February 11, 2019

First Days in Thailand

I didn't think I'd be heading back to Asia so soon, but here we are. We've spent a good portion of the summer apart. C was working full time, and Saoirse and I traveled in France for three weeks. So it feels somewhat strange to be back together, especially in such a busy time. C and I haven't had any time together alone in a long while, but here we are, running through London trying to get paperwork done, rummaging through boxes of stuff to find our summer clothes, and packing away our winter gear from Scotland. Two days, two duffelbags packed, and a newly walking baby falling down the stairs (she's fine, but I still shiver thinking about it), we are ready to go.

This is our second long haul flight with Saoirse. She was six weeks old when we came back from Ecuador, and neither of us could believe our luck – she slept the whole way, only waking up to nurse, and wasn't jet-lagged at all. This time is different. She's one, she can walk, and we've made a mistake thinking taking a flight at night meant she would fall asleep... right ? After we've raced through Moscow airport to catch our connecting flight, I try to settle her down against me. No such luck. The next ten hours are, for lack of another word, hell. She will only settle down when nursing, and jumps in and out of sleep crying every fifteen minutes. We are THESE parents, annoying everybody else with our screaming child. I feel guilty she's so unwell. Turns out, it wasn't just the flight – she's actually sick.

We arrive in Phuket dehydrated and seriously sleep deprived. Get in a taxi, find your accommodation, discover the accommodation doesn't check in until later, find a coffee shop to sit in whilst your overtired child screams at you non-stop. We look at each other with a smile that says : I got you. I'm exhausted. I got you still. We check in. As soon as we drop our bags she is throwing up.
I undress us both, carry her into the shower. I let warm water run over both of us, holding her close, telling her it will be okay. I'm on 30h without sleep.

The rest of the day is spent trying to beat jet lag. It's hard to do when your baby falls asleep on you every five minutes. Asia is just as I remember : swallowing. The heat, the colours, the bustling vehicles rushing through the streets. We take her to the swimming pool and suddenly it hits me – we've landed in our new country. Hello, Thaïland.

Moving countries was never going to be easy, but we know how to do it by now, or at least we think we do. In Ecuador the first house we visited was the one. We checked out from our hotel early, laughing at our luck. This time, it takes four days of traveling back and forth, spending a fortune on cabs because we're not ready to rent a bike yet, and nothing feels right. On the third evening I break down. In bed, Saoirse sleeps whilst I cry and C tries to comfort me. I feel so vulnerable, almost in danger. I feel the adrenaline of being in this new place all alone. A knot in my stomach making me feel like a small child, afraid of everything.

But then the knot resolves itself – it always does. We find a house. It's on a lovely quiet street, painted green, and it's huge and open and beautiful. That same day, we have gorgeous pad thai for lunch. I accidentally buy 2 kilos of mangosteen. Saoirse plays in the pool and laughs. I breastfeed her on a motorbike. This place is crazy and hard and full of life, nothing like what I thought, and everything we need.

Those first days in Thailand were hectic, and after all of this, we finally find time to go to the beach. She eats handfuls of sand, swims in the waves with me, and lets strangers cuddle her in the back of a local bus. She is already home here. We on the other hand, are still navigating the codes of this place, and after that, we'll be doing so heavily sunburnt. Worth it.

December 19, 2018

France, Summer

Our summer trip to France is short – just ten days to see my whole family before we go abroad again, another year away from them. We stay at my mum for a few days, and Saoirse gets spoiled silly. She had taken a few steps before, but whilst at my mum's she starts properly walking. I never expected to feel this proud. Then we go see my sister. I always love staying in her house in the forest. She's moving this autumn, so it will be the last time I'll see this place, which makes it extra special. She's found a beautiful new house, next to the river, in a building that used to be an old school. In the morning light the place looks magical, and I am so happy for her. We have such different lives, but I have started to dream about living in a place like this one day – remote and quiet. As per tradition, we spend days by the river, having picnics and letting Saoirse nap in the shade.

We go on a camping trip, with Saoirse's uncles and cousins. I carry her up a big hill and her cousin makes her laugh the whole time we walk. She eats pasta cooked on a camping stove and stick her hands in the black soil, then smears it all over her food. She plays and plays as the light goes down and collapses in a small tent for the night. On the peaks all around us, the storm rages, and lightning lights up the wall of the tent, but our little camp is spared from the rain. In the morning she eats breakfast wrapped in my sleeping bag, watching the sun rise through the clouds. Her cousins dote on her so much, and it warms my heart that she gets to be with them here, even if she doesn't see them often.

Coming back to this place is somehow strange. Two years ago I was standing in this exact spot, watching the sun set over the blue mountains. I was about to leave for Ecuador. Three months later I was pregnant. Now I stand here with my one year old daughter, who has been taking her first steps this week. Next monday we will be moving to Asia. Life is weirder and more magical than any book I've ever read. I have a strange, strenuous relationship with this place. It's where I grew up. It's where I loved and grieved. It's where I ran away from. I find myself coming back and finding both pain and healing in the morning mist, the sharp sun on the rocks, the fresh taste of the river.

We go back to London and our last week is spent packing, running errands and going into town for paperwork. It's not the easiest week. As we are both packing in different rooms Saoirse escapes our sight and falls down the stairs. She's unharmed, but I feel upset for a long time. Then she has to get four vaccines and has a high fiver and a sore tummy. She has to come with us to embassies for paperwork and naps on the train home. With walking came a sudden need to be closer to me. She will happily walk by herself from room to room, but as soon as I put her down she will grab my leg and howl until I pick her up again. She's kissing everybody these days, putting her tiny arms around your neck and pressing her lips firmly on your face, with a “mmmmm” sound. It's really cute. Then finally it's the night before we leave, the house is empty, and all our stuff is packed. A year ago we came back from Ecuador and since then we haven't really lived anywhere for long – but now we're going to have a homebase again, and we are so ready.

December 15, 2018

Saoirse is One

To my first child, on her first birthday

Today you are one year old. It feels like mere minutes since the moment you were born into my hands, and I lifted you to my chest and gazed upon your face for the first time. You entered this world quietly, peacefully, with your eyes wide open. A year ago you made me a mother, and you changed our lives forever.

Everyday I watch you grow and everyday I learn about the value of time and presence. I can't believe how much you've grown this year, and I know it will only get faster. In many ways you're not my little baby anymore, the one I could carry on one arm and who slept on my chest all day. Now you would rather ride on your daddy's shoulders, and you never stay still long enough for me to kiss you. But sometimes you still sleep on my chest, and it is the most precious thing I know. It breaks my heart to know that the tiny person you were is already gone, but I am so looking forward to who you are becoming.

You are born on the day of Lughnasa. Half way between the Summer Solstice and the Spring Equinox. On this day, many years ago, people gathered to honor the bounty of Summer and prepare for the Harvest. Lugh was the God of the Sun, Master of Culture and Arts. It is said he had many gifts, and could charm people with his words and his presence. I can see why you chose to be born on his Day.

Thank you for being my child. You have taught me more about life in a year of being your Mama than I learnt on my own in 27 years before you. You teach me to be the best person, lover and parent I can be. You inspire me to do better and grow. I have no words to say how grateful I am that I get to share this life with you and your Papa in this crazy world. I feel so lucky that you chose to be born to us.

May I be worthy of that choice. May I be always a growing presence around you, the Mother you need me to be. May I find the treasures of patience, kindness and joy that you see in me. May I protect you and uplift you always.

Happy 1st birthday, my love. May we bring you as much joy as you bring us.

Photos are from our summer trip to France.