Dear God, make it STOP!
My son and I traveled from Baltimore, MD to
Atlanta, GA last week to visit my parents, my in-laws, and some friends
we hadn’t seen in a while.
I have serious anxiety issues when it comes to traveling with my son. At eleven months old, he is wiggly, squiggly, and unrelenting when he wants something. I know, I know, sounds like a “typical” (almost) 1 year old. I promise; he’s not.
My anxiety stems from traveling with him during a time when he refused to eat. Working
your way through airport security with a baby who has a feeding tube
coming out of his nose that is connected to a bag filled with formula
that is on its way to your child’s stomach is a juggling act that I
hope to never experience again. And there in lies the root of my current anxiety.
The flight from Baltimore to Atlanta was fantastic! It
was a 3 pm take off; the plane was half full (or half empty depending
on how you see it), and I remember thinking to myself, “It doesn’t get
any better than this.” But it did! We
sprawled ourselves across an entire row of three seats, toys
everywhere, blankets out, snuggling, sleeping, playing, flirting with
flight attendants (ok he flirted with the flight attendants). My son and I arrived in Atlanta having just experienced an awesome afternoon of successful, feeding-tube-free traveling.
Four days later, I found myself back at the airport, awaiting return flight.
What was supposed to be a 4:02 pm take-off was a 4:35 pm take-off due to the pilots showing up late. I know to the average traveler, this 33 minute delay doesn’t seem like a big deal. To a parent traveling with a child, it means everything. This meant that my son and I had been on the plane, seated for an hour before we even began taxiing from the jet-way. Given that I was traveling with a little one and all of his gear, we were one of the first to board at 3:35 that afternoon. And given that both my husband and father-in-law are pilots, I found myself watching the pilots (once they showed up). I watched their process of pre-flight check lists, switching this that and the other off and on, revving up the engines.
I’ve heard stories of children who scream in pain during take-off and landing because of the pressure change. That doesn’t affect my son. Maybe it’s the “pilot gene” he gets from his dad and grandfather. I’ve
also heard horror stories of babies whose bowels explode upon take-off
and their moms end up changing their diaper on the seat-back-tray-table
because they have no other option.
My squirmy, fussy, loud child was starting to lose it. I attempted to give him a bottle, knowing we would be taking off shortly.
He didn’t want his bottle.
He started crying.
He wanted his bottle.
He started screaming.
He didn’t want his bottle.
maneuver my child in as many “comfortable” position I can given the
small amount of space one is given in a seat on an airplane. I attempt to distract him with toys, snuggling, singing, “shhh”ing in his ear. He wants nothing to do with me, and he lets me and the 130+ passengers on the plane know it.
women (sisters traveling together) across the aisle from me offer to
take my son when they see the look of panic that is rising on my face. I
accept the reprieve and try to collect myself and my creativity while
they handle my child who is batting their faces and pulling eye-glasses
off their noses.
I take out more toys, goldfish (his favorite snack), juice, a blankey. I’m prepared.
The hand-off takes place and my son, for a few moments, is intrigued, even content.
I remember my mom once told me that “if a fever is going to spike, it’ll do so at 5 pm.” In
the numerous baby books that I have read, the 5 o’clock hour is the
“fussy hour” and the most difficult time of day to get through for both
parent and child. I can only speak from the parent’s perspective.
For my son, on this flight, it meant that once the clock struck 5, the really party started. Wailing,
flailing, screaming, shrieking, and even that “ohgoodgrief you’re
turning blue and not making any noise” type of scream. He did it all.
I couldn’t move. The seat belt sign was still lit. I could feel my breath getting shorter, my mind starting to race. The people around me began looking, watching to see what I would do next. I just wanted to start breathing into a paper bag.
son continued to pitch the fit of his life, and when the seat belt sign
finally turned off, and I was “free to move about the cabin,” I scooped
up my little monster and walked. We walked to the back of the plane, checked out the over-stocked shelves of peanuts and Biscoff cookies. We walked through the aisle and up to the front of the plane. He screamed the entire time.
We walked through the first-class section, which probably wasn’t allowed with my coach ticket, but I did it nevertheless. I tried to gently swing and lull my son into a calm state in the hopes of him drifting off to sleep. I tried, and I tried, and I tried.
The business men in first class watched in horror. The looks in their eyes told me, “please just open the emergency door and throw him out.” And quite honestly, I considered the suggestion their eyes gave me.
older couple, also seated in first class, watched me with pity as the
sweat dripped down my forehead and the back of my shirt.
Finally the two women who had occupied my son earlier, stood and took him from me, suggesting I take a “trip to the ladies.”
I clicked the door to the bathroom shut, “occupied,” and bawled like a baby myself. I was embarrassed, confused, infuriated, exhausted. And this flight felt like the longest flight of my life.
I don’t know what to do.
cool water on my face, I rejoined the Mother Theresa incarnate and her
sister, taking my still-screaming son back into my arms.
the pilot came on and told us we were “beginning our intial approach
into the Baltimore area,” and to “please remain seated with our seat
belts fastened for the remainder of the flight.”
We landed. My son screamed the entire flight, never once passing out from exhaustion (though I wish I had). As I gathered our belongings and watched passengers exit the airplane, I felt all eyes on us.
I felt the judgment. I felt the solitude. And I wondered if these passengers realized that they too were once screaming babies who just wanted to go home.
We were the last to exit the plane. I
bypassed the trip to the bathroom to change my son’s pee-brick of a
diaper simply because I didn’t want to see the women who had been on my
Making our way down to baggage claim, I found salvation in the form of my husband. He picked up our son (who had stopped crying by this point), hugged me and said, “I missed you.”
I missed him too. And if I can help it, I will never again travel without him.