I married a man who loves wilderness. Which is why I wasn’t surprised when at about six weeks after the birth of our first child, Joel decided to test whether we could be the same individuals we were before becoming parents by taking Finn on a camping trip. Typical Millennial mama, I promptly began Googling accounts of other women whose husbands dragged them along for the same delight of feeding babies and changing diapers in the middle of the night in a dark tent.

Typical Millennial mama, I promptly began Googling accounts of other women whose husbands dragged them along for the same delight of feeding babies and changing diapers in the middle of the night in a dark tent.

At the time of the proposed trip, Finn would be 7 weeks new. Driving at that time was a nuisance as Finn would usually cry if he woke while in the car, but boating on the other hand produced non-stop naps and – despite the heat of that summer – a baby content to nap the entire time the motor was running. As we live on water, we had introduced Finn to life on the boat at an early age (he was two or three weeks old when he donned his first infant lifejacket for a trip with his cousins). Considering this, I agreed to a camping trip as long as we didn’t drive to the site. Instead, we took the boat.

chocolate lab, dog, blueberry island, lake joseph, muskoka

Blueberry Island, sometimes known as ‘picnic island,’ is located at the very north end of Lake Joseph. Owned by the Mellon family, influential in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania whose fortune originated from banking and investing in oil, Blueberry Island is opened up for public use as long as its owners aren’t inhabiting the island and its rules of use are respected. With no manmade structures save for a dock and a stone BBQ pit, this island boasts a gorgeous south-facing rock beach that descends into the clear depths of Lake Joe. Also of interest, the wreck of the Nipissing, which caught fire and sank in 1886, lays north of the island. My family visited this island many times during my childhood, and it has become a favourite site for Joel and I to travel to.

With this destination in mind, we loaded the boat with firewood, our camping gear, the dog and the baby.   Travelling with a baby was made easier by the fact that we breastfeed. Were we not able to so conveniently feed our baby, surely the decision to go wouldn’t have been made so lightly. I would be lying were I not to admit that the thought of changing diapers in a dark, cramped tent in the middle of the night gave me pause. Ordinarily we cloth diaper, which requires frequent changes for our sensitive wetter, but we decided to switch those out for Honest Company diapers for this trip.  So there we were, seemingly prepared for this adventure.

So there we were, seemingly prepared for this adventure.

baby, boat

Travelling to the island was about as much of an adventure as was the camping.  We launched the boat in Gravenhurst at the bottom of Lake Muskoka, and travelled about an hour to Port Carling where we would need to take the boat through a locks system.  Through the locks, we arrived at Lake Rosseau.  We still had another two hours or so to go depending on how much we played tourist along the way.  Aside from the occasional stop to nurse (I think I nursed at the locks in Port Carling and while travelling Joseph River), Finn slept every time the boat motor ran.  This mama was pleased.

Baby, camping

Camping baby

Arriving at the island with the afternoon ahead of us, Joel unloaded the boat and set up while I went about my usual business of caring for the baby. Surprisingly, I was able to care for the baby just as easily as I normally would at home. I’d nurse him in a chair, lay him on our sleeping bags to sleep, and when he was awake and content I could place him in his bouncy chair – our one baby gear indulgence on this trip. The day went well until Joel began cooking our steak dinner over the fire – just when a wicked thunderstorm exploded over our heads. My dedicated husband continued cooking our dinner, which he delivered to me in the tent where Finn and I had taken shelter from the heavy rainfall. Our dreams of relaxing by the fire at night were replaced with an early bedtime.

Blueberry Island, Lake Joseph, Muskoka

Camping Baby

Here was the night – the point of the trip I had been dreading. Changing diapers in the dark, cramped tent. After a delicious dinner, we all fell asleep to the noise of the rain hitting the tent. Because we bed-share at home, we didn’t require any additional gear for Finn. We simply made our sleep surface safe, as we always do, and let the fresh air work its magic. When 3am rolled around I found myself waking in the night, expecting Finn’s usual restlessness. He was sound asleep. I watched him, nudged him, and drove myself crazy wondering why he wasn’t waking for his usual feed. So, of course I woke Joel asking the crazy new mom question “should I wake him?” Nope, don’t do it. I lay awake, obsessively checking Finn to be sure he was ok.  I listened for Finn’s breathing as the quiet activity of the little critters in the nighttime world rustled outside our tent. It wasn’t until sunrise when the baby woke.  A record for us until then!

Blueberry Island, Lake Joseph, Muskoka

Lake Joseph, Blueberry Island

Waking to the waves lapping against the rock on the edges of the island, we soaked up the quiet all around. Evidence of the storm that had raged the night before gave way to sunlight of the coming day. Joel prepared breakfast on the open fire before we packed up for the trip home. With a quick swim off the dock to cool us all down, we set off down the lake. Again, Finn slept the entire way, but the fresh air and stimulating day made for a tired baby and we were in for another long sleep for a second night (I woke again in the middle of the night to watch my baby and wonder why he wasn’t waking). Camping with Finn proved easier than even we thought, but arriving home still felt amazing (– until I developed an engorgement that turned into mastitis from those nights without nursing!)

Life with a new baby is easiest at home where care becomes routinized and there are many safe surfaces to place baby, unlike in the wilderness. It was reassuring for us to confirm that our identities as individuals were still intact despite being parents. Check back to see if I’m still singing the same tune next summer when we try to take a toddler portaging in Algonquin backcountry.