I did something I have never done before: flew with an infant.
I actually cancelled a trip to New York to see my cousins and Wendy Williams next month because I was nervous about the flight.
It was a trying time. I was incredibly nervous about bringing my seven-month old son on a plane. What if the pressure change made him fussy or inconsolable for the duration of the flight? How would I clean up one of his lava blow outs in the tiny matchbox bathroom? What if other passengers were annoyed and complained?
I was stressed.
Because of Hurricane Florence, my trip had been cancelled four times, and to be honest, each time I felt relieved and secretly hoped I could find a reason to cancel the trip altogether. Since I had already missed my college roommate’s baby shower, I ultimately packed my bags because I wanted my mom and mother-in-law to spend some quality time with my son. I didn’t have grandparents growing up so I want to make sure my son has an opportunity to know his. And I don’t want it to be one of those relationships where his granddad gives him $5 each time he seems him and doesn’t know anything about him.
The trip to St. Louis on a Monday morning after a hurricane was a breeze. Not gonna lie, I did have a little liquid courage before I left my house because I was wracked with anxiety about the risks I mentioned before.
I was surprised at having to take my son out of my Ergobaby carrier to go through security because the carrier isn’t something I could just slip back on in a space with lots of movement. Nonetheless, I did it. The security person near the rebagging area told me he would help me with my baby if he could and told me about his lap band surgery. I was happy to talk with him; his results were impressive.
For my two flights, I changed my son ahead of time in the family bathroom and boarded the plane first, which was definitely a necessary advantage.
On my second flight, I had one spare seat and a friendly white guy that helped me entertain my son. He was actually a stockbroker and father of two. He told me the second child put a tremendous stress on his marriage, and they are presently divorced. How do you really respond to that?
Life lessons aside, the trip to St. Louis went perfectly. I was even approached by a gentleman in the airport who commented, “She did great!” I thanked him and responded that I was surprised at how well he did too.
My trip was fruitful. The time at my mom’s house was a little stressful because of the amount of people that wanted to come by and see my son. That’s fine; I like showing him off but having to make conversation when the person isn’t actually interested in me is taxing.
No one came to see us at my mother-in-law’s house. I found that refreshing. And it was refreshing that I wasn’t running the show for once. Someone is always asking me when or what to do, not my husband.
One day I let my mother-in-law and her partner take my son to a Cardinal’s Baseball game. Her partner offered to leave me her car, but being alone in a house I wasn’t responsible for cleaning was my dream come true.
Over the course of my time in the area, I realized instead of throwing a dart and moving somewhere else in the country after our time with the Army, we should move back to St. Louis.
I don’t want to move there because there is too much traffic, but it’s close to our family. I won’t have to miss a baby shower because of a hurricane. Maybe having family near and involved in our day-to-day life can take some of the pressure off me.
I used to wonder why I don’t see many videos about female entrepreneurs on YouTube: maybe because being the mom is running interference on anything else we’re trying to do. It takes organization just to get from one day to the next.
We need our moms and anyone else who is willing to help…for free.
By the end of my trip, I was stressed after being away from home and my husband for nine days, but not anxious. I felt good about the trip back to Fort Bragg, but I knew it would be a long day.
My trip home was much more storied than my trip going. We started off strong with my son peeing on his clothes as soon as I removed his diaper. I changed his onesie.
I boarded the plane early but sat on the wrong side and didn’t realize until everyone else in my row was boarding. And I had a middle seat.
The man and woman on either side of me were gracious and cooed at my son. Without any extra space he was restless and required my constant attention.
Panic thickened my fingers as I tried to plug the shrieks coming from his mouth with a pacifier.
I had a couple hours in between flights so I went over to the military lounge called the USO. My nose started bleeding right as I checked in. Fortunately, I was able to let my son crawl around under the dining tables as I ate a pulled pork sandwich and pinched my nose, occasionally pulling him back near me. When the bleeding slowed enough, I decided to change his diaper. I figured everyone was far enough away I could just change him on he booth. He pooped. As I inched away to grab the diaper, he rolled off the bench. I caught him six inches from the ground. I was relieved but now there was poop on his onesie. The backup one.
I forgot to mention that my son threw up on the floor. Not spit up, but copius, marbled vomit, and as I strategized, put his hand in it.
I headed to the concourse an hour before my flight was supposed to depart to find my flight had been delayed an hour. I tried to find a gate to sit at that wasn’t as crowed as B13, so that my son would be less disruptive and less people would have the opportunity to see my nipple as he repeatedly bounced off my boob.
After being cooped up in the plane and in the carrier as I went back through security (didn’t have to take him out at St. Louis or Atlanta airport), my son was not able to stay near me in my seat. Part of me gave up. I held on to his pants as he crawled toward the mass of people on the tile and then just laid on the floor.
I swear, if I see myself on a meme…
I was tired and at that point I made a Facebook post about losing control.
I did not board the last flight early because I was changing his diaper, but it was not packed. My son went to sleep right away. Because it was nearly 10 pm.
The last flight was much less populated and my son slept in the carrier almost the whole time.
I was elated to see my husband at baggage claim. I am not 100 percent sure, but I think I heard someone say “oooh” when we embraced because they completed the puzzle which was my son’s racial background.
