November 18, 2013

The Story of Mr. Awkward and the Plane Flight

Making plans to travel on an airplane alone with an infant is practically begging for something hysterically funny (or hysterically awkward) to happen.  This weekend was no exception.  I'm still nursing Gianni, and Mary Kay's philosophy is God first, family second, career third.  So bringing along nursing babies is not only accepted, but encouraged. In fact, I heard someone say that if you bring a nursing baby to a retreat or conference, you're guaranteed to become a national director.  Ha!  I don't know if that's true, but it sounds good to me! Gianni is pretty easy-going, but he's still 6 months old, so I did bring him along, but I was super grateful when my mom said she'd come along too and hang out with him at the hotel. It was a win win for everyone.  She got to have some grand-baby time, I didn't have to mess with pumping, Alejandro got some one-on-one time with Danny for the weekend, and I got to enjoy the conference to the fullest, without walking out each time he fussed. It was great! Once we got there, that is.

Now, where was I before that rabbit trail...  Oh yes.  Traveling with an infant on an airplane. ...I've done it half a dozen times now, so I've got my systems down and I'm a pro-packer. I can get through security (from loading everything ON the scanner belt to getting everything OFF of the scanner belt, shoes back on and on my way) in 5 minutes flat.  I might be sort of proud of that. Ahem.

I've also learned that if you're a mom with your hands full of baby, stroller, car seat, diaper bag, second bag, and carry-on suitcase, they'll gate check your carry-on suitcase for free just to keep you from holding up all the other passengers. True story! I just saved you $25 bucks. You're welcome.

Anyway, Friday morning after making it all the way onto the plane with my little one, I found my seat and plopped myself down. put the baby on the seat, took out half a dozen things from the second bag, stowed it up above, stowed the baby carrier up above, set the baby on the seat, took half a dozen things out of the diaper bag, got the bag from the upper bin down and put those things in it, caught Gianni before he toppled off the seat, stowed the bag in the upper bin for the second time, adjusted my already-stretched-out-clothes, picked up the baby, and climbed into my seat.

Phew! I was tired already.

Then I turned to my seat-mates. I was on the aisle seat and to my right were two men.  First I said hello to the most uncomfortably awkward, very tall man in his mid 20's, seated in the middle seat, that I've ever met. Then the cool, well-adjusted but definitely not small man in his mid-30's who sat at the window said hello and that I had a cute baby. I accommodated a few more items and made a mental game for the next 20 minutes.

Breakfast time and take-off were going to happen at the same time. Perfect!  Because Gianni's ear-infection-induced fever had broken not 10 hours before and I was not confident about how well take-off was going to go. I needed to keep his mouth working.

"Ok, guys," I started, taking a confident deep breath and speaking loudly enough for everyone around me to hear. (I had decided that being direct and warning everyone ahead of time would be the best policy.) "There's only one way to keep this little guy from screaming. I'm going to have to nurse him and I'm going to try my best not to flash y'all, okay?"  I have never in my life heard a plane quiet enough to hear crickets (if they were there) before that moment, but I guess there's a first time for everything.  Inwardly, I cracked up. Hey, there's gotta be some consolation for mommies on airplanes with babies, right?!?  Right.

They started pressurizing the cabin so I pulled out my nursing cover and got Gianni started. Mr. Awkward sighed deeply, leaned forward and placed his head on the seat back in front of him, covering his face with his hands.

Um... well, that was a little dramatic, I thought. But, so far, so good, except that Gianni likes to "jump" (kick his legs) while he nurses (yes, it's phenomenally annoying), so he was kicking Mr. Awkward for the next 10 minutes through take-off and Gianni's first course of breakfast. I could tell Mr. Awkward was annoyed. Really annoyed.

Next it was time to switch sides.  No flashing so far, and I succesfully got Gianni turned around. Mr. Awkward was relieved to not be kicked anymore, and apparently part of his crankiness was due to lack of sleep, because as Gianni nursed with his legs hanging into the aisle, Mr. Awkward dozed off, leaning toward me and practically laying his head on my shoulder each time he dozed. The awkwardness of the situation was increasing by the moment. Gianni finished and fell asleep, with his legs hanging into the aisle. For the next 10 minutes I breathed sighs of relief while Gianni and Mr. Awkward both slept. Mr. Cool was reading and looking out the window, and the snack lady flight attendant with refreshments was on her way.

After a bit, I realized that the refreshments cart could not fit past Gianni's legs and he kept getting kicked by passengers walking by anyway, so I needed to turn him around. I tried--oh how I tried--to turn him around without waking him, but no such luck.  He woke up, and after his little snooze, he was perky as ever.

Alrighty. Now for solid foods. On the menu:  rice cereal mixed with goats milk. Now because I was attempting to minimize the number of liquids that the people in security would have to examine and test, I brought breakfast in powder form and requested a room-temperature bottle of water. Next, I managed my 6-month old who had suddenly developed octopus arms as he whacked a package of pretzels on the table, mixed water with the powdered goats milk I'd brought, mixed the newly-mixed milk with the powdered rice-cereal I'd brought, kept the 2 snack bars and package of wipes from falling on the floor, protected the hot cup of coffee which I desperately needed but ended up throwing away because no amount of sugar in the world could make that coffee taste good, and tried not to bother Mr. Awkward.  All in 2 square feet between me and the seat in front of me. ...I think I'll re-consider that menu choice next time I fly. By the time we'd finished, I had rice cereal in my hair, spit up on my shirt, abs of steel from picking an item up every 30 seconds and sticky fingers.

We did manage to survive the flight, although I had sweat rings under my arms by the time I got off the plane and I'm pretty sure I passed off my 6 month old to a 16 year old stranger at least twice before the flight was over, just so I could put everything away.

Gianni did eventually fall asleep.  Ten minutes before we landed.  :-|

When it came time to de-plane, I stood up and stretched, ready to gather everything.  I laid my sleeping cherubim on the seat, precariously balancing him so his legs didn't make him slide off. Have I mentioned my baby is HUGE?  He doesn't exactly fit on a seat laying down. In that moment, Mr. Awkward suddenly developed a streak of friendliness and he said, "Oh I'll hold him!" while reaching for Gianni.

I think I actually yelled, "No, no! That's ok! Don't touch him!!" in a frazzled fit of motherly panic that he might wake up. "Don't touch my baby!" definitely ran through my mind, but fortunately some small shred of filter was still in place between my brain and my mouth. Oh, that poor man. That poor poor man. But then, who knows.  Maybe one day, long ago, he was that baby, giving his mother grief on an airplane.  Maybe this is just payback.

A mother can only hope.