Leone 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.”
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.