Airplane rides and kind strangers

On Wednesday afternoon, I caught a flight with the baby from Orange County, California to Des Moines, Iowa.  The trip is a “house-hunting” adventure, as Giuseppe’s post-doctoral licensing program begins in Ames next month at Iowa State University.  Let me say that again: We are moving to Iowa. Where it’s cold, it snows, and there is no ocean. Did I mention it snows?

But I digress. I left the OC feeling relaxed and confident. I have an easy baby: he likes to snuggle, rarely cries, and generally smiles a lot.  I boarded the plane prepared. I had my awesome diaper bag packed with the essentials: Paolo’s favorite Giraffe, some teething rings and toys, change of clothes, diapers, and a box of wipes.  I was wearing yoga clothes and had Paolo dressed equally comfortably.  He’s happy as can be, sitting in his front carrier, looking around. I find our seats on the super-packed airplane.  (Not a spare seat to be found.)  I am sandwiched in between two grown men, with Paolo, my giant baby, sitting on my lap.

Then it began.  It started as a fussy whimper.  It quickly erupted to a full blown temper tantrum/meltdown.  Paolo turned bright red, opened his mouth and commenced to SCREAM at the TOP OF HIS LUNGS.  He arched out of my arms and stiffened his entire body.  And stayed like that. For a full hour.  So my five-month-old is basically standing on my lap pitching the largest fit of his life. On a crowded airplane. Between two men. Before the plane even took off.

I tried nursing. I tried massaging his gums. I tried laying him down in my arms. I tried singing. I checked his diaper.  And then I started crying. I mean crying; tears streaming down my face and getting my shirt all wet.  All while Paolo SCREAMED BLOODY MURDER.  This was nothing like our trip to Hawaii when he was six weeks old. Then he just nursed and slept.  This was completely different.

So there I was crying, with a screaming infant in my lap, on a crowded airplane.  The man sitting to my right patted my arm and whispered, “It’s okay, just breathe.  He’ll calm down.”  And that random act of kindness almost made me cry more, I was so touched.  I was sure everyone was ready to kick us right off that plane, and this nice man was being so sweet.

After about five minutes of my tears, I calmed myself and pulled it together.  But Paolo did not. He kept right on screaming, through my rotations of soothing attempts. Nursing, gum massage, belly rub, change positions, repeat. Nothing. Finally, the same man leaned over and asked if he could hold the baby for a few minutes.  I, of course, was very grateful.  He took the baby and laid Paolo on his back, on his lap, and rubbed his belly.  Paolo continued to scream for five minutes, and then MAGICALLY dozed off to sleep.

I am sure the entire plane was grateful. It was a miracle.  I felt like the luckiest woman in the world to have this kind stranger sitting next to me on that overcrowded plane.

The entire event flabbergasted me.  What in the world happened?  Looking back, I think the meltdown was a direct result of Paolo wanting to take a nap, but was unable to get comfortable.  And I have been spoiled by a child who does not really scream; I was distraught that I could not calm him down. It was the most awful feeling as a mother.  For the second leg of the trip, he returned to his happy self, and smiled until he dozed off in my arms, only to wake as we landed in Des Moines.

I know the airlines allow passengers to take a child under two years of age to travel on their lap for all domestic flights, but I am beginning to seriously doubt this policy.  Paolo is getting too big at five months to sleep comfortably in my arms; I can’t imagine an 18-month old trying to do so.  I fly back to the OC tomorrow afternoon, and I am praying that it goes well.  Lesson learned: spend the extra money to buy the baby a seat and bring the car seat for naps.

Let’s hope the airplane ride home does not involve screaming babies and crying mothers. If it does, I pray for a kind stranger to sit next me.



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10 responses to “Airplane rides and kind strangers

  1. Lidia Dell'Anna

    Riesco ad immaginare come sia stata terribile per te (…ed anche per Paolo) la prima parte del viaggio!!!
    Ti auguro che questo non accada mai più…comunque tutto fa esperienza e se malauguratamente dovesse riaccadere…guardati intorno e sicuramente troverai un altro angelo!!!!

  2. liz

    Oh, Brook!! I feel for you! One of my biggest dreads is the airplane rides with kids. We have one coming up with our 2 girls (one of whom is 20 months old), and I already think about how awful it will be. We did not get her a seat because the tickets were bought for us by someone else (extended family vaca to see the big mouse). I already told my husband that our 4 year old will need to sit on his lap (after take off) so I can have a spot to put the 20 month old.

    On a different note, living in Iowa will be an adjustment! I’m from Chicago, so I know the weather there, BUT Chicago is a BIG city and there isn’t a whole lot in Ames. On the bright side, you can get a whole lot more house for your money compared to CA. 🙂 Good luck on your ride home!

  3. sadj

    Your plane trip post was amazing. I could see the whole thing playing out before my eyes. How long will you be in Iowa?

  4. sadj

    Your post about the plane trip was amazing. It was so vivid I felt like I was there. How long will you be in Iowa?

  5. Melissa

    Totally had a similar experience on a transatlantic flight – nine hours, she screamed the first hour and a half. At one point a flight attendant came and offered to take her so we could eat. She disappeared for 45 minutes and brought her back happy as a lark.

  6. Katy Bates

    When Riley was a little over a year old the same thing happened to me. Riley was the best baby ever as far as being happy, easy going, sleeping etc…. We got on the plane that day (like many times before) and I expected the same as all other times. Only this time Riley was going to let me know how very different things would be!!! He cried from the moment I sat down and when I say cried I mean SCREAMED!! A wonderful lady(not really) in front of me let me in on a little tip of hers as we were at a near 90 degree angle taking off in the air, that sometimes it helps if you get up and walk up and down the isle!! No kidding??!!! I would’ve never thought of that! What a freaking brilliant idea lady, seeing as how we are in take off mode and the fasten seat belt sign is beaming in my face!!!! (Some people….) Thankfully once the plane leveled off and we could take our seat belts off, a wonderful family in the row in front of this lady offered their help as well, only this time it was real help!! The second Riley was in the mom’s arms he was out and great for the rest of the trip!!! Now that he is almost 5 we have flown numerous times since this and every time gets better than the last, and now they are actually quite fun!!

  7. Oh Brook, I know exactly what you went through. Once, right after Nicolo was born, my oldest Francesco, decided to throw the tantrum of a life time in the hallway at my work. Their daycare is in the Administration building of the hospital I work in. When he threw the fit people were coming out of their offices and the CEO of the Hospital even got involved. I wasn’t able to pick him up due to the fact I was not cleared yet to lift more than the baby (c-section). So here I was with a infant in a stroller and a screaming 35 lb toddler who would not listen to reason at all and just screamed and kicked at the top of his lungs. I lost it and started to cry myself. Some people walking down the hall just ignored us. One woman who knew me and knew I wasn’t able to pick him up came by and scooped him off the floor, flung him over her shoulder and put him in his car seat for me(all while he kicked and screamed). She was a God send and her doing that made me cry even more.
    So as to not write a book in the comment section~ I hope the ride home goes better and like the nice man said, just keep breathing!

  8. Jody Main

    OMG, that was hilarious! I am laughing so hard, I am sorry but it is funny. My recommendation, being a nurse and a grandmother-BRING BENDADRYL NEXT TIME (or me 🙂 ).

  9. Peyma

    Brook, you might want to have his ears checked before you leave.
    I went through the same exact horrible experience with Leila when she was 5 months old on a flight from Seattle to L.A. Someone told me that she might have had a mild ears infection. I agree with Jody regarding the Benadryl.
    Best of luck to you on your flight back to OC.

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