What Traveling with a Baby Has Taught Me

I recently got back from a trip to California to visit my family with Kaden, and I learned several things, not only about parenting, but about people in general.

I found a new appreciation for single parents, because my husband did not come on the trip with me, and as much family and friends as I had to help me, I was still ultimately alone. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I don’t mean that my family and friends left me to fend for myself, but they’re not Kaden’s parents and I am.

I saw the good in people, and found that while some people may judge your parenting, may cringe and scowl when your baby cries on the airplane, may ignore you as you struggle with your car seat and stroller and diaper bag and two carry on bags, other people see you and will rush to help however they can.

So, here’s what I learned from my recent trip:

You will probably anticipate it being much worse than it will actually turn out being.

I was terrified to fly by myself with a 3 month old baby, that was really closer to a 1 month old baby in terms of development. I had two checked bags, a overflowing diaper bag, a filled up tote bag, and a car seat to take with me on my three week “vacation”. I really didn’t want t take the car seat with me through the terminal, but I was afraid that it wouldn’t make it to California with me and I’d be stuck without a car seat, so I brought the car seat with me through the terminal. I checked the car seat at the gate, picked it up at the gate in Arizona, then checked it at the gate again and picked it up at the gate in California. It was a hassle, it was more than I wanted to carry, but I was afraid to lose it.

My plan was to have Kaden wrapped on the flight, because he usually sleeps when he is wrapped, and then my hands would be free to work on my blog (because I totally had plans on getting ahead, which didn’t happen seeing as I missed this last Tuesday’s post). Did you know that you can’t babywear on an airplane? I had no clue. I had to hold Kaden in my arms, not in his wrap, for the entire flight. I didn’t think to ask why, and I’ll be doing some research to see why, but you can’t do it. So I was afraid Kaden was going to be awake and fussy the whole time.

I had read that you’re supposed to nurse your baby, let them drink from the bottle, or give them their pacifier during takeoff and landing. I bought some 2 ounce, ready-to-drink bottles of formula so all I had to do was open it, screw on a bottle nipple, and pop it in Kaden’s mouth because I didn’t want to deal with holding him, trying to pour water into a bottle without spilling it everywhere, then trying to portion out formula into said bottle without spilling it everywhere, then screwing the nipple back on correctly so that when I shook it up I didn’t leak formula everywhere. I had also read that you’re not supposed to let the baby sleep during takeoff and landing, because when they wake up, their ears might hurt.

Guess what Kaden did during takeoff and landing.

He slept. I tried and tried to get him to take the bottle but he was so tired, he slept the entire flight to Arizona, and then again all the way to California. In the moment, I was so nervous that he was going to wake up screaming in pain. I had the bottle ready to go, but he would not take it! I had even made those little goodie bags with candy and pain killers, with a cute little note inside for the people sitting around me (which I’ll get in to in a minute because apparently those baggies are controversial) but I only handed two to the couple sitting beside me, because one of them mentioned something about needing gum and my baggies had gum in them.

The flight out to California was so smooth! I was in shock! It was not what I had been prepared for in the slightest (not that I am complaining!)

Even if you’re going out to visit family and friends, you won’t have quite as much help as you would with your partner.

Again, I don’t mean that my family and friends didn’t help me, because they did! If it weren’t for them, I would have ripped out my hair and collapsed into a puddle of defeat and despair within my first few days.

What I mean, is that when the baby cries, you’re the one to console him because you’re the one that knows how. You know the special bounce, or that the particular noises he is making means he is overtired or hungry or cold.

When it’s 2am and the baby wakes up thinking he is starving and that he hasn’t eaten in a week, you’re the one that’s going to wake up and give him the bottle. Or, when he decides he wants to wake up every hour on the hour to eat, or burp, or throw up, or just to be held, that’s all you, too.

While in California, I split my time between my mom’s house, my sister’s house, and my stepdad’s house. On the nights I stayed with my mom and stepdad, my mom would come get Kaden when she woke up so I could get a couple more house of uninterrupted sleep. There were a few mornings, she came in to my room at 6 or 7 and I was sitting on the bed, rocking Kaden or feeding him with my head hung over, dark and deep bags under my eyes, and dried tears streaking my cheeks. On those mornings, all I could think of was how thankful I was not to be a single parent, even though I felt like it in the moment.

