We just got back from our first camping trip with toddler Ezra, and we have the scars to prove it.
I blame the mosquitoes for everything. They were vicious. Twice as much rain as usual bred twice as many mosquitoes at Lake Kegonsa, and the campsite was swarming with them. Within minutes, my feet and ankles were welted and itchy, and the buzzing of bugs in my ears was making me feel a little insane.
At one point, I looked over at Ezra and saw three mosquitoes resting on his face, and without a second thought, reached over and slapped him, hard, on the cheek to get them off. I slapped my baby, you guys. That’s how crazy these bugs were making me. And you know it’s a bad night when slapping your baby and making him cry is definitely not the low point.
Here’s how it went down.
After an afternoon at the lake (which I missed part of, because I had to trek out to Walmart for bug spray), we came back to our buggy campsite and started building a fire and making dinner.
When it came time to put Ezra to bed, the mistakes came fast and furious. First, instead of going with our tried and true Pack ‘n Play, a device Ezra sleeps in fairly regularly, we decided to try out our friend’s Peapod mini-tent, on the theory that if it worked out, maybe we wouldn’t have to buy ourselves a tent large enough to hold a whole Pack ‘n Play (we borrowed a cousin’s palatial tent mansion for this trip). After nursing, a story, and a song, I tumbled Ezra into his Peapod with his blanket and puppy. As I zipped him in, the wailing started. And then it escalated.
After a few minutes, I pulled him out, nursed him a little more, and put him back. But the cries got louder and louder. Sandy went in to try to comfort him, and we realized — this is now maybe 30-45 minutes in — that the inside of the Peapod was sweltering. He was drenched in sweat.
So, we shoved the Peapod aside, and hauled out the Pack ‘n Play. By this time, any lingering drowsiness from the nursing/story/song cycle had totally dissipated. So, back to the drawing board on all that. Even so, after laying him down in the Pack ‘n Play, the distressing cries of horror started again.
At this point, I was getting agitated about being in a public place with a screaming baby. I finally decided I would just go in the tent and lay down with him and nurse him into a deep, deep sleep. This was an awesome strategy six months ago. It doesn’t work anymore, and I know it. Now that he’s mobile, he takes little breaks from nursing to clamber all over me, straddling my side, my neck, my head, while poking and prodding me and whispering “mama.” It’s adorable. But it’s not sleep.
I kept resisting Sandy’s suggestion that we put him in the stroller, because I know he can’t sleep that way for more than a few hours, so we’d be setting ourselves up to be awoken at 2. But it was getting later, and he was getting more awake crawling around on me, so Sandy pulled out the stroller, and walked Ezra up and down the road until he fell asleep. Eventually, after a few failed attempts, we managed to get Ezra, in the stroller, into the tent, crammed together with our sleeping bags, the abandoned Peapod, and the Pack ‘n Play.
To nobody’s surprise, at 2, he woke up again. Hoping that he was through the worst of his screaming for the night, I picked him up from the stroller, nursed him to up our chances of immediate sleep resumption, and lay him down in the Pack ‘n Play. Perhaps frightened by the intense darkness in the tent (there are some porchlights outside his room that keep it a tiny bit lit up all night), or perhaps just totally off his schedule, he freaked out. Screaming ensued.
Already a bit fragile from all the other screaming fits, I had a lot of trouble deciding what to do next. First I tried again to lay down with him, only to end up with a wide awake buddy sitting on my neck. So, into the stroller with him again. I walked him for at least half an hour, and though he quieted down for a while, he never fell back asleep, and eventually started screaming again.
It was after 3, we were delirious, and there was only one option left. Sandy took Ezra and put him in his car seat. He instantaneously calmed down. Sandy drove in circles around the campground parking lot until Ezra was drowsy and calm, and then parked at our campsite. As soon as he parked, Ezra woke back up and started babbling, but at his wit’s end, Sandy just leaned his seat back and hoped for the best. It worked, and they slept in the car for a few hours.
The aftermath, and a happy ending
When I woke up after my precious few hours of sleep, I was deadset on going home. We would spend the day on the beach, cook our campfire dinner, and then pack up and get our screaming baby back on the road. I knew Sandy would want to try again, but I thought I would die.
As the day brightened up, though, Sandy’s logic started to work on me: we had to try again right away, or we would never have the nerve to go camping again.
So, we tried again. On the second night, he cried a little when I lay him down in his Pack ‘n Play, but after a few totally manageable jags, he was out. For the night. I was tragically up for an entire hour viciously scratching my mosquito-devastated feet and ankles, but Ezra slept from 8:30-5:30 without waking up once.
So, to summarize:
Mosquitoes: 400 Sarah: 0
Ezra: 1 Sleep: 1
We’re already planning an August trip to Devil’s Lake with a few unsuspecting friends, and while the odds suggest that mosquitoes will kidnap me and that Levi will have to stay up all night singing “I Had the Time of My Life” to keep Ezra calm, it is at least possible that it will be quite fun.