I dreamt of online grocery shopping the first night I got back to Havana. And Asda and Argos ‘click and collect’. It came after the realisation of how different my life would be now that I came armed with a 3 month old baby. If I thought the first 3 months of caring for a baby in London were hard, with sleepless nights and breastfeeding struggles, it so far feels like nothing compared to moving back to Cuba with a 3 month old and to a flat with nothing in the fridge, tap water I need to boil and clean before using it for baby formula, a baby who knows the bottle too well to accept breastmilk alone by now, and shops containing no milk, butter or at present washing powder. Yes, welcome to paradise.
For the first 3 months of little Loren’s life, we stayed in my little flat in an area of London full of late night stores, breastfeeding-friendly cafes with costly cappuccinos, baby massage classes and yoga for mums. I met some lovely other first time mums and enjoyed support and good company through pub lunches, park walks, home visits and WhatsApp at any hour. It was mostly freezing out but there was a park nearby, a pool for when I could manage it, friends easily accessible by bus, train, on foot and by car, and the odd music gig to play at for dear musician husband when he could manage it. I had Amazon Prime for next day deliveries (nipple shields, pumping bra, pumping flanges, jumbo nappy packs, travel cot, books on motherhood) and ebay for bundles of baby clothes, a nursing chair, replacement buggy parts, a baby sleeping pod, and more.
We spent New Years Eve in the labour ward of a top public maternity hospital in London, where Loren was born. Cuba has great health and maternity care but I am not yet resident (and we applied over a year ago), so services for me are not free. As a British citizen, maternity care for me in the UK cost nothing, and Loren got to be born with a British passport – on January 1st , the anniversary of the Cuban revolution. Over those crazy first weeks, we lost sleep, worried when she sniffled, disagreed over how and when to feed her, went a little stir crazy, but also had help from great friends and fell in love, with baby Loren, but also a little bit more with each other.
The night we got back to Havana though, I cried. Hormonally, I’ve been an unpredictable waterworks for most of my pregnancy and every since, and I get the feeling Cuban women are made of tougher stuff. They need to be..they grow up in Cuba. Communist ideals are lovely, but they don’t put food on the table and life here for most is tough, with or without money to spend. Money counts for little when what you need is not for sale.
So I suddenly realised how hard this would be. We have my husband’s family and friends here, and an apartment much bigger than that of London, with a sea view and rooms we usually rent out, but essentially I am alone with my baby while hubby works. He plays in his bar with his musician friends in lively Old Havana and I stay home, with no internet, no multi-channel TV, no mummy friends to pop round, no car to go out in, and few food deliveries to the door. I have a sea view though while I breastfeed on the couch!
My days of riding round Havana on the back of our moped look to be over, and Loren and I will get to know the local neighbourhood with walks in the buggy and the sling, and little by little we’ll build up the grocery supplies, as things appear on the shelves and we buy in bulk. I need to give this time and enjoy the slow pace of life. I am sure there are many benefits to life with a baby here, and I hope to share them with you as we proceed. Onwards y adelante!