Taking A Baby On A Hen-Do
First up; just to clarify here that my toddler son wasn’t dragged around Manchester city central clad in a pink feather boa and cowgirl hat, sinking a vodka and coke through a penis straw. The title of this piece may paint a certain, worrying image but I can promise everything was above board.
So, as anyone who follows me on social media/here will know, Milo is still breastfed at nearly two years old. He feeds to sleep and as a child who doesn’t enjoy shutting his eyes for longer than it takes to blink, I’m happy to dreamfeed him on his merry way if that’s what it takes for all of us to not be driven insane.
A few months ago it was announced that my sister-in-law’s (to be) hen do would be up in Manchester; a two hour train ride away from our home in Milton Keynes and would involve staying overnight. When it was first discussed, I presumed I’d be done feeding by then and that Milo could be left with grandparents and there’d be no bother. However, as the date drew closer, I realised nothing much had changed. He was still very much needing me for comfort, for milk and still co-sleeping.
Back when I was pregnant, my other half and I would chat about how we’d make time to spend nights away together and still be a couple. ‘We won’t be those parents who never trust leaving their baby with someone else!’ we’d tell each other; the thought of risque trips to fancy hotels and mini breaks abroad on a slideshow behind our eyes. Half of that statement still stands; we totally trust leaving Milo with someone else. We know we’re lucky enough to have family and friends at our disposal who Milo adores and who would do an amazing job at making sure he didn’t make a trampoline out of knives/set himself on fire while we were off having a good time, we know that.
However; it just hasn’t happened.
So, thanks to co-sleeping, needing my nipples and (more recently, we’re hoping it’s a short-lived phase) being exceptionally clingy, even to the point I can’t venture further than his eye line; I decided to organise taking Milo with me. I spoke with my lovely sister in law first to check I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes/being a fun sponge/killing the vibe entirely and set about looking for a an apartment or hotel large enough to house me, one of my friends, Milo and my parents who’d be looking after him.
The day didn’t start off great, and it almost set the tone for the weekend. We decided to book a disabled car from my house to the train station so we could keep Milo up in his pram, thus not lugging a car seat. The cab firm sent a Corsa. I then called a black cab company who, 40 minutes later after promising a 10 minute turn around, got us to the station late, meaning my pre-booked 1st class seats were null and void. I stumped up a further £200 for standard tickets and tried not to punch myself in the face.
When we arrived in Manchester, our hotel was in the perfect location. Three minutes at most from the station and central enough that I could pop back if need be to feed Milo while out on the town. When we arrived at The Place Apart Hotel, the lobby smelled out of this world and the glass partitions showed off huge vases and decadent furniture in the nearby conference rooms and dining halls. All appeared great.
That was until, we went upstairs. The Place Apart Hotel is made up of separate apartments within a former warehouse. In the photos, there’s lots of bare brick, quirky design and the promise of lots of space. When we ventured inside where we were to stay however, I was less than impressed with the decor; it didn’t even meet Premier Inn standards. The kettle didn’t work, the surround to the fridge was peeling and considering we’d paid almost one thousand pounds, to find a note which read ‘enjoy this bottle of water at just £4!’ almost gave me a stroke (And the bottle was the size of a gnat’s ball sack). The apartment while yes, large, was exceptionally basic and after a few minutes we suddenly realised it was also HOTTER THAN THE SUN IN AN OVEN. I rang down to find out where the thermostat was to be told there wasn’t one; but one singular fan was on offer in the cupboard near the front door. By this point, Milo was stripped down to his nappy and beads of sweat were forming on his nose, it was dreadful. The beds were on wheels which you couldn’t lock, so they moved around whenever you sat on them and a note sat in the bathroom to say we had to wait between each person showering for the hot water tank to fill up again. I was less than impressed.
After the hellish journey we’d already had, I wasn’t in a mood to mess about. I got straight on to a wonderful, wonderful woman I know called Steph Ledigo who not only lives in Manchester, but has her own PR agency (we actually met years back at an audition for TV show and she’s one of the nicest people on the planet), to see whether or not she could help me out. Within minutes she’d organised for us to move over to Innside Manchester and I jumped at the chance. Largely so my son’s face didn’t entirely melt off.