I sat and nursed Brooks away from the crowd as Spencer waited for my bag and the car seat. After about 15 minutes, we realized the items weren’t coming and headed to the gate. It took forever to be served. Since it was 11 pm there was only one person working and he seemed to be on a different time scheme than the rest of us. When I finally spoke to him, he only saw I had one bag checked to me and it had arrived and been picked up. He retreated to the back area for no less than 15 minutes to search for my belongings himself. He had me look there too.
I was baffled. It hadn’t arrived. It wasn’t just one bag. I explicitly remembered it being tagged in St. Louis because it was a whole thing with the gate agents talking about how fat (and adorable) my son was.
I couldn’t find the ticket for my luggage. I had looked in my bag several times and on my person. When I let the agent know I didn’t have the ticket, he simply reiterated there was nothing checked to me and said he couldn’t file a claim…
I couldn’t be mad at myself for losing the ticket this one time even though flight paraphernalia usually lingers in my purse or around my house for weeks. I couldn’t be mad at myself after all I had been through that day.
As it tends to happen, I started to wonder why everything had happened to me that day. Wanting to stay in control of my reality, I decided I must have brought it on to myself. I considered the fact I was tired from a few days of poor sleep at my mother in law’s house and then I had woken up very early the morning before leaving. I was physically stressed from not sleeping and mentally stressed from being away from home. And I had put it into the universe that I had lost control in a Facebook post.
I decided that I had to accept I could not change the past and moved on to next steps. In the mean time, my husband presented to me and the gate agent my boarding pass which had two luggage stickers on the back. I had forgotten.
In a turn of events, my bag and car seat were located! They had been checked in at St. Louis under some woman named Laura who was headed to Richmond, Viriginia, on the following day. I was completely lost. The agent called Laura at 12:30 am to ask if she had her bags. She didn’t even check bags.
Ultimately, my bags were sitting at the Atlanta airport and no one was there to answer the phone and keep them from taking a soar to Richmond the next day.
We drove home with me carrying my son in the baby carrier in the back seat. At 1:20 am.
Thank God for the Ergobaby Carrier.
My bag and car seat arrived at my house two days later.
I learned so much about flying from this one trip. There were several things that worked for flying with an infant, and several things that did not. And in general, there were things I know I will do differently next time.
Of course pack necessary toiletries and diapers, but I would suggest packing more than one change of clothes if your travel day is going to be long. I would also pack snacks that take a long time for your child to eat. I know that we all love Bluetooth headphones, but if you want to utilize in flight viewing, you will need old school earbuds. I was also wishing I had these so that maybe my child would watch the TV instead of touching strangers and screaming.
Somehow my luggage was checked to another person. The gate agent believed it was a system error. In the future, I will make sure all documents look correct and have my name on them. I will put the tickets in my wallet to make sure they can’t be lost. I never thought the baggage ticket was that important because they could just look up my bags, but now I understand that it is!
Luggage needs to have a tag with your name and contact information on it. This may seem standard, but the bag I usually use doesn’t have a durable tag on it. Fortunately, I was using my husband’s bag with an Oklahoma State Luggage tag, so even if we didn’t find it, hopefully someone would have contacted us from that information.
St. Louis airport put the car seat in a bag. Fayetteville did not. The bag is much more sanitary for your child so ask for that or bring one.
Reading the information sheet about missing luggage, I learned that the airline will NOT replace electronics! I will admit part of me was pleased by the prospect of getting to replace my weak notebook computer, but now I know that wasn’t going to happen. Your laptop and any other electronics or valuables should be with you on the plane. That includes irreplaceable journals.
Track your luggage using your airline’s app. My brother told me that every time he is on a plane he checks the Delta app to make sure his luggage is boarded too.
Lastly, I realized using sites like Priceline or Kayak adds a layer of complication if there is a problem with your trip. Delta initially contacted me about upcoming inclement weather so I called them when I couldn’t change my flight on their site. I was directed to speak to Priceline who was challenged to address my issue, not to mention I could barely get through the first round of automation because I wasn’t given my current trip as an option to say I was calling about.
After that, I couldn’t directly be assisted with my issue and had to hold for a while to reach another person, not American, and then that person wasn’t familiar with my situation and had to contact Delta. Next time, I’ll just search for a ticket directly with Delta.
My husband feels Delta always loses people’s bags because he has picked up a handful of people flying Delta and bags have been delayed three of four times… But I like Delta because they check the first bag free and have TVs! Someone also sold me on one of their credit cards last year on a layover in Atlanta, so there’s that.
There were a couple things I came away with from the trip. First of all, I need support and I need community. I want the village to raise my child. The village appears to want to raise my child. That’s my in-laws, friends and strangers on a plane. When I board myself up in my home, I may be cutting off those opportunities for support. The value of access to our family has gone up and will probably tip the scale in where we decide to live after the Army.
As far as traveling, experience is the best teacher. I am hoping someone takes a little bit of advice from my experience and can feel more prepared for their trips with babies. I accept it will be somewhat stressful to contain my son’s energy and will definitely try to take a shorter trip even if it means leaving early in the morning.
Most importantly, I’m going to stay positive and not let negative situations overtake me and cause me to believe I am a person who lacks control, just a person that experienced negative things outside of my control.
I’m not running out to take my child on another nine-day trip by myself, but I understand one day of travel is a small price to pay for making memories with friends and family, just as resistance or difficulty is a small price for achieving what you want in life.
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