Kerry McLean: Why my holiday worries and woes did not spoil our first foreign trip
This day, 13 years ago, my husband Ralph and I were in the midst of final preparations for our first trip away to foreign climes with our eldest. My firstborn was just six months old at the time and the furthest we had been with her was to Lisburn to visit my in-laws, so it was more than a little daunting to think about the almost five-hour plane journey that lay ahead of us.
I remember that day before our trip so clearly, packing the bags while wondering if it was too late to change my mind and say I didn't want to go. I was worried about my baby getting too hot in the sun or too cold in the pool, about her ears popping during the flight and most of all about being away from my mother in case my daughter developed a rash or caught a bug and my mum wouldn't be there to tell me if it was serious or not, like my own walking, talking medical encyclopaedia.
I was still very new to the whole parenthood malarkey and I always liked to have a second opinion on hand from someone who had been there, done that and was more than entitled to wear the T-shirt. Just before going to bed that night, the worry became too much and I burst into tears, telling my other half that I thought we were making a big mistake and that we'd be better just staying at home instead.
That poor man spent the next two hours talking me round, reassuring me that our girl would be fine and that I just had to trust my maternal instincts. Plus, he said, we have half a chemist shop with us if anything happens. He was right. I had paid for extra luggage so that I could bring mountains of nappies and nappy cream, bottles and an entire sterilising unit, medicine, suntan lotions, bug repellent, plasters, antiseptic wipes... the list was endless. I had also spent a small fortune on the most adorable little outfits for her (the firstborn is always the most expensive. No hand-me-downs for the leader of the pack!) and, having been convinced that all would be well and wanting to see her dressed up to the nines, I agreed to go.
Looking back on those family photos now, I'm so glad that my husband talked me round. It was such a happy holiday, even though I had a bit of a disaster, with only three outfits to wear over the seven days we were away. I discovered when we arrived that while I had packed piles of clothes for my daughter to ensure that she would be fine whatever the weather threw at us, I had somehow forgotten to bring my own holiday wardrobe for the week. I had left my gear folded up on my dressing table and ready to be packed but I'd been so distracted the night before, I'd forgotten to put them in our suitcase. I had the clothes I'd travelled in, a swimming costume and a sundress I'd thrown in my luggage and two T-shirts kindly donated by my husband from his holiday wear.
We had a great trip but when we arrived at the airport to travel back to Belfast, we were given the news that thanks to a fault with the aircraft, we had a nine-hour wait (it turned out to be 11 hours in the end) before we could make our return journey. Those horrible hours in the airport, trying to look after a baby, when we were all hot and knackered, with people fighting over the few available seats and finding it impossible to get information about when we'd get home have always stayed with me.
But I think I had it easy compared to those families pictured in the news this week, stuck at airports around the world, not knowing how they'll get back to the UK. My heart goes out to them and to those here whose holidays never even got off the ground. What should have been a stress-free week away in the sunshine has turned into a nightmare for many and it seems so very unfair that they miss out on the happy memories they've worked so hard and paid so much for.
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