Date night

When Elphie was first born and having her official visits from everyone, a few foolish souls offered to babysit her if we wanted a night on the town sans baby or rather sans risk of baby meltdown. Unfortunately for Anna we decided to take her up on the offer for our anniversary.

Initially we were going to go out near our flat and Anna & Gwilym were going to come round to ours to babysit Elphie. But the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed for their summer holiday so I decided on a more cunning plan which was to go to a restaurant near Anna & Gwilym’s flat and bring Elphie there. So I dutifully booked the restaurant – a great Italian trattoria which we had been to before where you have no choice in the 10+ courses you are given
(unless you are a veggie or celiac or something proper like that). All was prepared for my first night or any time really without Elphie.

Then I got doubts. Laurie, who had provided the original restaurant recommendation to us, had been there recently and said we’d be lucky to leave in under 3.5 hours – was that too long to leave her? Should I book a more standard restaurant where the meal would be more likely to be 2 hours? Was 6 weeks too early to leave a baby especially as she was premature so really only 2 weeks adjusted? Would she fret and only be consolable by me? Would I miss her too much?

Fred essentially told me to stop worrying so much – we would be 5 minutes from their flat should Elphie become ill or desperately need us and her needs were pretty straightforward at this age – feed me, change me, wind me, play with me; she had no particular preference on who did these as long as they were done in a timely manner. Plus Jocelyn would be down and had also declared her willingness to get involved in the babysitting action. As they said – three adults would be dedicating their attention to the task of babysitting; she would be fine! Fred didn’t want us to have a lesser meal just because of some unwarranted maternal guilt – and he was right.

The night dawned and as is our want we were a bit behind schedule having decided to feed her before leaving and being a bit delayed getting back from our six week checks at the doctors (we got a clean bill of health despite the tantrum Elphie had during hers – top tip, should have fed her immediately before so she was fully sated on that front and didn’t have to deal with hunger, nakedness and being manhandled all at the same time). I had been obsessively pumping to make sure she’d have enough milk – I sent her with 540ml and an emergency bottle of formula; as Fred kept saying, half a litre really should be enough!

We took everything with us just in case. The moses basket came along for the ride so Elphie would have somewhere normal to sleep; the breastfeeding pillow so she’d have something familiar to be fed from; the sling to put her in if she got super cranky. And we went to dinner!

The meal was absolutely fantastic – course after course of delicious food; from the tempura vegetables, to the scallops, razor clams and chilli prawns, to the truffle oil linguine, the suckling pig (carefully overlooking the last suckling pig adventure), the peach course (one whole peach) and a decent bottle of red of which I indulged myself with a whole two glasses. Fred and managed to discuss a range of topics beyond the usual work or baby. It was a great anniversary meal.

I missed Elphie though. Jocelyn sated my need for updates via the occasional text message – an early meltdown had eventually been identified as being nappy related not food; she’d had a long snooze while they ate dinner; and then started a feeding frenzy that lasted until we got back. She was “happy as Larry” as Jocelyn said.

I shed a few tears when I got a whiff of her smell from my arm (still an hormone-ridden crazy person it seems). And lost patience waiting for the bill for half an hour – at this point we were almost at the 4 hour mark of absence and I couldn’t stand it any more so abandoned Fred to pay the bill while I trotted through town to be reunited with my daughter.

I returned to find a very peaceful flat with a content baby being fed by Gwilym. She didn’t seem to be particularly aware of my absence or return confirming that any fretting was purely on my side.

One interesting outcome of the babysitting was being able to monitor how much she actually drank of an evening. Often I need to supplement breastfeeding with a bottle and I wondered if my milk supplies were just too low at the end of the day. Between the hours of 10.20pm and 11.30pm, Elphie quaffed a massive 280ml of milk, that was then supplemented by another 60ml at 1am before she would settle. Given expressing gives me around 100ml of milk from a breast if I am lucky, and even allowing for the fact that babies are more efficient at withdrawing milk than pumps, this suggests to me that the problem isn’t of undersupply but one of her insatiable appetite in the evening. So I should stop being hard on myself and feeling like a failure when I give up and give her the bottle of expressed milk.

What would I do differently if we were to have another date night before she turns 18?

  • Perhaps be more organised so she could be fed and have a bit more settling time at the destination (for my benefit rather than hers).
  • Have one glass of wine rather than two – a 125ml glass of wine is 1.5 units of alcohol and will take 3 hours to leave the bloodstream, so two glasses needs at least 6 hours and I allowed 8 hours in case I was underestimating the size of the glasses, preventing me from breastfeeding till after 3am. Had I just had one glass then I could have breastfed instead of giving her the 60ml bottle which would have been better for her as I think she wanted a bit more than 60ml (she was still quite grouchy). Plus it made my breasts hugely engorged and leak everywhere until I did a mass pumping session at 5am.
  • Ask for the bill earlier or just leave earlier – me getting twitchy to get back to her put a bit of a downer on the end of the meal.
  • Worry less! She was in fabulous hands, probably getting more attention than she would have done being with me and there seem to have been no long term effects of the desertion on Elphie or Anna, Gwilym or Jocelyn!
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