So, allow me to ruin the suspense: yes, we are taking the baby. How is that going to work? We're not 100% sure, but I can tell you what we HAVE done to prepare ourselves and Kepa for this trip--because, apparently, people are curious. Actually, they are really more enraged, terrified, and dumbfounded, but "curious" sounds nicer, doesn't it?
Before I tell you how we're bringing the baby, I feel I should include a note on why we're so comfortable bringing Kepa. I don't think ANYONE would be interested in this trip if we didn't have such a chill baby. From the moment he came home, people have asked "Is he like that all the time? ...Damn." Even his nurses in the NICU commented on how chill he was. I didn't actually hear him cry until he was a month old (mainly because, in fairness, preemies don't cry a lot as they try to keep their stimuli to a minimum). He never has demanded a set schedule per se, and he really only asks that he not be allowed to go hungry (yes, he's our kid). He'll get overwhelmed in crowded situations sometimes, and he can melt down when he is REALLY tired. But, those moments are few and far between. We know. We are stupid lucky.
Once we decided Kepa would be fine on this trip, we were fairly surprised to discover that there is a HUGE amount of crap out there that is geared toward containing, clothing, and feeding a baby in a "hiking" environment. REI has a baby section. It's kind of insane.
The first component of this venture is the pack. There are actually a lot of these packs on the market, and we chose the Deuter Kid Comfort II. We chose it for a variety of reasons, basically cost and weight. I must say, I've worn it for 10-mile training walks, Mardi Gras, and, most recently, Jazz Fest. We tried on a LOT of these packs. We considered taking our BOB stroller (the Pyrenees would eat it, we decided). We considered taking our ERGO carrier (experimented with it on longer hikes and found it lacked support). A LOT of time and energy has gone into researching child-containment devices, and I think we picked the best option for the Camino.
There have been a few items that we have needed to add to the pack to make it a little more camino-friendly. You'll notice the yellow strap to secure toys, pacifiers, etc. Also, through the wonderful world of Etsy, we had a lady custom make some strap covers for the sides because Kepa was falling asleep on the straps instead of the front, causing his chin to get a little irritated. The lady was very nice about making them shorter for us than for normal, carseat strap covers. The big pouch underneath will hold diapers, wipes, a splat mat for changing diapers, letting him sit on the ground. It has a pretty good capacity--about a six-pack of beers worth with room for a diaper and package of wipes (I'm totally guessing on that, obviously. We didn't use that to sneak beer into French Quarter Fest or anything. Not us.). There are other, smaller pockets that are also pretty roomy and accessible. We have not used the hydration bladder feature, but are thinking about it for next weekend at Jazz Fest.
You'll also notice Kepa's big sun hat, which has SPF 50 protection (the noise-canceling headphones are Jazz-Fest specific, though you'll notice they are in a beautiful Tulane blue). He also has a wardrobe of dry-wicking fabric shorts and shirts as well as little zip-off convertible pants. Our favorite, however, are his little Keen sandals in Tulane colors!
|When these arrived in the mail, I thought,|
"I have seen cuteness...I can die now."
The next question tends to come when people see my 5-foot-1 self carrying tubby Kepa (he's actually in the 50th percentile for weight despite his husky appearance). The plan, which others who have hiked the Camino have done, is for Todd to carry the bulk of our stuff and for Mary Ann and I to trade off between Kepa and a lighter pack. The idea is Todd can take sustained weight, but we really can't. I've been training with Kepa on my back for a while now, and I can honestly say that some days it's hard and some days I don't notice it. I've had more of the latter days lately than the former. When we first did long walks with him, I'd wake up the next morning in serious pain. Now, I don't. I am not saying it's easy. My shoulder currently hurts from Jazz Fest yesterday, but one does get used to it. I think the fact that I can do 9-10 mile walks with few breaks is a really good sign, considering that is more than half the distance we'll ever traverse in a day (and I'll be sharing with Mary Ann), and meanwhile the Camino is all about breaks.
