There’s nothing like a spontaneous holiday – hopping in the car and driving somewhere, looking up hotels en route and hoping they are still serving dinner when you get there (or you can find the local Chinese takeaway before it closes if they are not – but I digress).
Some say that such spontaneity is impossible once you have a baby as they require so much clobber. Well “Pah!” I say to that. If your sense of adventure is still intact then anything is possible with a bit of ingenuity and a Tesco Extra.
The Saturday began quite normally with brunch with friends and some errands, then a drive to Richmond to retrieve Fred’s debit card which had somehow got left behind the bar the night before (the details of how this occurred were a little hazy – something about giving the bar staff his debit card to get them to stop hassling him). Then as we were there, we thought we might take a stroll through Richmond Park.
Elphie was grouchy in the car and a right pain as I tried to turn around in a road that I found was too narrow for a three point turn and instead required reversal all the way down it and into a main road. With screaming baby as an added challenge. We finally got within ten metres of the gates of the park and Elphie falls asleep. Thus creating the ultimate parental dilemma of whether to ever risk doing anything that might waken a sleeping baby.
So we decided to make the most of it and to extend our journey to Box Hill. I had always wanted to visit it after its reference in Emma and so with the grub definitely asleep, this was the perfect time for the journey.
After the walk, it was about 6 o’clock and Fred had a flash of inspiration that we should make the most of a free weekend and stay round there – find a hotel and have a mini adventure. This plan seemed crazy since all we had in the car were the clothes we were in, even Elphie’s spare set had already been utilised due to an earlier leak. But where there is a will there is a Tesco Extra to provide you with all you could need for a night away at a reasonable price (if you ignore the price of iphone chargers and swimwear for a hotel that turns out not to have a pool).
So after driving for half an hour in one direction as Fred researched hotels in amongst intermittent phone reception, we stopped in a 3G spot and I took up the search. After a few “fully booked” non-starters, we happened upon the hotel where Jonah and Liesl had got married some years ago – they had rooms and were only 40 mins away (mostly in the other direction but heigh ho), and most importantly there was a Tesco Extra en route – fabulous!
On the way, Elphie became fussy and irritable, as she often does in the car, and the renditions of Old Macdonald and Wind the Bobbin Up weren’t quite cutting it. As we negotiated Horsham, she became quiet and we inwardly gave a sigh of relief as she must have fallen asleep. That feeling lasted one minute until it was replaced by horror as we heard the sound of projectile vomiting erupting from the backseat then a pause and more vomiting and again more. Fred tried to mop her up with a muslin (they truly are magical) in transit and we discussed stopping in a lay-by but decided to drive the five minutes to Tescos which would have more amenities for dealing with the aftermath of whatever we were going to find in the back.
We arrived at Tescos and inspected the damage. Surprisingly it wasn’t too bad – one of her toys had taken most of the hit, leaving her clothes a bit wet and the carseat hit but not disastrously so (but it will be the third trip to the washing machine in as many weeks!). She was full of the joys of Spring – feeling that elation one can only get from feeling ill, throwing up and suddenly feeling better. Plus she got to sit in a supermarket trolley on one of the lie-down seats they have for babies now, which pleased her greatly. So not much clear up was required and we could hit Tescos for the essentials: baby grows, vests, nappies, cucumber for baby snacks, shirts for us, knickers, boxers, phone chargers, deodorant, toothpaste and don’t forget the toothbrush. We also bought swimwear for all of us which would have been an essential had the hotel we were going to actually had a pool. And the one thing I forgot which would have been useful was a hairbrush.
We thought the sickness might be car sickness initially, but when we got to the hotel, giving her a bit of my dinner prompted another bout. As did her night time feed, which made me more worried as she didn’t seem to be keeping anything down and had dry nappies, which is bad according to the internetz in case she gets dehydrated. I researched online but the most likely cause was gastroenteritis with little you can do about it beyond keeping her hydrated and letting it pass.
Without any particular scientific basis for it, my preferred treatment for all gastro-oriented ailments is to revert to exclusive breastfeeding. I don’t know if that’s because of my belief in the antibodies or the simplicity of breastmilk as a food or just because I know at least my milk isn’t tainted even if the rest of the world is a cesspit of germs and disease. I slightly worry that my milk production won’t rise to the occasion, but given my appetite when ill tends to be suppressed then it might make sense that there always seems to be enough for Elphie on these occasions.
My breastfeeding friend and yours, Dr Jack Newman, recently wrote on Facebook about antibodies and breastfeeding:
“Breastmilk contains antibodies that protect the baby against infection.
Actually breastmilk contains many immune factors, dozens in fact, which help to protect the baby against infection. Antibodies are just one of these factors. These factors act in many ways to protect the baby, but one important way is to form a barrier on the lining of the digestive tract and respiratory tract that prevents bacteria, viruses and fungi from entering into the baby’s body (anything inside the digestive tract or respiratory tract is considered outside the body). The vast majority of antibodies in the milk are called sIgA and make up part of this barrier; however these antibodies do not get absorbed into the baby’s bloodstream.
Some people who do not know what they are talking about will say that the antibodies cannot protect the baby except gut infections because they don’t get into the baby’s bloodstream. But obviously they don’t know how this barrier works. Is it not better to prevent the germs from getting into the baby in the first place rather than fight them off once they have invaded into the baby?”
And it seems to have worked with a whole 24 hours of no sickness, another bout of projectile vomiting on eating avocado but then peace when a less exciting diet of bread and bananas (part of the BRAT diet for gastrointestinal distress) and hopefully she’s now on the mend!
But a quiet night watching Shakespeare in Love while sipping a glass of wine and glancing at our daughter sleeping soundly in her cot it wasn’t. She didn’t fall asleep till around midnight, at which point we were too exhausted to watch a film so went to bed.
So not quite the carefree mini-breaks of our past, but still a getaway and sometimes just a little something to break from monotony is what you need. Perhaps next time it would be nice to have a little less vomit.