On mornings when I had a grand total of 3 or 4 hours of sleep, I thought about how so many parents do it by themselves. I thought about my sister-in-law who has two kids under the age of three and is married to a paramedic. I thought about how often her husband is gone on 24, 48, 72 hour shifts and she is home alone with the kids. I actually sent her a text one of those mornings, to tell her that even though her children are too young and don’t understand their mother’s sacrifice and sleep deprivation, I did. I may have only had a temporary taste of what it would be like as a single parent, but it has given me so much respect for those of you that do it on your own, and especially if you have multiple children.

I know that you do it because you don’t have a choice. I know you get it done because you have to, but I admire you for taking care of your children by yourselves. You’re the real MVP.

A lot changes with a baby in three weeks.

When I left home, Kaden weighed around 7 pounds 12 ounces, he still slept a lot during the day, woke up every 3/4 hours through the night for a bottle, ate 2 ounces of Neosure formula every 2 hours during the day, didn’t smile or laugh or coo, and was suffering from some bad gas.

Now that I am home, Kaden is chunky (I won’t know how much he weighs until his next pediatrician appointment in a week), he is awake at least as much as he is asleep if not more, he regularly sleeps 6 hours at night but has gone up to 8 hours before needing a bottle, he eats anywhere from 2 to 6 ounces of Similac Sensitive formula every 1 to 3 hours during the day, he is starting to smile, coo, and is on the verge of laughing, and he now has no problems getting his gas bubbles out the back end.

When my husband picked us up from the airport, he couldn’t believe that Kaden was the same baby. He was so much bigger, and was showing so much more personality than when we had left.

There are still good, kind, helpful people out there.

My flight to California was a breeze, but my flight back home was not.

Kaden was on a different formula, and I could only find 8 ounce bottles of the ready-to-drink bottles of the new formula. I didn’t want to buy 8 ounce bottles, because I knew there was no way he would drink 8 ounces in an hour, and I didn’t want to waste that much formula. So instead, I did the thing I had originally said I wasn’t going to do and I brought his powder with me.

Messy, messy, messy.

Maybe another, more coordinated and organized mother can do it better, but I was on the struggle bus express with trying to make Kaden’s bottle in the airport, and especially on the airplane!

For the first flight, I made Kaden a bottle while I still had him wrapped, so I could use my hands and arms freely. I made a 4 ounce bottle, thinking he probably wouldn’t drink it all, but I felt a little better about wasting 4 ounces instead of 8.

He ate about half of the bottle, then fell asleep about 1/4 of the way into the flight. He stayed asleep until we landed in Texas, just shy of 3 hours later. When we landed, he decided he was starving, but I couldn’t get to his formula in that minute. Another airplane was at our gate, and we were waiting to pull in and start unloading.

I debated between holding everyone up in my row to clumsily make Kaden another bottle, or just try to keep him busy with his pacifier until I could get to a table or seat to have more hands.

The pacifier wasn’t cutting it. I remembered I had 2 ounces left of his old bottle, but I knew it had been about 2 hours since he had eaten from it, and all the labels and websites and informative sources say the bottle is no good anymore 1 hour after the baby eats from the bottle.

I decided to commit a mommy sin, and I gave him the old bottle anyway.

By this point, it was 9CST, 7PST. Kaden had started cluster feeding, and it always started around this time at night. He downed the sinful, 2 hour old bottle of formula, burped, then started screaming for more. By this point, we were at our gate, everyone was getting their bags form the overhead bins, and standing in anticipation for the cabin door to open and release us from our tin can into the terminal.

People weren’t moving fast enough, and Kaden didn’t understand why another bottle wasn’t in his mouth right that second. I was growing anxious and waiting for the stares and dirty looks and complaints to begin. I was glad it was as we were waiting to get off the airplane and not at the beginning of the flight, but still I was no less anxious.

Instead of the stares and dirty looks and complaints, I found empathy and compliments and even offers to help.

I heard, “Oh what a precious baby!” and “How cute! I didn’t even know he was on the flight!”.

I saw other parents smile and nod as they remembered what it was like when their children were babies.

The woman that had sat beside me on the flight even offered to make a bottle for Kaden or to hold him, even though she said she knew I wouldn’t let her hold my baby, she just wanted to offer.

