The biggest surprise I found about Motherhood, in those early days when V1 was still tiny, wasn’t that she hated sleep. Because she did hate sleep. Gosh. Anyway, it was that my introduction to Motherhood felt strangely isolating. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way given that I joined an NCT group of lovely new mummies and my cousin (read more about her here) was a wonderful source of constant comfort and wisdom.
But when you’re all alone with your little baby, and your husband is at work, you realise that you’re just trying to function on so little sleep (those moments you brush your teeth with your face cream and put your house keys in the freezer) and survive through the day. You feel frightened by it all – the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a fragile human life on your own, the fact that you’ve not had a shower in days or that you feel completely chained to your baby who needs to breastfeed every 1.5-2 hours. It’s those doubts, thoughts and perhaps regrets that no one voices for fear of being judged, for fear of not being seen to be a good mum.
Enough about that, I’m writing more about my solo tripping not so much on guilt tripping thank you very much.
As God is good, kind and all-knowing in His Wisdom, I am fortunate enough to have a close Malaysian friend who I’ve known for ages since I first started in highschool. Coincidentally, we stayed good friends throughout the years and at that time, she had just given birth a few months before me. She lives in Edinburgh which is not too far away (compared to Malaysia!) and not near enough either (can’t exactly pop next door for a cuppa).
Both our babies barely slept the first 3 months. That commonality alone bonded us even further through Whatsapp (oh wonders of technology) as we were in throes of sleep deprived hell. We counted ourselves lucky if we even had a stretch of 3 hours sleep in every 24 hours! When she told me she was traveling to Manchester to spend time with her husband (who was working there at that point), I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her.
At first she was sceptical and tried to talk me out of it. “There’s really nothing to do here” she said. “All I’ll be doing is breastfeeding and being tired” and I said “Well, isn’t it better for us to be breastfeeding TOGETHER and being tired TOGETHER?”. I think that probably won her over (yeah okay didn’t really have a choice) – I organised to take the train from London to Manchester on a weekday and stay in the nearby chain hotel for 2 nights. My husband was a little harder to convince and I can’t for the life of me remember what transpired between us that eventually led him to agree to this trip. That’s sleep deprivation for you. I tried asking him about it, but his memory has been wiped too.
V1, in the Car Seat/Buggy on the Tube and on the Train to Manchester
The train ride was fine, I remember changing V1 on a moving train and feeling like a pro. I remember having sushi at the shopping mall with Ms T, both of us trying to eat with one hand whilst the other hand held the baby, thinking to myself, this is nice. Look at her over there, suffering right beside me. In man-speak, imagine fighting a war next to your brother-in-arms. Yeah, something like that, but on NO SLEEP. In the evenings before I went back to the hotel, I would pack my dinner and bid her good night (and good luck!). In the morning, we would meet again for another day of zombie-fied wandering around together, breastfeeding, changing nappies, trying to put the babies down for their naps and chatting. I can’t for the life of me remember what we chatted about. Life plans maybe? haha!
I travelled back to London in the evening, with an overtired baby crying her lungs out in the tube as I hurriedly tried to get home. Solo tripping is not easy as the buck stops with you. I feel that it helps you develop the mental toughness to deal with your baby. The trip gave me the independence I craved and increased my confidence in my own ability as a mum and it had the added bonus of bringing me closer to Ms T.
Fast forward to 2015 and we’re on maternity leave about the same time again, the coincidence was almost too good to be true. I might have danced a little jig when I found out Ms T was preggers when I was preggers too. This time around I took the train to Edinburgh when V2 was 2 months old. We had 2 kids to worry about instead of just 1 but we had the benefit of lowered expectations! V1 attended nursery during the weekdays and my husband was happy to look after her in the evening after work and drop her off in the morning.
The train ride was about 4.5 hours from London Kings Cross and I booked a bed and breakfast just 5 minutes walk away from Ms T’s house. It was an old fashioned bed and breakfast, pretty quiet (before we showed up!) and breakfast was not bad at all. If you’re interested, here’s the link to the BnB website. In the mornings, I would wake up (like I had a choice), breastfeed V2, have some breakfast and head out for a walk with V2 until Ms T messages me to meet up. I would then walk to her apartment and we would decide where to go or what to do for the day. There was a day where I had time to take the bus to the city and walk around the castle with V2 in the buggy. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city and it felt rather liberating to be able to wander around alone with V2.
Clockwise from Top Left: Baby Massage Class with Ms T & TJ, Admiring the Scottish Monument, Wandering Around the Edinburgh Castle, Appreciating (?) Art in the Scottish National Gallery
Considering Solo Tripping with your baby who is 3 months of under? Follow this link for Part II.