My baby spent the first week of its existence in Lagos, Nigeria. The two of us (which admittedly at the time I thought was the one of me, though I knew there was a chance I had company) ran around between meetings, sat in traffic jams, went out at night and had drinks by the lagoon and suppers with friends.
One of my first dinners out with the proto-baby was spent sitting on a plank on a street corner eating meat that had been grilled over an oil drum. I hazard it wasn’t a meal that would have met the world’s highest hygiene standards, but hey, we had fun, I’m still here and it tasted good.
I got home to London, found out I was pregnant the next day and—between feeling pretty mindblown—felt extremely happy that we’d had that time in Lagos.
Of the things I’d like to pass on to the baby, as and when it emerges some time in November, this preparedness to travel and to explore is high on the list — I want us all to go places together.
This is why, of all the gratuitous commentary you get as a pregnant woman, “Oh, you won’t travel when the baby’s born,” is my all-time worst. “You’ll never sleep again.” is a distant second compared with that, though perhaps equally constructive.
It’s intriguing, this being told you won’t travel when the baby is born. It begs the question of how many of us spend long hours on planes with babies in the next seat, how we could have sworn that our friends with babies went on—gasp—holiday last year, and don’t I remember going traveling with my parents when I was small? Has some special ban been introduced since I became pregnant and there’s now a global freeze on the movement of mothers and juniors? Please tell me if so.
I am more than prepared to accept a measure (a fat measure) of change in my travel style when I am taking a child around too. I know you need to bring a load of stuff with you. I know it’ll be no more carry on only for me and plenty more time waiting at the carousel for tenth case of baby stuff to finally arrive. I know what would once have seemed an easy weekend away will bear more resemblance to The Odyssey. I know we’ll have to weigh up the merits of long, complex, multi-stop and free form journeys against the siren call of an all inclusive resort with a kid’s club. I know there is a high probability I will one day find myself on a rollercoaster despite a long-held loathing for rides. I know there’ll be times when I am covered in baby sick at the very back of a plane and I’ll be longing for my pre-parenthood patented flight cocktail of Dramamine, white wine and a silly film.
We’ll do less flying and more trains, boats and cars. We’ll do fewer late nights and far more early mornings. We’ll do closer to home while the the kid gets big enough for far away.
Some of my happiest memories of being little are of being somewhere new: the mad transgression of pancakes for breakfast in America, riding a glass elevator on the outside of a skyscraper in Singapore, spending stormy nights in the ball pond on the ferry to Hebridean islands. The mothers in my acquaintance whose parenting style I admire the most are the ones who just crack on, paying no mind to the questionable wisdom that woman + baby = no travel ever again. There’s my friend who took her toddler on a girls’ trip to Europe from Vietnam; my friend whose baby has been hiking (on her dad’s back) in Iceland; my cousin who took her three kids out of school and around the world.
Often I get noise from people who don’t know me, my life, or my family about the future full of impossibilities. But more often I am surrounded by photos and stories that show how travel with a baby, while different, is possible and wonderful: those are the examples I’ll be following.