Traveling Mama

When flying with baby goes all wrong, sometimes you get lucky

My husband captured this real mom moment:

bringing-baby-on-airplane

I thought I’d look much more disheveled, and my son’s smile surprises me, too.

We’d just de-boarded his second-ever flight, and I knew going in that flying with a congested baby would be tough. I just didn’t expect to be that mom: the one whose baby screams uncontrollably on an otherwise quiet flight.

I walked him. Bounced him. Talked to him. Sang to him. Read to him. Used an armrest as an instrument, a menu as a book, a cup as a toy. Played Pattycake with his hands. Played Pattycake with his feet. Let him stand. Tried to laugh. Tried to act calm. Tried not to bump into people as I stood next to my seat — eyes locked on the baby — bouncing with all that I had, and holding my breath as crying elevated to screaming for over an hour.

Finally, he fell asleep in my arms.

I’d like to think my determined bouncing did it, but maybe the screaming did — maybe he exhausted himself.

I attempted to lock every muscle around the baby, around my arms, as I climbed back into my seat. The moment I hit it, I burst into tears. I tried to stay silent, tried not to move.

When we landed my eyes focused on the exit.

Then the unexpected:

We stood up, and a lady called our son adorable. (In case he reads this someday, I have to be clear: That’s not the unexpected part.)

“Thanks,” I said. “Sorry about the noise…”

She nodded her head, shutting me down immediately: “I have 20 grandkids.”

“You guys did a good job,” someone else shouted from a few rows back.

“Especially the mom,” said a man directly behind us.

The plane door opened before I could process my confusion. I headed straight for it, pausing just long enough to give the flight attendant a quick hug. Throughout the flight she brought us goodies, played peek-a-boo, checked on my stress level and gave our son motivational speeches from her jump seat at the front of the plane.

“I wish I could’ve done more,” she said as I ran for the exit.

Outside the plane, just as we turned to wait for our stroller, a passenger rushed up with open arms. She hugged me, my husband and baby simultaneously. “You did a good job, and he’s so cute.” She gave us another hug. “It’s hard, but you did such a good job.”

Another woman walked by, cooing at the baby.

Then the man from behind us: “You did great. I didn’t hear anyone say anything negative or complain around us.”

I looked at him through tears.

“You can’t be so hard on yourself! You did great, Mom.” He took a few steps away and turned back around: “I started praying for you and your baby, and a few minutes later he fell asleep.”

I turned to my husband and edged out a smile.

Then came more smiles from passengers walking by, more encouraging words.

Even at baggage claim, people stopped us.

An older woman: “Don’t blink! He’ll grow up way too fast, and next thing you know he’ll be 26.”

“Maybe by then I’ll be ready to fly again.”

“Aww, no,” she said, laughing.

Another lady: “Your baby was pretty good during the flight! I used to judge until I had my own. Very few people realize it’s completely out of your control. He was pretty good.”

A big, buff-looking guy who had offered his headphones during the flight, in case they might help the baby’s ears pop: “Don’t EVER be embarrassed about that.” He said it twice, finger pointed straight at me. I listened both times.

In fact, I’m still listening — to his words and those of the other passengers.

“You can’t be so hard on yourself.”

“You did a good job.”

Sometimes that’s all a new mama needs to hear to feel a little bit stronger. At least this one. My gratitude goes out to the flight attendant and passengers of Spirit’s Flight 639.

___

Do you have any good stories about traveling as a new mama? Leave them in the comments below!

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