At the end of The Boyfriend’s week off I decided that we all needed a break. The three of us had never had a trip away together – we had been away a couple of times with my family but never just The Boyfriend, The Baby and me. The last time The Boyfriend and I had been away together was the weekend we found out that I was pregnant. We had gone to Bournemouth, where I lived for a while, and so I thought it would be very lovely if our first trip away as a family was back to Bournemouth. Plus I could catch up with friends and introduce them to The Baby. Perfect!
I should have known the weekend wasn’t going to be quite so perfect when it took me nearly two hours the night before to pack. The Boyfriend got his stuff together in less than five minutes (2 t-shirts, boxers, socks, deodorant). I got my stuff together in…a relatively short space of time (ish). The Baby’s stuff, however, was a different story altogether.
Even though we were, thankfully, out of the stage of exploding mustard-yellow nappies that defied gravity and soaked The Baby up to the armpits, requiring a quick bath and a full change of clothes, I still packed three outfits for each day. Well, you just never know, do you?
We had booked a hotel for the weekend, so without access to a kitchen for washing bowls, spoons, bottles, storing fresh food, or sterilising bottles, I packed 8 spoons, 4 bottles, 4 cartons of baby milk, and 10 jars of stage 1 baby food. Well, you just never know, do you?
Along with about a hundred bibs, all her feeding stuff took up a bag by itself. By the time I’d got together all her nappies, wipes, bath-milk, moisturising lotion, towels, sleep-suits, toys, books, dummies, sterilising solution, and teethers, we had 4 bags to take. Plus the buggy. Would the suspension on my car take this?
Clearly the days of throwing a couple of dresses, a pair of jeans, a couple of tops, and a make-up bag into a little suitcase and skipping out the door were long gone. Actually, this has never happened. The above is what I would pack for a weekend away, before going back ten minutes later and doubling up on everything. Well, you just never know, do you?
We arrived at our hotel after a 5 hour journey, which thankfully had not resembled the horrors that had been flying through my imagination (no vomiting, no leaking nappies, no blood-curdling screams, no dummies used as missiles). They had provided us with a travel cot, and although I had packed a cot sheet and sleeping bag for The Baby, I knew that the cot would only be used as a towel rail / clothes horse / toy box. Unfortunately we only had a double bed, not a king. I readied myself for the inevitable elbow in the face during the night.
I attempted to give The Baby some tea – a vegetable medley from a jar. It was not a success. After eating home-prepared mashed, not pureed, food for a few weeks (we early weaned with mashed food as a. she was a big girl and constantly hungry, and b. she had more teeth than most 12-month-olds), she struggled to understand what to do with the almost soup-like fluorescing orange mush I was shovelling into her mouth. Her bib, clothes, my jeans, and the carpet saw more of that jar of food than The Baby did. We had another 5 meals to go over the weekend – we needed to find a supermarket in the morning.
We booked ourselves in for a late meal in the hotel restaurant, because, we reasoned, The Baby will be asleep by then and we will be able to eat a meal in peace. Even at the time I could hear hysterical laughter in my head.
What were we thinking?!
Of course she wasn’t asleep! The Baby has always been a very sensitive little thing, and new surroundings unnerve and upset her. After 2 hours of the inevitable nerve-shredding screaming and crying she fell asleep, and I waited for the local authorities to knock on our door. People must think we are murdering her from the noises she emits.
We put The Baby in her carrier, got freshened up and headed downstairs to dinner. She didn’t murmur, didn’t flinch, didn’t even open an eye all the way down the corridor and down a flight of stairs. She must be absolutely shattered, I thought, as I stepped on a creaky floorboard. And another, and another. And then she woke. Damn you, you stupid old hotel.
Having endured a rather embarrassing struggle with accents while trying to order 2 glasses of house red from a very haughty French waiter, we then spent the rest of the meal as we always had: passing The Baby back and forth between us, and suffering mild stitch from rocking her and bouncing her around while trying to consume massive forkfuls of food before it got stone cold. She attracted a lot of attention, as always, some due to her big blue eyes, most due to the squeals that resemble those of a velociraptor, echoing around the restaurant.
We couldn’t face dessert and scarpered back to our room before anyone complained that we had ruined their peaceful meal.
The three of us cuddled up in bed and The Boyfriend had the worst night’s sleep he had had in months. For me, it was pretty normal. The Baby woke countless times to cry, scream, attempt to feed, wriggle around, throw her dummy across the bed only to want it back seconds later, and at 5.50am The Boyfriend and I decided to get up.
There is one thing to be said for getting up so early in a morning; you can fit plenty into the day. After an unsuccessful breakfast of “porridge” from a jar (it looked more like milk that had stood out for a few days), we headed off into town. It was barely 9am. Amazing, I thought, a whole day outside; sea air and plenty of walking will have The Baby asleep in no time.
We walked through the pretty gardens, around town, down to the sea, back into town and went to get a coffee. The Baby hadn’t slept. After a surprisingly relaxed and scream-free coffee, we walked around town, through the gardens, back to the sea, and went to get lunch. The Baby hadn’t slept.
After lunch, in which we resorted to trying to get The Baby to eat whatever she was able to from our plates, as the stage 2 jars were equally as runny as the stage 1s except they contained tiny bits of pasta perfect for choking on, The Boyfriend and I needed to go back to the hotel for a rest. The Baby hadn’t slept.
I eventually managed to get her to sleep after a lot of cuddling and cajoling. The walking and the sea air had worked their magic on me and I slept too. After an hour we went back into town. We walked and walked and The Baby didn’t sleep.
That evening she fell asleep much quicker and was much more settled. The Boyfriend and I decided to get fish and chips from the chippy over the road and eat in our room. We sat in almost total darkness, with the TV on mute, shushing each other as we rustled the fish and chip papers, and texting our conversation to each other as neither of us are accomplished lip-readers.
By comparison, the last time we had stayed in a hotel in Bournemouth, we had had an Italian meal out, shared a bottle of wine and good conversation, followed by far too many vodkas with a couple of my friends. Interestingly, however, the night after that I felt so horrendously ill that our meal at Gary Rhodes’s restaurant in Mudeford was cut embarrassingly short ( we left less than an hour after arriving), and I was back in bed before 8pm. I had no idea at that time that I was even pregnant (I presumed I had picked up some bug at the hospital I work at), let alone how much life was about to change.
That night The Baby woke 4 times either needing her dummy or claiming to need a breast-feed. The Boyfriend was completely oblivious to this, exclaiming on waking how good she was for sleeping so well all night. Had The Baby not being lying between us at this point, he would have had an elbow in the eye.
It suddenly dawned on me that the reason The Baby slept so well when she was with The Boyfriend wasn’t that she actually slept any better. It was that he slept better than I did. Every wriggle, every turn, every murmur from The Baby woke me, and in turn I woke her. Not so with The Boyfriend. Unless she was actually crying, he was blissfully, peacefully, soporifically unaware of her presence. How lovely that must be.
After another difficult breakfast of runny mush and another lovely walk around town, and no more sleep for The Baby, we met for lunch with some friends. It was good to catch up and (attempt) to have conversations that didn’t involve comparing notes on sleep patterns, weaning, feeding, or basic child development. Although it was, admittedly, quite difficult to think of things to say outside of these areas. And The Baby didn’t sleep.
The drive home was almost as easy as the drive there, except I was much more tired and therefore developed a nasty case of driving-Tourettes. Thank goodness The Baby isn’t learning to talk yet. She managed an hour’s sleep that whole day.
Two weeks after our weekend away and The Baby’s sleep was still not settled. But you know how the rest of that story goes.