SMOTHERING: DANCES WITH DIAPERS

Published December 31, 2017

When Bomb Disposal Experts in the Middle East approach a device that could potentially kill them, they’re so calm and composed that their heart rate drops. Thousands of miles in the stratosphere above, and in a completely different time zone, parents travelling with a 10-kilo, squirmy hand-carry approach the ever-shrinking lavatory for a diaper change with the same caution. One wrong move, and things could get really ugly, really fast.

There is a time and place for everything — everything except diaper explosions. Those can happen anywhere. As Finagle’s law so pessimistically states: “Anything that can go wrong, will — at the worst possible moment.”

And so it did in the form of a diaper explosion mid-air on a plane half way to the golden, sandy beaches of Zakynthos. Every parent’s dream vacation and worst nightmare.

Finding your own measure of bravery and resilience when travelling with a baby

But that flight I was prepared. Months of rigorous training and intense pressure tests conditioned me to keep my cool and not break into a sweat. Or perhaps it was just Xanax taking effect. All the same, I’d been in similar situations before, such as the time I used a bobby pin to unscrew the cover and replace the batteries in his Fisher Price all the while comforting a wailing toddler.

So yes I could do this, I told myself. And I did. I was out and alive in 10 minutes, head held high and expecting an applause and a cheer from neighbouring passengers — until a flight attendant politely asked me to return to me seat. Agreed that not all heroes wear capes and fly economy, but they’d still like some appreciation now and then. Just saying.

But this hero and her sidekick — I’m all for women empowerment here — needed a break. Like Tolkien’s Bilbo, we set out in search of an adventure, only at a much slower pace, with far more luggage and hoping for no adventures. As it were, packing for a trip with a baby was enough of an adventure for us.

Once upon a time, I used to travel in style, a jacket on my arm and a misspelt-named latte in my hand. Now I’m trying to pull off spit-stained tees, a messy bun all the while sporting an excellent display of the variety of food remains the airline had served. For the rest of the trip, it’s gravity-defying Cheerios and Fruit Loops clinging on to my dress. Perfect on-the-go snack. A hard look to pull off but I’d like to believe I nailed it.

There are two rules for packing for a trip with a baby:

Rule No. 1: Pack everything.

Rule No. 2: Improvise because you clearly didn’t pack everything.

And so we tried to fit the entire nursery in a suitcase. I managed to throw in two outfits and a toothbrush for myself hoping my friends wouldn’t notice (or would be polite enough not to point out — let’s be realistic here) that I’d been switching between the same two outfits for the entire two-week trip. Just in case the universe wanted to fling Finagle and Murphy in my path again, I stuffed in a reversible jacket. Once upon a time, I used to travel in style, a jacket on my arm and a misspelt-named latte in my hand. Now I’m trying to pull off spit-stained tees, and a messy bun, all the while sporting an excellent display of the variety of food the airline had served. For the rest of the trip, it’s gravity-defying Cheerios and Fruit Loops clinging on to my dress. Perfect on-the-go snack. A hard look to pull off but I’d like to believe I nailed it.

The rest of the luggage space was taken up by a month’s supply of diapers even though we were travelling for a fortnight. But like I said, I’d like to be prepared. On the way back, the leftover stock provided excellent padding for fragile items, shampoo bottles and delicate souvenirs. I’m willing to bet that diapers will soon take the packaging industry by storm, replacing bubble wrap and packing peanuts. Despite butter-fingered airport personnel playing catch with our bags, the items within were unscathed.

It was once we arrived at our destination that it truly started to feel like a vacation. For one, I didn’t get anxiety attacks thinking of the trail of chocolate Hansel would leave behind on white duvets. There’s no service like daily room service and fresh linen. Now that’s something AirBnb hosts have yet to match.

The rest of our days were spent feeding, changing and putting a stubborn baby to sleep but with more sand and sun and less stress. To parents travelling with a little dictator-in-the-making, I’d say do it before the toddler tantrums show up. Apart from the free candy that they’re too young to eat, babies are excellent ice-breakers and tourists and locals alike become sweet and helpful when they see one. Some places even let you cut in lines. So pack that nursery and book a ticket, because adventure awaits.

Published in Dawn, EOS, December 31st, 2017

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