Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Flying Baby

Last week my wife and I did something that I think every parent gets excited for and sick over. We flew with our baby. Yup, Olive took her first plane ride to go visit her auntie and watch her, along with mommy and daddy, run the Chicago Marathon.

Flying, from everything I have heard and read, is not usually a pleasant experience for either baby or parents. Websites list "survival tips" for flying with an infant. So this is basically on par with riding out a hurricane and climbing Everest. But we were bound and determined to be prepared. It helped that my parents, or as they are now known, mima and papa, were on the same flight and sitting in the same row. It also helped that we got a row with a little extra leg room. Those were things going for us. The things going against us was that air travel makes most adults cranky, pushes some to tears and others to violence, and we were dealing with a six-month old who screams if she isn’t allowed to put a diaper in her mouth.

The preparation really began a couple nights before. We started packing bags for the trip and realized just how much “gear” we would need. We needed stroller and we needed her car seat. We needed enough diapers to get her through a day (we were forgoing the cloth diapers – I like the environment and all, but there has to be a law about transporting poop across state lines, right?) We needed a bottle for the flight. We needed some food for the hotel room; enough toys to cause sensory overload, a blanket, a burp cloth, a change of clothes for the plane in case her bum exploded somewhere over upstate New York; and we needed an enormous amount of patience. We also needed to get all this through airport security. You know, the people who pop a vein if you try to bring four ounces of Pert Plus on a flight.

Now, I used to travel fairly frequently for my job. My wife travels monthly. We both consider ourselves expert flyers. Personally, I can have my shoes off, my little baggie of toiletries out, my laptop out and in its own container, my belt off, my pockets empty and my bag on the belt at the security line before you can say “Al Qaeda sucks!” Few things annoy me as much as slow security lane people. Slow mall walkers – maybe. So if I saw me and my wife pulling up to security, with enough more stuff then many pioneers had in their wagons, I would have either switched security lines, or tackled them. So it was no surprise that when we got into our line, that no one followed us.

But we made it through the security line in record time. Even though the diaper bag contained a full bottle of formula and two small Tupperware containers of unidentifiable white powder (formula and rice cereal, pictured here. I still think it would have been funny to pack these in about 50 small plastic bags, but that is just my sense of humor).

At the gate we continued to get stares from fellow passengers. The best came from business travelers who were staring down our cargo and wondering who they were going to have to trample to get there carry-on in an overhead bin. Everyone else was praying to whatever God they pray to that we were going to sit 20 rows away from them. Once on the plane, entertaining Olive proved to be pretty easy at the beginning. She watched all the people walk down the aisle. She got smiles and baby talk from everyone who realized that they were, indeed, 20 rows away from us. For all she knew, she was just in a really cool new place and she would be home in her own crib soon enough.

But then the grumpiness ensued. People had all taken their seats, no one left to watch walk down the aisle. She wanted to get up and explore beyond her seat, but she had to deal with being entertained by mommy and daddy and mima and papa. We weren’t cutting it anymore. So as we started to taxi we pulled out the bottle. Now, everything you read about flying with an infant tells you to feed them at take-off and landing. Babies can’t pop their own ears and sucking on something help them regulate the pressure. If you don’t do this, well, I think the baby’s head may explode. That, or there is a chance they will be fussy until their ears pop. One or the other. Well, luck would have it that we were in a line of about 10 planes waiting to take off, and Olive finished her bottle about 30 seconds before we took off. I panicked. This was the one thing we were supposed to do and we failed. Now my baby’s ears weren’t going to pop and her head would explode. I started to hand out plastic ponchos to people around me like they were at a Gallagher show. Leanne nursed her for a couple minutes, but Olive was already full. But then the darndest thing happened. Nothing. Olive was fine. Maybe her ears popped, maybe they didn’t. But she was fine. We were flying with a happy baby.

The rest of the flight was, sorry about this, uneventful. One thing about traveling with an infant is that the wonders of flight are completely lost on them. They don’t want to look out the window or go see the cockpit. They just want to do the same stuff they do every day. She played. She fussed a little and Leanne got up and walked her up and down the aisle. People smiled at her. She smiled back. She fussed a little more. She got happy again. I want to send a special thank you out to the mis-guided but well-meaning flight attendant who gave us a pair of pin-on wings to give her. Yes, sir, I’m sure they give you these to hand out to children, but my six month old really doesn’t need a bite-size pointy object with a needle attached to it. Thanks!

Soon enough we were descending towards Chicago. Leanne nursed her and Olive fell asleep for the landing. We had to wake her up when time came to get our bags and get off the plane. No one on the flight told us how good she was, but no one shot us dirty looks as we walked up the jetway either.

Really, flying with Olive was not something I looked forward to in any way. I had to talk myself down a few times and there were more than a couple occasions that I broke out in a sweat thinking about dealing with a screaming baby and 100 angry airline passengers in a confined space for 150 minutes. But looking back, it wasn’t that bad. I’m not booking a flight to Sydney anytime soon, but I think that with the right preparation, helpful parents, a little luck, and the promise of a stiff drink at the other end, flying with a happy baby is possible.

(No, we didn't fly with her in a towel. I just thought the picture was cute.)

No comments:

Post a Comment