When packing for this trip, my Aunty Libby recently reminded me of my old motto: “Never pack for ‘just in case'”. It’s been a rule I’ve stuck to ruthlessly over the years, and it’s gotten me around the globe very well, though I have found myself occasionally longing for that extra frock or knitted cotton number that got axed on the final repack.
Also in previous overseas trips, Witty and I have packed with flippant disregard to our health. We have sometimes managed to get most of the immunisations, and at the 11th hour we’ve thrown in a pack of antibiotics from the fridge, but generally, we’ve winged it.
These days with young Atlas in tow, those old habits and that well-worn motto have been tossed out like yesterday’s trash. Today we are, ahem, ‘organised’. And we attribute this monumental change in packing attitude to ‘the Finn Effect’.
As it turns out, the Finn Effect has really found its place in our life.
The Finn effect meant, that for the 16 hour journey across the Pacific ocean, packing for’just in case’ hit the big-time. Just in case Finn cracked it, we had toys and ‘schnuggly blankets’. Just in case Finn cracked it and then Mama cracked a few vinos to calm the nerves, we had frozen breast milk and formula at the ready. Just in case Finn cracked through the nappies, we had multiple changes of clothes on board (for him and us). Just in case Finn’s crackin’ began to cause cracks in calm of the cabin clientele, Witty had 34 pairs of earplugs stuffed in his bag, ready to bung into to any passenger with a furrowed brow! Yup. We were ‘just in casing ‘the hell out of this. And to top it all off, we had the things we were sure we wouldn’t need: a thermometer, Bonjela teething goop, baby Panadol, and antihistamines and an epi-pen (Dad’s allergic to penicilin, Mama’s… idiopathic). We felt well pleased with ourselves, stepping up from our backpacking days to this parenting daze with relative organisation.
As it should be with ‘Just in case’ items, I’m happy to say we didn’t need nearly any of it! The flight was relatively free from drama. Finn slept through every ascent and decent, he tuned the air-hostesses with his charm, and no nappies cracked nor teeth cracked through.
I’m not gonna say I want to do a long-haul with an infant again any time soon. There were cracks, but let’s not blame it all on the baby. I mean, our son probably thinks we are the tyrants for making him sit in a dim, blue-lit tube with wild, white noise and a sea of stoned faces, staring at blue-grey boxes on the back of their seats… for what felt like half his life. But he made it and so did we. Buenos Aires, here we come!
I’d like to say that’s the end of this blog, but there’s another part to it; a lesson learned.
We landed on a hot tarmac, ploughed through the airport and taxi’d to our apartment in the late afternoon. Space. Bliss. I passed out, exhausted by the trip and an odd hit of hay fever. I woke late, around 10pm. Witty had been out fossicking for food, and come back with salad and beer. The brekky eggs we tasted on the plane had been terrible so we woofed down the salads but they barely touched the sides. And our barrio, Palermo Hollywood, was still quietly buzzing, late on a Sunday night. Witty had some cash and that’s all we needed, so with baby in pram, we took to the streets. I whacked on some lippy, fro’d the hair and locked the door with my bag behind me, free at last from lugging around all that unnecessary junk.
Within a few minutes we were in a swanky burger bar and I was clumsily translating the Spanish menu to Witty. The hayfever had gone but then I felt a strange ache up high in my tummy. Maybe reflux. We ordered, and then, as we cheers’d and took our first celebratory sips of cerveza, it hit me. The itch in my ear drums. The scratch in my throat. The prickling palms of my hands. I hadn’t been here in 4 years, yet suddenly, in an instant, I was back in the monster’s cage. Ms Anaphylaxis had returned.
Ms Anaphylaxis and me, we’ve had a hit and miss relationship over the years. It all started at a pre-wedding dinner party in Cambodia. My advice to you is: don’t try the deep-fried tarantula. Since that night, where she really got under my skin (and nearly killed me) I’ve tried to break it off with her through tests, diets, therapy.. and time. Yet curiously, while I’ve stopped eating tarantula completely, the bitch still comes back to bite me. And for no consistent reason. In the past 10 years she’s seen me hospitalised 7 times, but over time I’ve learned to tame her with drugs. Antihistamines are my weapon. The epi-pen is my life insurance policy. And it’s all about timing.
When I met Witty, it had been 2 years with no relapse. I thought, at last, my bitter relationship with this demon was over. Then there was one last horrid hurrah in East Timor, or so I’d hoped it was the last. Witty had cared for me there in our hotel room like a legend. There was a nurse down the hall. We had antihistamines and an epi-pen. He did all the right things, and was still forced to watch his woman morph into a purple, rashy blimp, in excruciating pain. Still, he had help at hand and never faltered. It was scary, but that was it. Done. Then, as time went by, we forgot all about it. Nothing in 4 years. I was sure love had cured me.
This was a new city with new circumstances, but we’d been here before, in this mess, together. This time, however, I’d misjudged my freedoms. The antihistamines and the epi-pen were in the bag… at home. And I was unarmed. We hurriedly threw some bills on the table for our uneaten food and hustled back to the house. The streets were calm and cool. I wheezed quietly as we pushed Finn in his pram along the cobble stoned streets. Bumping away and cooing, he had no idea how scared we both were.
Once we got home things went down the same way as they had in East Timor. I double dosed the antihistamines, Witty pulled out the epi-pen and pulled together taxi phone numbers and directions to the nearest hospital. I was on the floor, changing colour while Witty ran a bath to sooth my raised skin. If after 20 minutes, my throat didn’t improve, that epi-pen would’ve been in my thigh and we would have been in that car on our way to the hospital. As it happened, those little white pills did their work. I won’t go into the details but the reactions to the attack of Ms Anaphylaxis don’t end there- it’s an all night affair. And she kicked me while I was down. I was slammed by jetlag, baby-lag, and then with my body trying to kill me, I had to gorge on comatosing pills. Still, Witty took on care of me, and importantly, he took care of young Atlas.
I learned two important things from this episode.
One is that death is more real and life is more precious when you have a baby to keep alive. I have feared death before, but I’ve never valued my life more than I do now, knowing that my survival increases my son’s chances at life in this world.
The other is that Ms Anaphylaxis is still a part of our life and she ain’t going away just yet. But we are okay with that now. We realise it’s not over, and I’ve accepted that our love doesn’t conquer absolutely everything. So she can come back if she must, and we’ll be ready. Now we wander the streets of BA, the same happy trio. And tucked away in a nappy bag is a little white box of pills and an epi-pen.. for just in case.