Surviving one’s first flight with a baby is a milestone all by itself. But this past week I decided to add a little flavor to the challenge – I combined flying across the country with my infant with a business trip. The sheer madness of this proposition is fairly obvious, so let me just say up front that it was not by choice. Basically, both my husband and I needed to be across the country for business during the same week, and none of the usual suspects could be with Olivia for the week back home. So we packed up a surprisingly oversized suitcase full of footed pajamas and diapers and Olivia came with us. The ingredients to our success this time were humor, family, friends, and a lot of faith (coupled with insane anxiety of course).
Humor—When facing a challenge like the incredible proposition of confining myself to an airplane for five hours with an infant, planning really helps me deal with the anxiety. So I carefully planned ahead and anticipated everything from entertaining baby on the trip to selecting exactly the right suitcases to allow me to build a tower of suitcases as I navigated my way through the check-in lines. My husband chuckled when I asked him, “do you think the airport has a valet we just don’t know about?” I also labored over the decision of whether to take the compact snap and go or the more comfortable cruising stroller. In the end I opted for the Graco snap’n’go’s wonderful combination of portability, large undercarriage, and light-weight design. I even booked our seats so that we were close to the restrooms on the plane, but not too close. But all the planning in the world can’t address life’s unexpected moments, and that my friends is why I had to lean heavily on good old fashioned laughter to get me through.
When we arrived at the airport I was informed that we had been upgraded (a marginal benefit to all the miles I accumulated flying on business before Olivia was born). Score! Or was it? I was so pleased to be flying in business class until I boarded the plane and realized that I had just been immersed in a sea of grumpy old men. On the bright side, I consoled myself by assuming they might all be deaf, literally, to Olivia’s crying. But Olivia wanted to flirt with them the whole flight and not one, not even one noticed a pair of blue eyes cooing at them. The Steward seemed utterly confused by the presence of my infant and actually offered her warm nuts at the beginning of the flight. Sigh. So my minor miracle on the flight ended up being the one other woman in business class who came over and asked if she could play with Olivia and maybe offer me a break so I could use the restroom. The restroom! I had NOT planned out how I would manage going to the bathroom on the plane with Olivia in my arms. I laughed, said “YES!” and thanked my lucky stars that someone saved me before it was a minor emergency.
Other than a brief five minute cry when Olivia protested a short nap and some flying Cheerios in business class, the flight went pretty well. When we landed I told myself, “all I have to do is get off this plane and I have succeeded!” You see, I smartly booked a car service to pick us up because, well, the company was paying the tab and it was the only way I could see to get our luggage from the baggage claim to the hotel. Perfect! Only, of course the car service screwed up and the driver was uselessly driving around arrivals while I was left juggling two enormous suitcases, the stroller, the carry ons, and little Miss Olivia. I smartly assembled the suitcases so that one was attached to the other, and carefully navigated my way out of the airport through a sea of pedestrians, sedan services, and taxi cabs to the curb where I was to meet my car. Just as I declared myself victorious and gingerly set the brake on Olivia’s stroller the 100 lbs of suitcase rolling behind me clumsily jolted to a stop – on my toe. The pain was incredible but I was so focused on getting Olivia into the car that it wasn’t until I tried to lift her car seat from the stroller that I realized the extent of my injury. The suitcases broke my toe! I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot and instead had to hobble dragging my child’s carseat to the car door so that I could lift and scoot her into the car. Then I hoisted myself into the car ceding the rest of the suitcases and bags to the driver. As I released a big sigh I did the only thing I could think to do at the time: I laughed. I mean, as far as I know, there was nothing else to be done for a broken toe, so laughing just seemed appropriate given the irony of the moment.
Friends – The morning after I arrived I was due to escape to Connecticut for one brief night with a girlfriend of mine to attend a friend’s wedding. I was so exhausted at the end of the travel that I went straight to bed and just adopted the strategy that if I ignored the toe it would go away. Sarah was on time to pick me up, but I was of course running a little late. So by the time I hobbled into her car with my overnight bag – packed with two pairs of high heels to match my dress options – we had a little less time than we hoped to get to the hotel and dress for the wedding. Once at the hotel I attempted to stuff my broken toe into a pair of five inch heels. Naturally, I shrieked in pain when I tried to stand on my left foot. I felt helpless. How in the world was I supposed to go to a wedding, mingle, and dance with a broken toe! Did I really fly across the country to be a wallflower all night? Our girlfriend Kate was counting on us to dance at her wedding. We couldn’t let her down! Sarah was great and she offered to drive me to the nearest shoe store to find something that would work. We headed to the nearest mall, directed by the front desk of the local Marriott. The endeavor could easily have been a disaster, but as luck would have it we ended up finding a perfect pair of FLAT sandals in the Macy’s shoe department and we raced back to the hotel to get dressed. We cut it close and ended up catching the very last shuttle to the wedding, but the rest of the night went off without a hitch. The last minute sandals matched my dress so well that people thought they were planned, and we were able to dance to everything from JayZ to Lady Gaga for hours despite my stupid broken toe. I know that Sarah thought nothing of driving me to a mall, but for a new mommy who desperately needed a girls’ night out it was a life saver.
Family – Back to the city, I returned from the wedding to find Marcus and Olivia in one piece and my wonderful sister, Veronica, ready for baby duty. Veronica has a full time job in Los Angeles, but when we found out about this trip she swiftly offered to take a week off and spend the week exploring the city with Olivia. There was already so much about this trip that was stressful, so knowing that my daughter would be spending her days with her auntie was a huge weight lifted from me. I honesty don’t know what we would have done without her. There were two days when I didn’t even get to see Olivia at all because I was so busy at work! But the pains of guilt were quickly assuaged by the knowledge that my baby was in the care of someone who loves her very much. Veronica and Olivia explored museums, parks, and lunched with Veronica’s friends all over the city. Olivia saw buses and rode the subway for the first time. Honestly, I am fairly certain my daughter has now seen more city sights than I ever saw in my three years living in New York City!!! So jealous! No matter how much I regretted not being able to see my daughter during the week, I certainly didn’t regret her getting to know her auntie so well.
Faith – And finally, it all took a little bit of pure, simple faith – faith that it would all work out, faith in ourselves that we could juggle everything, and enough faith to take that giant step onto the airplane and let go of any control I had over the ensuing six hours of flight time.
Obviously we survived, but these adventures always leave me with immense appreciation for our own little village of support. We couldn’t do it without them!
Have a great summer weekend everyone!!!