Monday, August 15, 2011

Like a Needle in My Eye

Traveling with a baby isn't a huge deal, but it does take planning and a bit of patience. We have a trip to Hawaii planned in November, so when Carin suggested a girls gathering in CA I figured it would be a good test run. Only problem? Elyse's first flight would be with me - by myself. I've conquered some pretty big tasks, but I was a little worried about this one. Thankfully, in the end we had two safe flights and a happy ending.

Details: Tuesday, August 2. Flight from Seatac to Sacramento. Passengers: 10 month old girl, 36 (almost 37) year old neurotic mother.

Arrived at Seatac airport. We parked so Bill could help me with the baby gear. We never park, so this in and of itself was odd. I check in at the Alaska Air kiosk. Stand in line to check suitcase and carseat. Long lines, but no problems. Kissed Bill goodbye and off through security check-in. Elyse is in stroller, diaper bag is on my shoulder and backpack with camera bag and changes of clothes is looped on the stroller handler. We're doing good - baby is happy.

Stand in long line and finally get up to desk - show ticket and ID and man tells me ticket doesn't say anything about an infant riding on my lap. I tell man that I entered the information on the kiosk - it even asked that I enter her name. He says, "Sorry, you need to return to counter... but tell the gal over there so you can come back through the 'premium line' and don't have to stand in line again." I sigh deeply and upon returning to Alaska, the lines seem to have doubled. I find an Alaska employee standing at a podium with a phone to her ear and apparently on hold. I step toward her and she barks, "This line isn't open." Grrrrr... I survey the lines again and see another woman at the "Group Check-In" counter. She looks friendlier. I approach her and she actually gives me eye contact. I tell her my situation and she says, "I need to check in a huge group of Japanese tourists, but I know exactly what happened - let me help you". The woman kindly explains this happens when you check into an exit row and it is a problem the airline is aware of. She prints me a new ticket and sends me on my way.

I return to the premium line and the woman checking tickets doesn't seem to remember me from just ten minutes ago, but still waves me through. I proudly show my ticket marked "infant" to the security agent and I proceed to the security check-in. I remove my shoes and Elyse's. I get all of our things in the bins and one of the employees tells me Elyse needs to come out of the stroller and I can carry her through. I cannot get the stroller to collapse. Three security employees stand around me saying to each other, "Those are the hard strollers." Balancing a baby on my hip and trying to rush folding up a stroller - I'm definitely sweating now. I  finally get it onto the conveyor belt and we breeze through the x-ray. A very nice security employee helps me get the stroller off the conveyor and we struggle together getting it to snap in place. I get us all situated and Elyse refuses to go back into the stroller screaming and clutching at my shirt each time I set her down. Her Sophie toy and one of her shoes fall on the ground and a woman walks by with two small children and says, "It is so hard doing it alone, isn't it?" We load up (stuff in the stroller - Elyse in my arms) and ride three elevators and two trams before we get to our gate. Wow, you forget what a large airport this really is.

Our gate is jam-packed. Not one place to sit. I see Starbucks and head that way. I order an iced latte, banana bread, apple juice and a bottle of water. I walk over to wait for the coffee and a woman says, "Ma'am, you left your wallet!" Oh my - I need to get it together! We get our order and I am relieved when Elyse agrees to get back into the stroller. We head to the gate area. Still no seats, so I sit on the floor fill the sippy cups with water and one with half water/half apple juice. Elyse is fussing, she wants out of the stroller again. I take a sip of the iced latte when the announcer says, "We will now begin pre-boarding First Class and Families with Young Children." What?! Where has the time gone? I toss the coffee and we head toward check-in. They let me push Elyse in the stroller until we get onto the plane and a nice man says, "Don't worry - just leave it. I will collapse it for you." Thank you!

We find our seat. I try to balance Elyse on the seat without her falling while I put my backpack in the overhead bin. I move too quickly to get back into my seat and slam my forehead into the overhead compartment. I'm now not only sweaty, but my head is spinning. Elyse is super testy now. I realize I'd never changed her diaper. I decide to go ahead and do it quickly on my lap since there were hardly any passengers around me. At this point, I really didn't care. She actually enjoyed laying on my lap. I sat her up and the fussing returned.

