On Airplanes and Infants


At the airportBaby Dowd’s first flight covered seven thousand miles, traversed an ocean, and spanned thirteen long, empty hours. It was with a little trepidation that we prepared for this journey. Run out of diapers, or clean clothes, or toys that make interesting sounds up there – trapped in a tiny pinprick of light suspended somewhere over the deep, dark Atlantic – and there’s no one around to save you.

So in order to avoid the nightmare scenario in which I’m fashioning baby pajamas out of an airline pillow case while my husband shakes  a bag of stale peanuts like a rattle, we brought two of everything, even the things we’d never used before, in case Connor hit 13,000 feet and suddenly experienced a deep and profound craving for a tiny musical giraffe, or a monkey with googley eyes that is also a mirror. Babies are sneaky – suddenly desiring something with every fiber of their tiny beings that they’ve never even seen before. You have to stay one step ahead of them – on airplanes and in life.

luggageThat was lesson number one (although now we know that a bag of stale peanuts, a mostly empty water bottle, and any other items most grown humans would consider trash are like GOLD to a baby).  Lesson number two was that the inside of airplanes, especially during overnight, transatlantic voyages, are dark, warm, and filled with the loud, low vibrations of the engine. They are basically a giant womb. Good luck getting that image our of your mind the next time you’re boarding an aircraft (you’re welcome). Our baby, so recently extricated from the womb himself, was in baby paradise.

He expressed his delight in the most sought after of baby behaviors – one very long nap, broken up by the occasional nursing session. Which brings me to our final lesson. I was a little nervous about nursing during the flight, but one thing was certain. I cannot imagine a more unsanitary place than a bathroom the size of a coat closet shared by seventy of your closest friends. I would be nursing in my aisle seat. And so, when our baby awoke and began making the transition from smiley dream angel to shrieking hunger banshee, I went for it. And, as it turned out, no one batted an eye. A lesser person may have even felt insulted by how little attention my semi-nudity attracted. I get it, American Airlines passengers, there’s nothing noteworthy about a woman feeding a hungry baby.

That’s air travel for you, bringing out the best in people under the most surprising of circumstances.

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