Please excuse this rather strange picture of Ava squinting and sticking her tongue out. It might not show her face in any great detail, but it’s a good portrayal of where we spent the better part of the last week.
In the background in this shot is the idyllic hamlet of Prince Albert in the Klein Karoo, where the three of us whiled away five long days and nights in a self-catering cottage on a goat-and-sheep-and-vegetable farm to celebrate the long weekend.
I wish I could say that we relaxed and slept and chilled, and came back feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world (or, at least, the next three months until our December holiday).
But of course we didn’t. We drove for almost six hours in our little car, at least one of which Ava spent howling (from now on, I’m sitting in the back with her for long car trips – car sickness be damned – anything is better than sitting in the passenger seat, listening to her bellowing with distress without being able to do anything to help – at least if I’m in the back she’s able to see me) in a tiny space.
We got to our little cottage after what felt like days. We unpacked, put up the camping cot, changed and fed the baby, and hit the dusty, wide streets of the town. We bought boerewors from the butcher, farm bread from a deli, and chutney and olives from the farmers whose land we were staying on. We wandered among the amazing vegetable garden, and picked handfuls of crisp, deep-red-veined beetroot leaves. We put Ava to sleep, lit a braai fire, and proceeded to work our way through three bottles of red wine that we’d brought with us. Let it be noted that my half of this was a bottle and a half minus a glass more than I’ve drunk in 14 months.
We fell into bed.
We were woken up at 3am by Ava crying. This is highly unusual. We put her back to sleep. We were woken at 5am by Ava crying, more urgently this time. Again, highly unusual. Again we put her back to sleep. For about 20 minutes.
The rest of the day went by in a headache-y blur. It is an indication of how I was feeling that for breakfast I had an array of junk food that would make Bridget Jones proud (egg-and-cheese jaffle, coffee, lemonade, a pancake, olives and a candy apple). I bought Ava eyedrops from the pharmacy – the dry air in the Karoo made her eyes quite itchy and sore – and then – BIG MISTAKE – walked out. I didn’t turn around and remember that we’d left the Panado baby syrup (that we were given at our baby shower and have only ever used once before) at home, so I didn’t buy another bottle.
That night, Ava cried. She took forever to go to sleep, and when she did, it was never for very long. She was up at 2am and 5am and then, on Sunday, didn’t go down for a nap until after lunch. She wasn’t very hungry, didn’t want to play, didn’t want to be pushed in her pram, didn’t even want to see the angora goats or the turkeys! This was all so unlike her that I had an epiphany (almost exactly 24 hours too late) – I stuck my finger in her mouth and, lo, felt two sharp little teeth poking out of her bottom gum. Teeth! Her very own teeth! Sometime in the last 24 hours, she’d gone and sprouted her own little shards of tooth. No wonder she’d been so impossible.
Of course, now the one pharmacy in the whole town was closed (being a Sunday) and we didn’t have anything to give her to soothe her. We needed to take the teething relief up a level – the little teething ring she was chewing on didn’t seem to be helping much. As a last resort, we stuck her in the carrier on Dylan and went on a koppie hike – which is where the picture was taken. It put her to sleep, which was great, except that it meant that when we got back, she’d slept and so kept us awake with her crying all afternoon. Poor thing – she didn’t have a fever at least, but she was obviously really struggling. She’s usually not very sensitive – she doesn’t mind bright lights or loud noises or even eye drops in her eyes – she seems to take life pretty much in her stride (or, more accurately, in her wobble). But she really didn’t like those teeth pushing themselves out.
So, in the absence of any other remedy (we really were unprepared), and at the end of our collective wits, we dunked her dummy in a glass of wine and gave it to her to suck. It soothed her a lot, and I felt her body relax almost immediately. She went to sleep not long after. This only a day after I’d cringed inwardly at the garagiste wine farmer telling us about parents sticking their babies’ dummies in their wine glasses while at a tasting to get them to calm down – I was like, ‘that’s insane! I’d NEVER give my baby wine!’. It just goes to show – when you’re desperate, you’ll try pretty much anything. We made ourselves feel better by telling each other a few times that gripe water and rescue remedy are predominantly alcohol anyway.
The next day we bought Panado syrup, which she really hates the taste of (let’s be honest, none of us would choose the sickly minty stuff over wine, would we?), but which worked much better than the wine, without putting her to sleep, so at least I didn’t feel like I was drugging her.
And so, just in time for us to leave, Ava cheered up and calmed down. By which time we were exhausted and emotionally wrung out, neither of us having had any practice with a ‘difficult’ or niggly baby before, really.
The things I learned from this ‘holiday’ are as follows.
- Always be prepared. Pack medicine.
- Don’t drink too much when you have a baby. It’s not worth the tiredness or the headache.
- Don’t go on a road trip with a teething baby. In fact, don’t go anywhere with a teething baby. Just stay at home and sleep while you can.
- It’s really easy to shower with a baby – almost easier than bathing her. And Ava really liked it. So at least she appreciated one thing about her first ever holiday.
- Good cheese and olives and chutney and kudu salami and farm bread and fresh vegetables and an incredible, tart, chewy fruit roll go a very, very long way to making up for a baby’s grumpiness. So if you’re going to take a teething baby anywhere, make sure it’s somewhere with incredible fresh produce, and you’ll emerge (almost) unscathed.