The setting for our first holiday with Zee was Ju-Belloc, near Toulouse in France, our home for the week a stunning renovated farmhouse owned by our friend’s lovely auntie, who welcomed the four of us and our babies into her home for seven days of eating, drinking and generally disturbing the idyllic peace and tranquility of life in rural France.
Rewind three years and the four of us (along with ten other friends), spent a week in France doing all of the above minus the babies; our biggest concern was whether or not we had enough sun cream on and whose turn it was to get the next round of ice cold beers to drink by the pool.
It’s safe to say holidaying with a baby is rather a different experience altogether, suddenly a whole new world of questions and considerations opens up. Having never flown with my own baby before, I found myself wondering would he be frightened/in pain from the change in pressure/suddenly in need of an alarming nappy change upon take-off? Would we be the ones everyone glances at as you board, hoping you won’t be sitting next to them with your unpredictable little bundle in your arms? Well, none of these worries applied because Zee could not have been less fussed or more nonplussed at his first flying experience. He mainly slept whilst I peered at him in wonder. What about the three cartons and two bottles of emergency travel milk I’d packed? The pre-sterilised emergency dummy? The books and toys?
The whiskey and valium cocktail? JOKING.
I was over cautious, Zee overslept. H took it all in his stride.
Upon arrival at Ju-Belloc, we settled into holiday mode easily; the difference being that our wine drinking as the sun set was punctuated with cries over the monitors and trips upstairs to settle the babies. In the daytime when the sun shone, we lazed by the turquoise pool – mainly in the shade with the babies on their play mats, covered in factor 50 and wearing only nappies and we would take it in turns to have our place on the sunbeds for a snatched hour or two with a drink in hand.
By Wednesday we were fully relaxed into this holidaying with a baby malarkey; what it lacked in all day pool parties it made up for in watching the gorgeous babies playing together in their Baby Banz sunglasses and the dads being able to enjoy all that time with their boys away from the world of work. And just as I thought we’d nailed it and we should move to the South of France, renovate a farmhouse and idle our days away in sunny luxury (one G&T these days and I’m positively giddy), illness struck and things went from blissful to rather more stressful.
As I bathed Zee that night I notice a few spots on his skin, which I put down to a combination of a couple of mozzie bites and heat rash. But by 2am, when he was roasting hot and I was frantically running around searching for the thermometer, which I KNEW I’d packed (I hadn’t), we realised it was something more concerning than a couple of insect bites. And just to add to the trauma, at 4am when I was still trying to soothe Zee to sleep, I heard rustlings on the rooftop. I froze; the Velux window was wide open. What if a bird was trying to get in? No, wait! We were in the countryside! In France! It had to be a bat. A bat was going to swoop into the room and bite Zee. No wait! It would try and snatch Zee in its mouth and fly away with my beautiful baby boy. There was only one thing I could do; I had to somehow put Zee down without disturbing him, run into the bathroom, grab the pole to shut the window and stop the bat from entering. This was achieved but only after I’d bashed my head on the low ceiling’s old oak beams. Twice.
The next morning, with sanity but not Zee’s health restored, our hostess kindly arranged a doctor’s appointment and she joined us to help translate, saving us the embarrassment of a visit to the doctor with our basic GCSE French. ‘Il est poorly! Il est chaud! Il est spotty! Est-ce-qu’il y a une poste pres d’ici? Ou est la piscine? J’ai un frère, il est douze ans’ etc etc.
Zee was duly diagnosed with a viral infection of the mouth, hands and feet, and as his spots and blisters grew and spread, I spent a lot of time increasing my worry lines and we realised perhaps we weren’t *quite* as prepared as we thought. Turns out it’s helpful to know things like your baby’s NHS number and blood type in medical situations like this. And to have one of those E111 health cards and to have not left your only bottle of Calpol at the airport when rushing to get to the departure gate. The experience made me feel like H and I should have been issued with L plates on the day of Zee’s birth, and reminded me that when it comes down to it, we don’t really have any idea what we’re doing. But we’re doing our absolute level best and that’s the best we can do.
We have majorly lucked out with Zee; he is laid back and calm, and even when poorly he kept trying to smile through his tears and still allowed us to enjoy the rest of our holiday, to go out for a five course A La Carte lunch overlooking an emerald green lake; to have BBQ’s and dinners on the terrace and go browsing around quaint French villages in search of souvenirs. Out of his usual routine, he took to wanting to feed at 3, 4 and 5am most nights, but he did it with such a beaming smile it was kind of hard to say no.
So the top three things I have learnt from our first holiday in the sun with our son? Pack a thermometer, don’t sweat the small stuff and Hendrick’s is the nicest gin in all the land. Roll on the next holiday and a visit to duty free for the aforementioned gin. It’s ever so calming in times of panic.