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A Baby's First Work Trip

P1030898-10Leone and I just returned from Rock Valley College, where I was invited to be the keynote speaker for their annual Student Writing Awards Ceremony. I haven’t been on an airplane for six months. My last trip was to New Orleans when I was almost nine months pregnant.

My conversations with fellow travelers, flight attendants, and airport personnel during that trip went like this:

“When are you due?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“That soon?”


Even though I had just written a travel article advising pregnant women not to travel too close to the due date, I spent the last flight on the way back holding my knees together to keep my water from breaking.

This time I was petrified about flying. I’ve always been a nervous flier but lately it’s gotten worse. It doesn’t help that a friend and former colleague died on the airplane that crashed over Buffalo in February 2009. There’s also something about having a small fat Buddha Baby that makes one want to stay home. Plus, I just finished a 5,000-word article for Mothering about cloth diapering (which will appear in the May issue) and I’m more committed with this baby to using cloth (and doing EC) than I ever have been before. I interviewed a mom who has traveled around the world–from Norway to Mexico City–with cloth diapers. I figured if she could do it I could do it! But I’ve never traveled with only cloth diapers before so that also added to my stress levels.

It’s not an asset to have flight anxiety when you make more than fifty percent of your living as a travel and culture writer and you need to fly for work. This is a problem.

Luckily, Leone didn’t have heart palpitations every time the noises on the airplane changed. She liked the plane rides. She had lots of people to smile at. She enjoyed playing with the safety instructions in the seat pocket in front of us, and banging her hand on the tray table.

She also was happy to take the bus from the airport to Rockford, Illinois.

Here are five things I learned about traveling with a five-month-old:

1) No matter how regular your baby usually is, she will poop when the seatbelt sign is illuminated during take-off.

2) It’s very hard to button your jeans with one hand in an airplane bathroom holding an infant.

3) The lady on the plane who keeps looking at you, the one you’re sure is thinking you’re a bad parent and judging you for traveling with an infant, is actually nice once you start talking to her. You only thought otherwise because you were projecting your crankiness, anxiety, and low blood sugar (see #4) onto her.

4) Pack food. Then pack more food. Then pack some more. You will eat it all. When you forget to pack enough food on the way home (see #3) and your baby decides to have a growth spurt on the airplane and wants to nurse every 45 minutes, it makes you very very hungry.

5) Going through security with a baby is not as difficult as you imagine it to be when you’re up with airplane anxiety insomnia for a week before your trip. If you wear slip-on shoes, have your liquids ready, leave your laptop at home, pack light despite all the diapers, and carry your baby in a sling or soft backpack, you’ll be so speedy that you’ll leave the most well-traveled businessmen in your wake.

The airplane was fun

The airplane was fun

Especially sitting ON the tray table

Especially sitting ON the tray table

But the bus tasted better

But the bus tasted better

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Tags: airplane anxiety, family travel, juggling work and family, keynote speech, Rock Valley College, Rockford Illinois, traveling with a five-month-old, traveling with a small baby

Comments (19)