I start digging for her toys and pray for our seatmates. We are in the middle seat. The first man arrives and his seat is to our left. He is a Grandpa and as he sits down he gives us a pained look. I apologize and hope for the best. Elyse will settle for a moment, but then cry, shriek and yes, even scream. I find the melatonin. It is natural and I just hope it keeps her a little calmer. I give her a 1/4 of a tablet. It is peppermint and chewable - she likes it. We look at books. Play with Sophie. Hold the dolly, but man she is TICKED. The seat to our right is still free and the only thing keeping her happy is if I let her stand on the seat. She grips onto the headrest making faces at the people in front of us. Fortunately, they are incredibly sweet and as Elyse is shrieking in their ear they tell me, "Don't worry about us. We love babies." Next thing I know I get a new seatmate to my left. The man says to me. That was my Dad. Sitting next to a baby is like a needle in his eye. I'm a teacher. Don't worry about me. I'm good with it. Ugh...

Still no one to my left! Could we be this lucky? Nope, here comes the lady. She is a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant. She tells me not to worry. Phew - at least we have nice people around us. I proudly pull out the apple juice for take-off hoping her sucking on her sippy cup will help with take-off. She's had apple juice with others, but we never give it to her so I'm thinking I'm being so smart. She takes two sips and throws it on the ground, refusing to drink from it again. I worry - I'd read so much about the pressure hurting baby's ears and I didn't know how it would affect her.

Fortunately, she did fine with take-off - the pressure didn't seem to bother her at all. Heck, she was already fussy. About fifteen minutes in she fell asleep after constant fighting and fidgeting. Thank goodness for that thumb. She sucked away and finally drifted off. I was shouting "Hallelujah!" in my mind! My right arm fell asleep and my nose itched, but I didn't move an inch. Attendants came by offering snacks and drinks, but I declined - nothing was worth waking the babe. Half an hour later a baby shrieked and her eyes popped open and she sat straight up. We were back on.

More toys came out, snacks, milk - she was not a happy girl. She did not want to be held. She wanted DOWN. The man next to us made faces at her and the woman in front played peek-a-boo. This would appease her for five minutes at a time and then the crying would resume. Finally - a blessed hour and a half later, we landed. We got off the plane, found our stroller, hauled it over to baggage claim and there was Carin. We loaded our stuff into the car and as I unwrapped the carseat from the plastic I noticed I'd gotten black grease all over the front of my white t-shirt. Perfect... But, somehow I didn't care.

Details: Saturday, August 6 (my birthday). Flight from Sacramento to Seatac. Passengers: 10 month old girl, 37 year old mother - praying for a better flight.

As we leave Alyson's she says, "This has the tendency of being the best birthday ever - or the worst!"

Check in at Sacramento. No kiosk. Live body. No problems. One elevator, no trams. Security check-in was a breeze and I easily folded and unfolded the stroller. Elyse happily went back into the stroller. We didn't drop a toy or a shoe. We went to Starbucks and I bypassed the coffee, but ordered a water and banana bread. We sat in a SEAT at the gate and she shared the bread with me while I filled the sippy cups. She stared and laughed at the children and babies around her. I gave her HALF a tablet of melatonin and she happily sucked it down.

They called for early boarding and I put her in my Ergo Carrier and she was HAPPY. I was happy I had free hands. I easily folded down the stroller as we boarded the plane. I found my seat and rejoiced we were next to a window this time. I managed to get into my seat without whacking my head. We played with some toys and my cell phone and she didn't cry or scream even once. Two nice men sat next to us and didn't appear to cringe when they saw a baby. I gave her a sippy cup for take-off which she refused, but stared out the window taking it all in. And then... she fell asleep. My arm didn't fall asleep. I bypassed by the snacks and drinks, but didn't mind at all.

We touched down in Seattle - it was a big bump and it startled her awake, but she laid back down - quietly until we got to the gate. Upon exiting the plane, I put her back in the Ergo and easily gathered our things. I found our stroller, loaded up and we met Bill at baggage claim. The best birthday gift ever.

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