I tend to have anxiety. I also tend to overthink the things I’m having anxiety about.
So it was no wonder that when I had a trip scheduled to fly with my 6-month-old daughter, I was both anxiety-ridden and obsessively researching all the things one needs to know when travelling [sic] with baby.
It’s not hard to guess why I was so anxious.
For starters, it was not so many months ago when I was walking through REI, phone in hand, transfixed by a bizarre video of an Asian doctor being violently and forcibly removed from a plane.
Then there was the second viral video of a flight attendant who lost his marbles on a young mom with a baby over a stroller she was trying to carry on the plane.
Last, but not least, was my own experience seven years ago flying with an infant. I sat squished in the window seat next to a lady who had (I-kid-you-not) pants made from zippers. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. Naturally, my almost-one-year old wanted nothing to do with the toys I brought, and only wanted to play with the unamused lady’s zippers. When my baby wasn’t fighting to get her hands on those delightful pants, she was biting the heck out of me every time we nursed with her newly budded teeth. Once we arrived, me barely intact, the stroller I had borrowed for the flight refused to lock, and so it kept folding up on my precious bundle as we wandered around the Denver airport ridiculously lost.
The way home wasn’t much better. The airline broke the stroller I had borrowed from a family member, and no compensation was received. And my baby bit the whole way back. Because why not? I think I vowed never to fly with a baby again.
Combine all of the above and I knew I needed to be prepared for All.The.Things. this go around. . .
Book an aisle seat on all flights — Check.
Bring a stroller I could trust and be able to handle easily in security, but make sure it’s not too expensive in case it gets damaged by the airline — Check.
Wear baby using a comfortable carrier with toys attached — Check.
Carry on enough clothes and diapers for baby and me for two days in case of a delay — Check.
Ask for doctor’s note for baby’s liquid medicine just in case — Check.
Only a few times in my life has my obsessive research actually benefitted me, and I would rank our flights to our destination as one of those times. I had neither too much, nor not enough stuff. Even when the pilot realized something was amiss on our flight at take off, and re-routed us back to the gate for an hour and a half delay, my baby did beautifully. She fussed for only about 5 minutes for the duration of our travel from Seattle to Georgia. And all the people around me ooh’ed and aah’ed over how well behaved my baby was.
Of course, all this combined made me an EXPERT on flying with baby. (I give you permission to laugh out loud, roll your eyes, or generally scoff — whatever’s your thing.)
So as I packed for the trip home, I mentally put together a blog post about how to travel with an infant.
I had the perfect outfit planned for nursing moms.
I had the perfect carry-on bags.
I had great hacks, like bringing your own empty bottle on for the in-flight drink — cause ain’t no way mama’s gonna be able to drink safely from a cup with an in-lap baby.
In fact, I was so absorbed in how to tell you all to fly that I lost track of how much time I was taking to get ready. Before I knew it, the hours I had to pack dwindled to a singular one.
“No worries,” I thought. “I don’t have any decisions to make. I just need to put everything in their bags.”
My daughter though, had her own set of plans. Which included at least 30 minutes of what I call nurse-sleeping (sleeping very attached to the boob.) My sister, Sarah, began packing for me until I could transfer the sleeping baby to her arms and take over myself. Before I know it, Sarah looks up and says, “We were supposed to leave 10 minutes ago.” 10 minutes after that, I’m finally ready. As I put my daughter in her car seat, I realize there is yellow-green on her back where there should not be any yellow-green. I have always been a Pampers girl. Through all my babies, foster, adopted, bio or babysat — Pampers have been my go-to. Except this time, Pampers wasn’t cutting it.
“No time to change her,” Sarah says. I rush back into the house once more to find my favorite red and pink strawberry muslin that is to die for, and then we’re off. I look up at the clock in the car console as she begins backing out of her driveway. Oh crap, I sigh. We have 45 minutes until my flight departs.
The short trip to the airport is made shorter by my sister’s speeding, and once we get to parking, we don’t have things perfectly planned. My daughter and one of my nephews is now asleep in the car. We desperately need another adult. “Quick,” Sarah says. “Grab your big bag, and whatever else you can take quickly, and get to ticketing so you can check your bag. I’ll park and get the kids and bring baby to you.”
And so I grab all my hands can, and rush to Delta’s tiny ticket counter at Augusta Regional Airport to check in at 4:29 for my 4:59 flight. (I know. I’m a rockstar at flying with kids, right?!?)
The courteous agent with dark skin and glowing white teeth greets me with a friendly smile. “I need to check in quickly,” I gush, mostly out of breath.
“Please do not tell me you are here for the 4:59 flight?” she questions.
“Yep — that’s the one!” I say.
“We have a minute, no seconds, to get your bag on the flight!” And with that she starts attacking her keyboard with lightning-fast fingers, as I quickly pass her my driver’s license then lift my 50-lb case onto the scale. She slaps stickers on my bag and urges me, “Get this bag to that agent right there, now!” I rush it off, then rush back to get my boarding pass. Sarah and the sleepy kids come in, and where the agent tells me it is now too late to check my car seat. “We just barely had enough time to get your bag on!” she puffs, mostly from being out of breath I think than from frustration. Everyone in the South always seems nice, so it’s hard to tell. I quickly kiss my sister and nephew good-bye, and take my poopy baby and boarding passes and a ridiculous amount of stuff off to security.
