined space that worries me. It’s the timing of it all. Our flight is at 7am. Way to start the day, then, by waking up my sleeping child, bundling him into a taxi before dawn breaks, driving for less than ten minutes, and then expecting him to fall back to sleep at the airport for a bit. That’s before we even board. I have worries too about take off and landing. Will giving him a bottle help his ears? What if he doesn’t want one?

Then there’s the time difference. Should I start trying to make him go to bed later each night now – we still have ten days to go? And once we are there, will he sleep anyway given it’ll be a strange place? Recently he’s not been so keen on new, unfamiliar places….

At least its only a few hours on the plane, the time difference isn’t too bad, and we’re only away for five days. I’m sure he’ll be a trooper. It’ll be  our first overseas holiday as a family of three, and we might not relax in the way that we used to while abroad, but I’m sure we will have an extra special time because this is how life is now. We’ll just try to forget the plane journey very quickly. And after all, it is only the practice run.

Leaving Godzone

THE BALANCE has been paid, the tickets are ours, and we’re off to England. Not yet, because of course we are no-way-near ready, but in a month not far away.

So, we will leave Godzone, for six months, six years, forever – we don’t know. We will go to a place where children don’t walk to school. Where parents must pass through security and metal detectors to get into their child’s classroom. Where teachers can’t hug their pupils. We will go to a place where the Little Mister will be surrounded by cousins, great aunties and uncles, family. Europe will be a hop skip and jump away, with its castles, ruins, history and stories. We will leave our big house and garden from where we can walk to the shops, the swings, the city, the sea, the zoo. We will leave this place as the barbecues of summer still sizzle, and we will wrap the Little Mister in merino and down jackets and shield his face from the biting cold that is the English winter. We will, next year, decorate a tree while the ground outside is frosty, the nights come early, and the fairy lights twinkle from late afternoon. We will visit Christmas markets, go to see the windows and lights in town, and later make a snowman with a big orange carrot for a nose.

We will spend the next few months running around trying to get ready to say goodbye. We will cry when we hug and kiss those we love here. We will pack boxes while he sleeps, scrub window panes while he plays, and call packing companies and letting agents when he is distracted. We will worry about money, about jobs, about our new life. We will worry whether we are doing the right thing. We are doing it all for the Little Mister.

Who, by the way, had his passport photo taken. This, my darling Little Mister, looks more to me like a photo of you about to start school at four. When did you get so grown up?

Having It All

AFTER years of working late, putting extra pressure on myself to do better, secretly trying to outdo my colleagues and calculating which moves would help me get ahead – I’ve given it all up. It’s been two weeks since I worked my last shift on the newsdesk, two weeks since I logged in, two weeks since I agonised over what would make the front page, two weeks since I sat around a table at a meeting, and two weeks since I went in to the office.

I’ve not shared stories with workmates about the weekend, I’ve not worn my court shoes, I’ve not joined in any group email banter laughing about some aspect of our job, and I’ve not lowered my voice while making a cup of tea and gossiping with another journo.

Since the Little Mister was four months old, I’ve only been working two days a week. But by resigning, I’ve given up something more than the paychecks.

Of course I agonised over quitting. I don’t quit. After years of manouevring, I was finally moving along the path I had planned, and I was making my way along it nicely. Of course, I thought before he was born, I could have it all.

When he was four months and I went back to the office, it hit us all hard. For two days a week, he went on hunger strike. Every week. He screamed at Tony. A lot. His weight kept dropping until he nearly fell of the chart and Plunket made us keep going back for weigh ins. He started waking every two hours through the night, my hungry baby.

My entire week was consumed by trying to express enough milk to leave for him. We all got more and more tired and stressed. But it never felt like we weren’t coping. We were all, I still believe, getting so much out of it.

Tony was able, twice a week, to look after his four month old son completely on his own. He got him to eat (eventually), he got him to nap, he bathed him, played with him, put him to sleep, sang songs with him, shared precious cuddles, and was the best dad in the world.

He became the Little Mister’s favourite person. Our little boy was so lucky to get this amazing one-on-one time – and they learnt so much about each other while I wasn’t there. I got to keep on moving along that work path I’d been carving out, and I loved it. Even though I was exhausted, I so enjoyed those two days of being among adults in that other world.

Still, on those mornings before work, I had to perform a feat that surpassed winning the Krypton Factor just to make it on time. Planning ahead and taking packed lunch and dinner to the office had never been so hard as in these months when we seemed to have no time to cook, or eat – unless it was takeaway or toast. I would try desperately to feed the Little Mister up before I left incase he decided to go without for the next nine hours. His naps were carefully orchestrated so he’d be due a very long one when Tony took over.

