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.