America is a particular place. Air-con, malls, cars, shops, intimidating food portions, fat people and highways running through the city. Why on earth did I think that was just a stereotype? Combine this realisation with a heat wave, being without my partner for four out of seven days, our trip to the Children’s Hospital and hating Boston, Mummy moi was not a happy bunyana. Boston: B****cks to your paltry ‘history’, give me Europe any day of the week. Ahem…
So spurred on by the online community assuring the ease with which I’d travel with a three month old compared with an 18 month old, not having travelled anywhere with any baby, we packed our newly purchased trunk (big enough for the baby to sleep in if needed – weird criterion for a suitcase but that’s where we’d got to, dib dib). In it I put every item of quite considerable baby gubbins we own, a handful of mummy’s undies and off we went. The breast feeding pillow that by day two I’d decided was the embodiment of my ‘parenting confidence’ even had its own rucksack… Little Miss was an absolute ANGEL on the flight. British Airways were great, fast-tracking us and taking care of us on the flight. My partner’s colleague helped entertain Her Nibs on the daytime flight and through some desperate eye-contact / telepathy she suckled for most of the descent. Phew, big lezzo mummy cried with relief as we stepped off the plane that no mishap or sore ears had occurred. Does the good news end there? Kind of… After a positive start to the holiday with a trip to the baseball, the heatwave and realities of mothering in a foreign, oh and did I mention horrible, city unfolded.
The travel sterilizer failed us big time. It left a residue that I’d refuse and Babes wasn’t having it. The mini-bar + heatwave soured the pumped breastmilk. Oh no. So, like it or lump it we switched from combination feeding to breast only. Thank god Left Breast and Right Breast, two creatures quite different in temperament, were up to it. Heroes, frankly, as any mother’s worst fear is not being able to feed baby. Not that she was very interested in feeding – but I wouldn’t want to feed in extremes of heat / air con either.
Then came the afternoon she vomited bloody mucus. Oh did that strike living fear into Big Brave Travelling Mama. Temporarily becalmed by the level head of my (antithetical) partner and a quick google ‘It’s fine if it only happens once’, I persevered. Baby got through the night. Wishing to please my partner: “Why don’t you go to the aquarium?” we crossed town. Quick nappy change before we went in and lo and behold, clear mucus in her nappy. Already on edge from the vomit, BBTM dashed back across town like a bat out of hell running down old women in shopping malls and mentally composing conversations with airlines, insurance companies and emergency services to GET US HOME. Teary tantrum later (again my other half was calmer about the symptoms) we got to Boston Children’s Hospital.
Little One at this point perks up (to be fair, she never actually seemed off kilter in her behaviour). Attendant Doctor declares in his loudest have-a-nice-day-American: “What’s up, this baby looks like a million bucks??” And, actually, she did. She smiled through her examination, she even smiled having her temperature taken rectally. And there was my resplendently gorgeous, and as it turns out, tough, little girl boggling on the examination table without a care in the world and loving the attention. So with her vitals checked and all-clear our holiday continued.
Still very much on edge, I was thrilled to leave Boston behind in our all-American hire car. As a much needed respite we stayed with family friends next. Baby woke from her car journey to five children all clamouring to be in her face. Again, she smiled and took it in her stride. Most of the visit was spent with our ‘supermom’ friend telling me what a ‘first time mom’ I was being. Fine, I can take it. But it doesn’t exactly take the angst away. Without our little break in a real home (replete with baby weighing scales to reassure me that she was actually getting some milk) I wouldn’t have coped with New York. It did at least, have something about it as a place. A very lucky, wonderful Airbnb apartment made for an almost pleasurable stay; but boy is the Empire State building a scary place at dusk with the world and his dog up there and a baby in a sling. Every disaster scenario under the sun coursed through my mind.
Thoroughly exhausted in every respect we returned on the red eye flight. The lady next to us liked the look of Baby so much I concluded she actually wanted to eat her; still, they were supportive of our parenting needs and I ceased resenting them for booking a bulkhead seat and NOT having a baby. Back in Blighty, met by my dad, the sibilant rasp of whispered discussions betwixt two fraught parents abated; my rubbed raw nerves relaxed as we took in the now temperate climate… Ah home. An hour later my partner was asleep face down on the living room floor, and my heart-rate was almost normal. I glanced at my little travelling Babes, two weeks’ older than when we’d left. Calmly propped up on the sofa like a pig in poo she had her TV face on and was watching the Davis Cup. What a laid back girl she’d been in the face of my meltdown.
I’d fundamentally misconceived the question. It wasn’t a case of ‘would the baby handle the trip’, it was whether I would handle the trip. I hung in there, but boy did it test my mettle. I certainly wouldn’t do it again for America.