Welcome back ... wow, I admire your courage, flying with a wee one like that. I too am a fearful flier. During my travel magazine editorship (when I had to fly around the country often), I interviewed a pilot who conducted workshops for fearful folk like me. It didn't help as much as I'd hoped, though his logic and reassurance made sense to me. Good on you for forging ahead and making a successful trip. You're an inspiration to us all! .-= Cindy L.´s last blog ..“In Perpetual Spring” =-.
Aw, she is so cute! I'm glad your trip went well. As a fellow terrified flier, I have found that traveling with a baby really cuts down on the anxiety because it gives you something else to focus on. And I'd rather be thinking that they guy in 14A hates me and my screaming baby than about that weird sound the engine just made. Unfortunately, traveling with elementary-age kids does not help. Because I feel compelled to fake being relaxed so as not to infect them with my terror.
I'm the world's worst flier -- I once turned down a free trip to Zurich (!!!!!) to write a travel piece for a friend's mag because I was too scared to get on the plane (which, naturally, would crash, leaving my children motherless because their terrible mom decided to jet off to Europe...). Ditto a few years prior to that, when I earned a free week in Key West as top seller in my company and then promptly declined it (I kept the beach towel and tote bag, though). And I won't even tell you how many Xanax it took for me to fly w/ the kids from DC to CA four years ago... Luckily, it all worked out -- I just tell people I'm an environmentalist and choose not to fly because I'm single-handedly saving the planet. In reality, I'm just a garden-variety wuss. :0) Leone is adorable, by the way!! She's a keeper!
Nice job lady, glad you made it there and home in one piece. Etani was a delight as usual.
What a great little article and adorable baby!
I don't love flying, but living on an island has made me much less freaky about it. Also, I find that flying out of our small airports - where I'm very comfortable now - has made me more comfortable about ALL airports. I know (mostly) what to expect, simply from flying more frequently. Now I just need a new assignment to write about a far flung location so I can test my improved flying skills! .-= Kris´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.
Leone is really rocking that adorable jean jacket!
Jennifer- Great article-as usual. Leone is absolutely adorable! Loved the pictures.
I am delurking to beg: Please tell me all about cloth diapers. My memories of cloth diapers all revolve around what they were like 22 years ago, when my sister was 8 and I learned to changer her diaper. People tell me there are better options out there now- that my husband might actually use (he's never changed a diaper and is SCARED of cloth diapers.) Tell me what you recommend, how you wash, etc. I've got time as I just took a + test today.....
OK, Leone is just getting cuter and cuter! I'm also a fearful flyer and flew with Mason when he was Leone's age. And I have to admit to being pleased that you and so many cool mamas on this comment page don't like to fly either. Yay, xanax.
She is SO darn cute!!!!!!
Love the photo of Leone in the airplane seat!!!! I am like you, and like many, I suppose, when it comes to air travel. I tried my best to keep my anticipation of disaster secret from my kids, and think I succeeded. They all have no problem flying. .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..The Charm of Going Barefoot in the Springtime =-.
Congrats to both of you for getting through and enjoying it!
Leone is such a cutie pie. I remember trying to change a diaper in an airplane bathroom. There's supposedly a changing table in there SOMEWHERE, folded up over the toilet? I don't know because I never did find it. I eventually changed her on the seat next to me. The other passengers got over it. .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Story of My Journalism Conference =-.
I took Marya to Hawaii with me when she was about 6 weeks old. John was on R&R from Viet Nam and met us there. Up until then I used cloth diapers but it was just too hard to travel that long way with them so I purchased disposables which were a crumbly, expensive luxury. It was the era of sterilization so the formula was also a challenge. At the rate our friends were dying, I felt that I had to bring her there bc he might never see her otherwise. (We didn't know I was preg when he left) He returned to VN and (thank God) came home to his fathering role 2 months later. It was a long time ago but the memory of that time will be forever fresh.
Your daughter is adorable. And, I chuckled when I read the odds of your baby pooping during take-off. I would bet there are lots of adults who would like to do that, too! .-= Marie Pechet´s last blog ..Article and audio on WBUR health blog =-.
Thanks for asking, Ariel! And thanks for reading and de-lurking. Sorry I haven't responded to this comment sooner (I got a little sidetracked with the whole Frontline vaccine debate). I have a 5,000 word article in the May issue of Mothering about cloth diapers. If you're not a subscriber and you have trouble finding a copy, please contact me and I'll make a copy and send it to you. I also plan to blog about cloth diapering all this first week of May. The first post is here:http://mothering.com/jennifermargulis/cloth-diapers/i-heart-cloth-diapers. The next post will be all about getting started.
I've subscribed to the magazine! Thanks! When I did cloth diapers 22 years ago (my little sisters) they were the ones with huge pins and uncomfortable covers... I'm so glad there are other options now!
I read #1 about the pooping during takeoff to my husband and his response is "True". Having traveled with 2 babes a huge number of times in the past few years, we TOTALLY sympathize. :) Leone is adorable, btw. .-= Heather´s last blog ..Cloth Diapering in North Carolina =-.
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