My baby hates the car. Like, seriously big time hates it. You know how new parents often talk about driving round and round the block in the wee hours just to get their baby to sleep? Not me. Not my baby. The drive home from the hospital went fine. They slept the whole way. But the second trip, a twenty minute drive to the beach for fish and chips, saw us pull over halfway and hurtle into a servo carpark in a mad panic to get the screaming baby out of the capsule and onto the breast quick quick quick. It was so bad that even a ten minute drive to a friend’s book launch took me half an hour, with an unscheduled tit stop (pit stop to breastfeed) three minutes into the drive. People told me to just ignore it or to turn up the music, but when your baby is crying so hard that they’re choking on their own tears and a migraine is thumping behind your left eye, pulling over is the only way to avoid you having a serious accident. My crowning glory was a 2.5 hour drive back from a relaxing midweek getaway in Kangaroo Valley which ended up taking me nine and a half hours to complete. I suppose people were probably a little surprised then when I announced that I was planning on leaving town and doing a six month road trip around Australia with my screaming baby.
Looking back now I don’t entirely remember the motivation behind it, but I think it was something to do with wanting to avoid winter. I also wasn’t feeling very chipper in those early weeks of motherhood, and whenever I’m down I plan a journey to cheer myself up. Plus my mum had always drilled into me that babies are easy and cheap to travel with, and to get as much done as possible before they turn two and the airlines start charging you two fares. My original plan was to get a bit of foam and stick it in the back of my Subaru Forester and just sleep in there. (Apparently the Subaru Forester is a lesbian mum car. After surveying Subaru Forester owners I can confirm this is true. It’s lucky I am a dyke because I did not know this when I bought it.) My stepdad suggested a rooftop tent instead, which sounded far more sensible, but when I went to the shop to buy one there was a problem with weight and roof capacity, and the next thing I knew I was buying a caravan instead. Not any ordinary boring old caravan, but a teeny tiny teardrop camper with more character than sense. What is a teardrop camper? It’s kind of like a two person tent on wheels, with a little kitchenette in the back. It was super cute, and in many ways it was all that I and a cute little baby could need. There was a double bed inside, with a tv (!) and two little cupboards for a few clothes and nappies and toys. In the kitchenette there was a water tank and a tap, boxes to hold cutlery and spices, a storage space for tins of food and plates, and a stereo. The sleeping space was upholstered in white with red buttons, so I got the outside painted to match, with giant red polkadots and plastic red roses entwined around the door.
The teardrop was absolutely adorable and absolutely awful. We took it on a trial run to a campsite on the Hawksbury, and I was terrified the whole drive there and the whole drive back that the baby would wake up and start screaming and that I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere to pull over with room for both the car and the caravan. At the campsite I discovered that the water had all leaked out of the tank and none of the lights worked. Also the mattress was so soft that breastfeeding while lying on my side in bed was impossible because I sank into a deep canyon, leaving my starving child high up on the edge of the ravine.
Back home, in a panic about the lily-whiteness of my child’s skin I caught the bus to a big camping shop, where I walked around for hours comparing awnings and annexes. I even managed to change a shitty nappy and do a mammoth breastfeed unnoticed, while sitting on an eskie in the fridge section. Thanks to baby wearing I then managed to somehow carry an awning, a fan, a lantern, and my baby back home again on the bus. I should have just taken my lesbian mum car. From the comfort of my breastfeeding armchair I then went online and found a camping chair with huge armrests (to make breastfeeding as comfortable as possible). I bought a little fold-up table so that I could position my dinner near my elbow and eat while breastfeeding. The caravan had come with a gas oven, so I figured on bad nights at least I could just shove something in there for dinner—at least that way I wouldn’t have to stir anything. I bought a really hefty shade tent for the beach and a nifty lantern that recharges from the ciggie lighter in the car. I bought two big plastic storage containers for our clothes, big water containers for the desert, pool noodles for when we got to the hot springs, and a first aid kit (I had some notion that now I was a mum I should have one of these). Then I drove my lesbian mum car to the mattress shop and bought a firmer mattress. I don’t remember how I did it, but somehow I managed to carry both the baby and a double mattress from my car, all the way up the street, and into my apartment block.
My very capable sister fitted the pull-out awning so we’d have shade over the door (which I festooned with pink and blue bunting). She fitted a fan inside, sealed the holes in the watertank, and discovered that the battery was flat, which was why the lights weren’t working. A friend of hers who understood electricity better than us fitted a new battery and helped me buy a solar panel to charge it when we weren’t near power. Somehow he blew up the tv in the sleeping cabin in the process. That’s ok. I’d rather read a book anyway. Then he couldn’t get the radio to work. But who wants to be that jerk at a campsite annoying everyone with her bad taste in music? I spent an entire stressful day trying to sort it all out while feeding and changing and soothing a little baby, and trying not to panic.