Tony would get home (or meet me at work) at a speed faster than lightning and each week we performed the miracle of getting out of the door by 12.36pm. There was the odd stretch of the truth that ensured he had Friday afternoon off, we called in favours, played sympathy cards, and did whatever it took for me to get to work without us putting the Little Mister in daycare.

I fed him in the work car park, in the health nurse’s room, in the empty office on our floor because I was running out of time to get the newslist done. Tony walked around and around Wellington with him so he would stop crying and sleep through his hunger. I spent the shift planning when I’d get a chance to express, carried sterilised equipment round in my handbag, always made sure the unused fridge was plugged in, and was careful to hold my bag upright in the taxi home. I experienced infections, discomfort, pain that only a working, breastfeeding woman can know.

Finally, logistically, it got too hard. If we didn’t want to do daycare, and if Tony was to keep studying and needing those working hours, we couldn’t keep on. Even when the Little Mister finally realised formula would fill him up in a way his shattered mama was getting less and less able to do, even when he started sleeping a little better, we couldn’t keep on with this life.

I don’t feel like I’ve quit wanting it all. Maybe right now my definition of “it all” has changed. In these two weeks, he’s suddenly gone down to one wake up at night. He’s started crawling. He’s lengthened his naps to two decent stints. We’re in our routine, seven days a week. I’m not checking work emails on my phone while feeding him at night. I’m not glued to the headlines at what also seems to be storytime most nights. Is it making a difference?

I love my new working week, which is spent doing my very best for the Little Mister. I do miss my old working week, but when he’s a little older, I think we will find a way to marry the two. Somehow.

I have given up what I’d worked for. But part of that is because we’ve decided to move to London and be with our family there so they can share these special years with us.

I no longer believe you can have it all, at least not the “all” I once wanted. The “all” has now shifted – and I’m still not quite sure what it is. When I figure that out, maybe then I’ll figure out a way of having something close to it.

Party Planning

WE ARE off to a first birthday next Sunday. It’s the first one, the first party for one of Milin’s baby friends. And it’s got me thinking about when our own Little Mister reaches his first birthday. What shall we do?

It’s more than four months away and he won’t remember it, but I feel like it’s terribly important that we get it right. I want to celebrate. I want to make him laugh, and smile, and spend a day being incredibly happy as everything is going his way. Granted, he spends most days laughing, smiling, and being incredibly happy – but surely on his birthday I can manage to edge things up a bit? Whether it’s because he gets to play with wrapping paper (which I’m guessing he’ll love because he loves chewing newspaper), or because he gets sung silly songs to (which he already loves), or because he picks up on the atmosphere that something special is happening around him – it’s terribly important. (To me.)

I want to make the Little Mister happy every day, but on that day at the end of this year I want to try even harder. And, going back to that other thing, I want to celebrate. We will have made it to one year. Phew.

New Year’s Eve. How lovely it is to look forward to it now.

So, the Little Mister’s first birthday is already occupying my thoughts. What shall we do? Where? Who shall come? What about the invites? It wasn’t so long ago planning like this took on a life of its own and became all consuming. That was for our wedding. So is it too much? For a little boy who is just going to be one and will never know the lengths we went to? Of course not.

 

Come to think of it, we could just get the Little Mister a new stainless steel bowl for his birthday. This one from the kitchen is his current favourite toy. It’s a teething aide, musical drum and mirror all in one.

On the other end of the toy scale – we scored this with our Fly Buys points – before deciding to move back to London. Of course we can’t take it with us. In the meantime, we’ve just started putting the Little Mister in it this week. He loves being wheeled around. I can’t believe he’s already big enough for it.

 

A Spanner Like Flu

WHILE I spent most of the day laid up on the couch and under the weather, the Little Mister hung out with my mum. And I realised there’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate your mum.

I am rarely sick, and despite fighting it, I had no choice today but to curl up under the blanket and rest my sneezing, aching, coughing self. The Little Mister looked over at me with a confused stare from time to time as he wondered why I wasn’t playing. Most of the time though, he was having fun being distracted by mum. Which made me wonder how on earth mums without family to help them out when they are sick look after their babies. Not only did mum look after Milin all day, but she looked after me too 🙂

It also was one of those days which made me realise, we are of course doing the right thing by going back to London. Tony and I muddle on, we make do, and we figure things out most of the time. But throw a spanner like flu in the works and it gets too tough with just us.

I have spent much of the week since handing in my notice questioning whether we are making the right move. The enormity of it is dawning on me. What shall we do with the house? What if we don’t find jobs? How will I cope without my amazing new mummy friends? Isn’t London going to be tough with a baby? Will we miss too much our lifestyle here?

And yes, it probably will be really, really hard. But we’ve made our decision, and as I lay on the couch today I felt certain it was for the right reasons.