Just the thought of flying with a baby strikes fear in the hearts of parents.
But when my husband asked if baby Arlene and I wanted to meet up with him during a Boston work trip, I said sure. I can do this! I reasoned that I would've gone prior to having a baby, so why let that stop me now?
However, as the trip approached, the panic set in. Here's every fear that raced through my head prior, followed by how it played out in real life.
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Fear: Getting all the crap from the car into the airport.
I hate lugging my own suitcase. How in the hell am I supposed to carry a suitcase, stroller, carseat, diaper bag and live, tiny human through the airport?
I'd considered curb-side check-in, but lingering outside in 10 degree weather isn't exactly baby-friendly. Fortunately, my friend Liz offered to drive us to the airport, park and help me carry everything in. Life-saver!
Fix: If you can get help, ask for it. People want to help you and your little babe!
Fear: Going through security.
I worried about holding up dozens of irritated business travelers giving me the stink eye as I piled bag after bag through the x-ray machine.
Truth be told, security ended up being the chaotic shit-show I envisioned.
Because our flight was delayed, I brought the stroller with me. TSA asked me to send it through the x-ray machine, which was precisely the same width as the stroller-- something no one realized until it was fully stuck inside. Whoopsies!
Not only that, I'd accidentally left a zipper open on the diaper bag, which meant that my chapstick, car keys, change and a pacifier all fell out, spewing forth on the filthy conveyor belt. Ick.
The good news was few people were behind us in line, so we didn't hold anyone up. I also had TSA Pre-check, which meant I didn't have to take off my shoes. I simply carried the baby through the metal detector, then reassembled the colossal pile of crap needed to travel with a 15-pound person.
Fix: Try to go in as organized as possible. Have liquids out and in their own bag. Breastmilk, even if it's in a cooler, gets sent through the x-ray machine, then is inspected. You'll need to take baby out of the carrier/stroller, so try to do that while you're waiting in line.
And if it does take a while to get situated, you do not need to apologize! Think of how many solo adult dummies have made you wait at security.
I worried I'd end up stuck at the airport for hours with a screaming baby.
And guess what? Our flight was delayed nearly three hours. Luckily, this was before we'd boarded the plane. I think I would've lost my mind if we'd been trapped on the tarmac.
Fix: Bring your walking shoes. I easily earned my 10,000 steps walking the airport with my lulled-to-sleep baby.
Fear: Dealing with a serious poop situation.
Blowouts, mega-barfs and snotfests always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Like when you're traveling.
With that in mind, please enjoy this video.
I felt fortunate this happened when I had access to MSP airport's fancy family bathrooms. I can't even imagine trying to clean poop out of my baby's hair while trapped on a plane.
I made the executive decision to throw the onesie away and changed the baby into her backup outfit. I then bought a $24 pair of backup pajamas at the airport. Expensive, but worth it in case this happened again.
Fix: You can't really control this one. My advice is to travel with TWO extra outfits, and a gallon Ziplock bag for poop and puke covered clothes. Maybe carry-on extra shirt for yourself, just in case.
Fear: Missing the flight.
Time works differently with a baby. When they're melting down, it moves slow like molasses. When you need to be somewhere, it's speeds along like a coked up Charlie Sheen.
After spending who knows how long remedying our poop fiasco, I walked back to our gate, which was boarding! Arghhhh! I knew I needed extra time, so I budged through 30 people to get to the ticketing agent, exasperatedly handing her my ticket. Anxiety sweat dripped down my back.
"KATT, KATT.... HMMMM KATT.... I DON'T SEE YOU ON THIS FLIGHT," she shouted at the top of her lungs as the entire gate looked on.
As it turned out, our gate had changed due to the delay... and I still had plenty of time. So I rolled my pile of crap back through the crowd, trying to act like I wasn't embarrassed at all.
Fix: Wear a watch, set an alarm, download your airline's app for updates. Just keep an eye on the clock for your boarding time (and gate).
Fear: Getting a middle seat.
What could be worse then finding yourself squelched between two huge body builders on a flight, let alone a flight you're on with a baby?
Fix: As soon as you're able, get on your airline's website and try to book a window or aisle seat. My play here is ALWAYS for a window seat. I love looking out the window, not to mention it's easier and more discrete to breastfeed. But there's something to be said for sitting on the aisle with a babe. Easy access to the walkway and bathroom, just in case. My thought is whichever you're naturally inclined to select when traveling without a baby is your answer.
SIDE NOTE: Try to book a seat near the back of the plane. This is good for two reasons: One, it's noisier-- perfect for drowning out your baby's cries AND lulling them to sleep. Also, if there's ever an empty row or seat on the plane, it's often at the very back. If you're nearby, empty rows pretty much automatically go to the person with the baby!
Fear: Sitting next to a weirdo.
I figured I'd end up next to an eighth grade boy who pretended like he wasn't trying to look at my nipple. Or worse, end up next to some sales guy named Steve who acted just a little too comfortable around a new mom and her baby.
Fix: Charm the pants off the gate agent. These people truly want to help you. My prayers must've worked because there were four wide open rows in the back of the plane. I sprawled in my own row, breastfeeding my baby confidently, luxuriating with my tiny plastic bowl of ginger ale.
I've never considered myself a germaphobe... until I had a baby. Now I look at every surface, picturing teeny-tiny bacteria waiting to pounce on my precious, illness-prone babe. Considering how many people spend hours coughing, sneezing, farting and who knows what else on a plane, it seems like a cold waiting to happen.
Fix: Wash your hands. Wipe down the area around you if you can, and buy one of these dohickeys to clip your babe's pacifier to their clothes. You do not want anything they put in their mouth to touch the disgusting floor. And let's be honest, if the paci falls out, you're probably never going to find it anyway.
Fear: Dirty looks from people.
I worried people would be A-holes to the lady with the baby.
Fix: Who cares. As it turns out, no parent should give two rips about this. Ninety-nine percent of passengers are incredibly empathetic-- shockingly so. The other one percent are people who suck at life anyway. And think about it-- among the top 10 most annoying people I've ever shared a plane with, zero have been babies.
Fear: Constant crying.
We've all been on the flight with the baby who won't stop crying. One minute of screaming feels like an hour, especially when it's in confined public space.
Fix: Feed 'em. Or give them a pacifier. Everything I've read said to feed the baby on takeoff and landing to help their ears acclimate. I followed the advice and she barely made a peep! Airplanes also work as giant white noise machines. That mixed with a little turbulence and being snuggled next to mom actually makes for an ideal sleeping situation.
And if they do cry, most people understand. Just close your eyes and think about how you won't see your fellow passengers ever again.
Fear: Changing a diaper on the flight.
Half-way through the flight, I felt a rumble. Uh-oh. How do you change a baby's diaper on an airplane? As I walked to the bathroom, a guy gave me a thumbs up and said, "Good luck!"
Fix: There was a sketchy-but-workable changing table in one of the restrooms. There was even a sign for it on the door-- something I've never noticed until I flew with a baby! It was a little complicated when I had to pee. Long story short, I hope you have strong quads and aren't on a turbulent flight.
* * *
Flying with my baby was not as hard as I'd imagined.
To be fair, I do have a chill baby. Two, most people are incredibly helpful to anyone traveling with an infant.
I am so glad I ripped off this band-aid early into parenthood. I was legitimately filled with anxiety about flying with the baby, but it was not as bad as I'd imagined. It gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel like I can still do fun things even though I have a baby.
Yes, becoming a mom has made me different, but I'm still me at my core. I'm excited to share my love of travel and adventure with my daughter. Next time, let's hope she doesn't poop everywhere.