Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Flying “home”

After several months in the U.S., it was finally time to return to Dublin.

4 suitcases

a stroller and full-size stroller bag

laptop bag, diaper bag, backpack, purse, breast pump bag

car seat and of course, Kate

Since my husband was only able to spend about two weeks in the States, Kate and I would be flying back to Dublin, alone. I had spoken to the airline numerous times requesting assistance between gates, only to be told repeatedly that there was nothing they could do to help. Finally (lucky phone call #8) someone took pity on me and offered to have a wheelchair waiting at the gate. YAY! At least I could stack bags, and maybe a car seat, on top of it.

We arrived at the airport and aside from checking-in, the first order of business was to get the stroller into the stroller bag so it could be checked. Now, common sense says that we should have already done this or at least known how to do it. Well, yes. Except that the stroller bag hadn’t arrived until the last minute (another fiasco) and I was busy packing and pumping. My mom came to the rescue, again, and figured out the stroller, including taking the wheels off. I love my stroller, but it is far from easy to travel with. While she was doing that, I was busy with the check-in agent. She couldn’t find Kate in the system. After the first supervisor came out to help, we were asked to step aside in line. As I turned around, who should I see behind me, my high-risk OB (the one who was supposed to deliver Kate). Sure enough, she was on our first flight. I was definitely a bit anxious about that. Would she judge my parenting? Would Kate cry on the flight?

Forty-five minutes and two supervisors later, we were ready to go to the gate. The story I was given was that the agent couldn’t find Kate in the system because she was looking her up as an “infant”, which only brought up “lap babies”; Kate was a ticketed passenger. I’m still not sure I entirely believe this, but whatever, by then we were late.

Knowing that I had to haul a laptop, diaper bag, purse, breast pump bag, chilled bin of milk, car seat, and Kate, through security, I requested assistance to the gate, and eagerly offered my mom. The check-in agent happily passed over the necessary paperwork and we were on our way.

Kate was less than thrilled to be removed from her car seat to go through security, but you have to do what you have to do. TSA was wonderful in their handling of all of our carry-ons, specifically the pump and milk.

Quick goodbyes at the gate and a friendly flight attendant helped me carry everything onto the plane. The things you can’t make up: we were seated in the row directly behind my doctor. I fastened in the car seat and Kate started to cry. EEP! My wonderful doctor turned around, smiled, and said that, “Yes, the first flight is always the hardest.” Sigh of relief.

Kate immediately settled down, until I had the bright idea to try to nurse her in the middle of the flight. We had less than an hour between flights in Chicago, so I knew I needed to feed her on our first flight. I took her out of the car seat, put on the nursing top, and she howled. I struggled for 15 minutes or so, declared defeat, and strapped her back into the car seat.

When we landed, my wonderful doctor offered to carry some of our bags up to the gate. Thank you! She gave me a hug, said she’d see me this summer (I hope), and said goodbye. A nice young man was waiting with a wheelchair, so we loaded it up and set off for the next gate. As we were walking, a passenger from the previous flight came over to us. He told me that I was doing a great job and that he hadn’t even realized there was a baby on the flight. Liar, liar, pants on… No really, thanks for the compliment. I’m positive he was just being polite and obviously, very kind, but the fact that he went out of his way to say those things made me feel so much better. Mr. middle-aged businessman, if you happen to be reading this, thank you!

At the next gate, the young man offered to leave the wheelchair for me to use, which I gladly accepted. We had a few minutes before boarding, and I needed some water, so I walked over to a little café and quickly realized that traveling with a baby, pushing a wheelchair full of stuff, did not make for an easy in/ out experience when buying water. In fact, there wasn’t enough room to get the wheelchair into the store. A woman noticed that I was alone, and offered to watch Kate while I went in to pay for the water. I must have looked at her like she had three heads, because then she offered to take my money in to pay, while I stood outside with Kate. Yes. I will trust a stranger with $20, not with my newborn. She returned with the water and change and said that she was on my flight, loved babies, and that if I needed anything, to come and find her. Very sweet.

I pushed the wheelchair back to the gate to enquire about pre-boarding and maybe getting some help with the bags. The gate agent was beyond rude. She accused me of having too many carry-ons and started to lecture me on traveling with less stuff. I pointed out that Kate was a ticketed passenger and that according to the airline baggage policy, we were actually under the limit of carry-ons (diaper bags and breast pumps don’t count).

The flight was full, completely full, and I admit that I was a bit anxious while pondering who would be seated next to us. I was praying for the president of LeLeche League. Due to all of the feeding issues (again, another post) and the length of the flight, I knew I would need to feed Kate and pump several times. Well, I didn’t get LeLeche League, but I did get a nice woman who didn’t seem overly irritated about being seated near an infant. I was also grateful for the young guy seated in front of Kate. Upon sitting down, he looked back, saw the car seat and asked if he would be able to recline. I apologized and said no, but offered to buy him a drink for the inconvenience. That was that. Another sigh of relief.

Fortunately, the flight crew was awesome; all men, and one in particular was taken with Kate. He stopped by often to make sure that I had enough water and that “little miss sunshine” as he called her, was okay.

It wasn’t an “easy” flight, but it could have been so much worse. Kate basically slept and ate, the entire way to Dublin. I didn’t even attempt to breastfeed her. Even though she had her own seat, there just wasn’t enough room. I did have to pump a few times; thank goodness for a small portable pump and a nursing cover. The woman next to me didn’t even realize what I was doing; she made a comment about me being cold when I put the nursing cover on. That was it.

We landed, and I had planned to be the last one off since I had so many bags to gather and didn’t want to be in the way. The woman next to me ended up waiting with her relatives to help me, but the flight attendant offered to do it. As we came down the stairs, there was another young man with my last name on a card. It turned out they were expecting us. Hallelujah. Dublin Airport, you are the best!! The young man loaded us into a van, drove us to the main airport, then helped me inside. Yet another group of men were waiting and found a baggage cart for me to use. I piled everything onto that while they “oohed and ahhed” over Kate. I made my way to customs and waited, and waited, and waited. By this time I was starting to feel sick, really sick (feverish, shivery, dehydrated). After I’d been in line for almost 45 minutes, a custom’s agent approached me and asked if we were traveling alone. He then opened up another line and let me through.

My husband was waiting in baggage and THRILLED to see his little girl, and perhaps his wife. I’d purchased one of those “I Love Daddy” bibs for Kate to wear when she saw her daddy for the first time, in almost two months. We found the bags, went to the car, and drove home.

That’s when I realized, I had the flu, oh and to add to the fun, clogged ducts. I fed Kate, took ashower, pumped, and promptly took the first, and only, nap I’ve had since she was born.

At least we were finally “home”.

At some point in the near future, I will do another post on helpful hints when traveling with a newborn.

1 comment:

  1. oh my! What an adventure!! I'm glad you made it home safely.