Should I accept this invitation?

Dilemmas
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VIRGINIA'S ADVICE

It's clear that Lynn's never had a baby before. If she had, she'd never dream of any option except refusal. After giving birth, I still remember the day I was able to respond to my husband's question about what I'd been doing that day with the words: "For the first time, I had lunch!" That was when my son was about three months old. Long-haul trips to Australia? Weddings? Presents? Clothes? You must be joking. I hadn't even got out of my dressing- gown since the birth; the longest haul I'd made was downstairs, and that was an effort. Even if everything goes well, the upheaval of having a baby totally occupies your mind.

And anyway, isn't it rather tempting fate to assume that the birth will be trouble-free? Lynn may suffer post-natal depression; the baby may need special care. However "good" her baby is, Lynn will almost certainly suffer from crippling lack of sleep, and to add jet-lag to that would be pushing herself too far. And, of course, she may find she can't bear to leave her baby. Babies can feel like fifth limbs. They may be out of your womb, but they're still part of you, and if you leave them for a second you get that funny feeling, as if you've lost your handbag, or put a chocolate biscuit somewhere half-way through eating it. These aren't Cassandra-like warnings; they're real possibilities.

Yes, she could leave the baby at home, but the baby certainly wouldn't like it. It would have to be weaned early, and the break might cause a lack of trust between Lynn and her child that could take years to heal. Or, of course, she could take the baby with her. But though airlines are happy to take babies on any flights, medical opinion is divided about how safe it is. There's been a controversial study that links long-haul flights with cot death, even though thousands of tiny babies have survived perfectly well. They certainly often get bad pain in their ears, and there's always risk of infection in the recycled air of a cabin, when tiny babies' immune systems aren't yet developed. Common sense seems to say that it's best not to take babies on a plane until they're three months old or, on long- haul flights, six months old.

And is Lynn certain that the passport office is working so efficiently now that she'd get one for her baby in time?

A wedding's never the best time to see an old friend. It's all drama, and millions of old rellies and friends, and after a few hours the couple's off on honeymoon. Lynn should write to her friend saying she's bitterly disappointed, but she can't come. She could blame it all on some imaginary doctor who has advised her neither to leave the baby, nor take it so far away. Or she could say that though it might be possible, the chances of Lynn having to let her friend down at the last minute are so high that she'd rather not commit herself.

She could always suggest coming over with the whole family in, say, nine months' time, when she'd be better able to cope and would also have more time to spend alone with her old friend.

READERS' SUGGESTIONS

Decide after the birth

Having a four-month-old baby myself, I would suggest that Lynn thinks long and hard about her trip. Whatever she feels now, she will not want to leave her two-month-old baby - and if she is considering breast-feeding, this would be impossible afterwards.

A calm and settled baby and a "hands-on" husband may make all worthwhile. But it would be unwise for Lynn to make a firm commitment.

She should ask her friend if she can defer her decision until the birth. She will have to decline the role of matron of honour (and the pressure to get her figure back in eight short weeks!) yet can keep her options open.

CATHRYN POOLEY

Southville, Bristol

Go for it!

Lynn, go! Book that ticket!

Whether your husband goes too is a financial decision, but baby travels free. Baby will be old enough to have a routine or, if not, you will know she doesn't have one.

In order to enjoy the day itself, ask your friend to investigate nanny agencies; then you can hire a nanny for the day. If nanny and baby are at the reception, you will be able to show baby off, and have her looked after when you need to juggle knife, fork and glass. (Even if your friend has a creche arranged, baby will be too young, and you will be forever checking on her, or feeling guilty.)

Go for it!

CHRISTINE HEADLEY

Stroud, Gloucestershire

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My wife's always been very tidy, but now she wants me to take my shoes off before coming into the house, and is forever clearing up around me. She gets upset if I'm not ready for dinner on the dot, too. If we have people to dinner, it takes her at least a day to prepare; as our friends are quite casual, it doesn't make for a relaxed evening. She's also getting touchy about her friends. If they don't ring her back at once when she leaves a message, she gets really angry and upset. `Do as you would be done by' seems to be her favourite phrase now. She relaxes after a few drinks and becomes her old self, but in the morning it's back to this rigid routine. She doesn't seem to have any idea what I'm talking about when I mention this, and just cheerfully calls me a slob. Any ideas?

Yours sincerely, Piers

Anyone with advice quoted will be sent a bouquet from Interflora Send letters and dilemmas to Virginia Ironside, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182; or e-mail dilemmas@independent.co. uk, giving a postal address for the bouquet

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