Innside Manchester is again, brilliantly central and when we arrived we were met with a stylish, modern lobby and incredibly friendly staff. The manager Adam Munday had already got in touch and booked us in and they just completely removed all fuss. Firstly, and most importantly, the hotel had AIR-CONDITIONING and there were drinks a-plenty in the rooms. It was clean, stylish and we were so, so happy to finally be somewhere worth paying for. AND, it was a total steal. Rooms start at just £87 per night; I felt like such an idiot when I realised how much I’d stumped up for the first place.
The next day after an evening of battling Milo to sleep and then sliding out of bed so I could shower, fake tan, apply fake eyelashes and eventually manage to conk out at 2am, my friend Hayley and I met up with the rest of the party for a burger lunch at Solita in the Northern Quarter. I gave Nanny and Grandad some money to grab themselves and Milo some food and treats, then watched as he screamed his way in to town with them (apparently he calmed down a couple of minutes later when they wandered past a digger, his latest love).
Post lunch, we did a bit of shopping (particularly in my new-found favourite shop Oklahoma) and headed back to our hotels/rentals to get ready for the night. Hayley and I attempted to pick outfits, blow dry our hair and paint our nails around playing endless nursery rhyme YouTube videos to Milo on my laptop and having him bounce on the bed. I know my parents were there but I was aware they’d have him all evening so I wanted to spend at least some time with him.
We were ready by about 7:30pm so we snuck past Milo as my mum entertained him with plasticine and pasta, and grabbed a cab to bar Dusk Til Pawn. It was a lovely little place with a free juke box and ridiculously cool cocktails. It took an age to get served, granted but it was a really nice place to kick the evening off.
As it happens, my mum text at 9:30pm to say Milo was really ratty and needed a feed so we jumped back in a cab and sped back to the hotel with the promise of joining the fun again once he was asleep. I considered expressing and just handing my mum a bottle, but it’s not really the milk which is the issue now. Milo will happily take a bottle and any type of milk, it’s just that he associates me with snoozing so I had to actually be there in the flesh. Skimpy hen do outfit ‘n’ all.
After 40 minutes (yes, 40, he put up a right fight) I finally got him down and we could go back out again. Another taxi sorted (the hotel were amazing at doing this for us by the way; each time it was ready and waiting within a minute) and we were back on the tiles. We danced the night away at a gay club, sunk some drinks, saw a man dressed head to toe in turquoise balloons and remembered why I don’t wear heels any more. And then by 1:30am, everyone wanted to call it a night.
I was so happy that I’d managed to get through it with only one call from my mum to be honest. My main concern was that I’d end up being a totally useless member of the hen crew and to-ing and fro-ing from the hotel all night but in actual fact we missed very little and Milo didn’t even stir. I could have gone on for another few hours had everyone not been smashed by about 11pm.
The next morning we travelled home and were back in Milton Keynes by midday. With the booking ahead of train tickets and hotels (had everything not cocked up), I really didn’t spend that much extra by taking Milo and my parents with me and it helped me be able to enjoy the weekend much more. I think as parents while the prospect of a night off is amazing, it can also throw up a tonne of negative energy and I know for a fact had I ventured up there sans child, I’d have been focused on what he was doing and how it was going which wouldn’t have been fair on my sister in law. As it was, knowing he was just down the road, meant that I wanted to get fully involved and let my hair down. I didn’t at any point want to go back to the hotel or cut the night short; I knew I’d be seeing him once I was back and that he was loving life in a whole kingsize bed to himself.
I think we often give ourselves a hard time when it comes to having time off. If you’re not looking forward to something or apprehensive, then do what you can to fix it. Greg and I have always said there’s no point in doing something just because you think you should. There’s always a way round things and as a parent, it’s a completely natural feeling to not want to be away from your child. It doesn’t mean you’re unnecessarily clingy or a bad person for not wanting to let go, it’s just less easy for some people. I spent a lot of time pretending to be OK with stuff when Milo was first born and telling people I’d be booking a night away without him soon or/and wanting a break. Of course I like me time, I do. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t. But it’s also OK to want to accommodate the most important person in your life when doing so and making sure you feel comfortable. Otherwise, sure… you’re having ‘me’ time. But you’re only sat there wanting to go home anyway.
Do what suits you, do what makes you happy, and plan. in. advance. Want to take your child on a hen do? It can totally be done.