I never know whether to hold onto my boarding pass, or to put it in my bag through security, so I took a risk and shoved them into my Ergo which I loaded with all my other baby gear onto the conveyor belt: baby car seat, stroller, backpack, tote bag, ergo, shoes, electronics, liquids, etc. “Oh yes,” I say when asked, “I did leave the baby’s medicine in a cooler in the very bottom of my bag.” The TSA guards have a bit of compassion and don’t make me rummage through to get it. A jaunt through the “let’s-all-pretend-I’m-naked-device” and I scoop up my blowout baby back into my Ergo, toss my husband’s backpack on my back, put my tote in the stroller, with the upside-down car seat draped over the top, and slip on my shoes as I trek to the gate.
I arrive to the gate as boarding is well underway. I try to steer to the right of the line to get to the ticket counter to gate check my items, but sadly the seats have barricaded me out. Straight through the line I must go.
“Excuse me, pardon me, so sorry,” I say clearly and loudly — far from my normal apologetic mumble. I hate creating a stir, yet here I am, parting the Red Sea of passengers. I am now totally sweaty, as my perfect outfit I wore did not account for the 90-degree heat outside nor frantic race inside carrying all things baby. Thankfully, the ticket agents were nice, and once again, I was thankful I was visiting the pleasant South where strangers generally are a bit more courteous than I am used to. With everything now officially taken care of, I part the sea yet again to make my way to the back of the line, then on to the back of the plane.
As soon as I get seated, I must make room for a svelte young man with blond hair and easy smile. I mentally crossed my fingers and hope he is as nice as everyone else I’ve encountered. As I fidget with my bag, loading toys and snacks for me in the pouch in the seat in front, feeling significantly less confident that I should write a blog about how to travel with an infant, a darling middle-aged flight attendant stands hesitatingly in the aisle next to me.
“Excuse me ma’am?” She taps on my shoulder.
And with that, my mind races. What have I forgotten? What did we do wrong? Am I losing my seat? Is someone complaining already? . . . My mind immediately throttles to hyper-drive. I don’t show it. I return her smile. She continues . . .
“There’s this guy in the front of the plane. He said he wanted to switch seats with the lady with the baby. And I think you’re the lady with the baby. Would you like to sit in first class?”
As I sat there a bit stunned, my fellow passengers began their own cheering session for me: “Yes, girl, you get that seat!” “Way to go!” “YES!” “Enjoy that first-class seat!”
As I follow the flight attendant to the front of the plane, I pass a trim older gentleman with a big smile and kind eyes. “What seat am I in?” he asks. “21 D,” I reply (thinking to myself, “at the very back of the plane! I’m so sorry!”) After as many thanks as I can squeeze in, I sit down to a cushy wide seat, with enough room in front for both my bags and my legs. I somewhat sheepishly look around, hoping that no one is upset that they are now travelling with a baby in first class, where they presumably paid extra to get away from it all. Suddenly, another middle age man sitting directly in front of me swings around . . .
“Isn’t Pat the nicest? We work together at Huggies. He’s the lead designer on the diapers. At Huggies . . . we just LOVE babies. Hey . . . have you ever tried those teething tablets? We used those with my kids . . .”
And right then and there, I knew I was now a Huggies mom. Not because the diapers are better. (I’m sure they’re great.) But because a company who professes to love babies ACTUALLY hires people who LOVE babies. So much so that they’ll go sit on the back of the plane, where no drinks were served, so I could travel more comfortably with my poopy little squish in THEIR first-class seat.
So Pat, the lead designer at Huggies, from Delta flight 725 from Augusta to Atlanta, if you ever get a chance to read this story — I want you to thank you again in a way I couldn’t on our short little pass in the aisle.
Thank you for restoring some of my faith in humanity.
Thank you for being an example of kindness I can share with my daughter growing up.
Thank you for living what you preach.
Thank you for being inconvenienced with a smile on your face.
Thank you for acknowledging the value of all little people in a world which so often discredits their worth.
Thank you for putting a smile on both our faces during what could have been a very difficult trip.
And for all the Delta employees who treated me and my baby with kindness and courtesy, you all did the best I could have asked for. Thanks so much for making flying fun again.
As for the poopy blow-out diaper. Well, it turns out the flight was so short that as soon as we got high enough to turn off the fasten seatbelt sign, it was time to turn it on to start the descent. So it, and we, had to wait until we were in the Atlanta airport before I could change her. Still, baby fared great with a smile on her face. And nothing could wipe the smile off my face. Not even a stinky blowout diaper.
Oh so rarely will I ever ask you to share my blog. But in this one case, I would love for Pat to hear the whole story of how his one act of kindness touched our family. If you’d like to help Pat hear about this, please click “share” on this post. I would love for Pat, Huggies, and the Delta family to know their kindness matters.
Disclaimer: Besides the first-class seat, I received nothing in return for this post. Except maybe a strong desire to ALWAYS fly first class. I’m just saying — it was pretty amazing.