Many have also inquired about eating and sleeping. In true Kennedy fashion, Kepa eats just about anything and is big on the pig, meaning he should do just fine in Spain. He drinks cow's milk now, but we are currently working on drinking only from a sippy cup, meaning I don't know what kind of drinking receptacle we're going to take for him. He's been informed that we will only be taking one kind. I will hike his ass across Spain, but I will NOT hike 5 different types of cups and bottles. He will eat from grocery stores and restaurants with us, and since he stays up fairly late now, the Spanish eating schedule should not be a problem.
People often ask about sleeping arrangements, which has been a question for us as well. I should be honest in saying that co-sleeping has never appealed to us because we both have got the jimmy legs. I have always been terrified I'd roll over on him as Todd and I have smacked each other around more than once in our sleep. But, between hotels and albergues, co-sleeping will be done in some form by all three of us. Now that Kepa is almost a toddler, I am
mostly convinced I won't murder my child in my sleep a little better about it. He will likely be given his own bed a lot of places, and while not the aspect most are looking forward to, it's something we think will work. Luckily, Kepa sleeps very well and does not move in his sleep (I often find him in the same position I put him to bed in the next morning). He has slept through the night without major waking since three months old. He usually stays down 8-9 hours and even when he wakes up he often plays happily with himself for an hour or two more (those of you with small children: please don't stab us on our next meeting).
As you can all see, MUCH planning and consideration has gone into this. Does that make us confident? Yes and no. There are some things we're worried about and things we've done to hedge out bets. I have immense travel anxiety about the airplane (and have waited to take the pacifier away until after the trip). I have NO idea if Spanish restaurants have high chairs (been to Spain a TON but never noticed because I never had a kid). I am worried about the attention (both positive and negative) we are going to receive. I should note that the Spanish are kind of obsessed with babies--as a culture. Even Richard Wright wrote in his 1950s travelogue Pagan Spain:
"Perhaps their making of the cult of the child stems from their feeling for the Virgin and the Child: I don't know. In any case, all Spanish children are, to their families as well as to outsiders, guapos, that is, good lookers. They are pinched, patted, tickled, indulged, stared at, waited on, kissed, fondled, worshipped, dangled, crooned over, hugged and generally made to feel that they are the center of the world. At an extremely early age, Spanish children love to preen, to strut, to feel that they deserve attention, caresses, and admiration" (180).
I would like to point out that this quote comes from a black man in a fascist, white country, and he noticed that when given the option to stare at him or children, the Spanish chose children. Yea, we're screwed. If Kepa learns to walk on the camino, it's likely he'll learn to strut as well. Meanwhile, I'm sure some old biddy is going to judge us and say something--because babies and judgement go together like peas and carrots. It's a simple fact of life.
|Spaniards are going to pinch my cheeks|
until they fall off. Because I am guapo--
Richard Wright said so.
When people ask if planning has been hard, I can't really say yes. The market economy has made a ton of shit to make it easier. What has been the most challenging is having to plan these things so last minute. We couldn't buy clothes too far ahead because we didn't know how big he'd be. I don't know if he'll be drinking a bottle. For a woman who likes the plan things, it's been challenging. But Kepa, from his early arrival to this current adventure, has always just gone along with whatever we've thrown at him. And, man oh man, are we banking on that.
Diapers and milk should be readily available on the camino.....we'll pack a few days of diapers at a time, as well as a bit of toddler formula just in case. The other big concern we had/have was how to get him around town in the evening. He is a bit big to be carried in our arms for long periods of time and if you think Mary Ann or I are going to put him back in that pack 25 kilometers later.......So we are bringing this nifty lightweight sling that is even more comfortable than the pack and, more than anything else, feels entirely different for both him and us:
|Mom's been practicing with the sling since |
St. Patty's Day. I think it makes me look like a girl.
So in the end, we've spent more time planning for Kepa on the trip than we have the rest of the trip together. We are still bat-shit crazy, but at least we are well-planned crazy.