I managed to get Kaden off the airplane, and when I picked up his car seat and stroller (because Grandma had to get a little stroller for her grandbaby to send home) the men that worked for the airport set up the stroller and snapped his car seat in place for me, so I wouldn’t have to.

Once I found our gate and realized we had time to spare, I sat down and made Kaden’s bottle. A woman had heard him crying and came over to tell me what a sweet boy he was. We started talking, and I learned that her daughter was a NICU nurse in Philadelphia, so while she didn’t know exactly what I had gone through in the NICU, she could appreciate the time and effort it had taken, and she thought Kaden was just that much more special.

After the woman boarded her flight and Kaden finished his bottle, I heard the call for my flight to board. Kaden was still in my arms, I grabbed my carry on tote bag, and turned to get the stroller and car seat. In my frenzy to get on the airplane, I knocked the stroller and car seat over, with Kaden’s diaper bag. After a groan and sigh of frustration, the stroller seemed to upright itself! I looked up and a different woman, probably younger than me, had picked it up for me. She smiled and I could feel the understanding radiating off of her as she adjusted the diaper bag and made sure I had the stroller.

Upon arriving at my gate, I unclipped the car seat from the stroller and folded the stroller up. My mom had put Velcro straps on it that I could secure so it would stay closed in the airplane. I was trying to close the Velcro, but I was driving the struggle bus express and I couldn’t manage to secure it for the live of me. Enter yet another young woman to save the day. She asked how she could help, and I explained I was trying to secure my stroller with the Velcro strap. She secured the strap for me, and smiled as she helped me back to my feet and then went back to wherever she had come from.

The help didn’t stop there! I had Kaden in his wrap against my chest, his diaper bag backpack against my back, my totebag with my in-flight essentials over one shoulder, the stroller in one hand, and the car seat in the other hand. To say I had a full load would have been putting it lightly. I was standing in line with the rest of the family boarding passengers, when a woman about 8 months pregnant turned around and saw me fumbling with everything.

She asked, “Can I take something up the ramp for you?”

Normally, I am a very prideful person, but I was beat down, frustrated, exhausted, embarrassed, and just plain done. I sighed, and told her that normally I’d refuse, but a little bit of help would be great. She picked up my car seat with a smile and she told me that she completely understood. That was when she told me she had one little girl already, and was pregnant with her son, due late September. She carried my car seat to the end of the ramp for me, while her husband carried their stroller.

Luckily, the flight home from Texas is laughably short, because it was on this flight that Kaden decided to spit up what felt like his entire bottle all over himself, and me. His diaper bag was stowed in the overhead bins, I was buckled down and covered in partially digested baby formula, and had a fussy baby in my arms. One of the flight attendants got the diaper bag down for me, and I cleaned up as best as I could with baby wipes, even though it meant I had to wipe down my jeans so that it looked like I peed myself.

During the entire struggle home, I never felt anything but compassion and empathy. At least 5 parents went out of their way to help me, when they could have easily ignored me. I never heard a single complaint, nor did I ever feel any negativity from anyone around me.

In today’s world, where active shooters and war and hate seem to be around every turn, I think it’s easy to overlook the love and compassion people are capable of, too. It’s easy to think that when someone does something nice for you, they want something in return, but often times, they’re just being a decent human being. People hide behind their keyboards and bully or shoot down one another, and since everyone (including myself) is always glued to their technology and screens, it seems like that’s all that’s out there. But there is so much more, people are kind. People are helpful. People are empathetic and understanding.

I was shocked that so many different people went out of their way to help me. I expected backlash and negative comments and ugly glares. How sad is it, that I was surprised to find love instead?

This blog post got away from me a little and took a detour I didn’t expect, but I’m going to keep it as it is, because I think that it’s important to highlight that people are still good. Parents of all races, genders, ethnicities, identities, all have a common thread that binds us together, and that is love. We know what it’s like to struggle with a screaming baby and we know what it’s like to fumble with all the baby equipment and literal baggage.

I know that after this experience, I want to be that woman that helps another mother when she is on the verge of a public breakdown, because that was me at one point. Those women don’t know how much they really helped me, but I will never forget it.

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KrystaFig

Preemie Mommy, Police Wife, and Sign Language Interpreter

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