As some of you who follow my Facebook know, I just went back to work after three months of glorious maternity leave. Two weeks ago, I decided to take Stela on a short vacation before I returned to work. For those of you who are not in the US, I should note that we have terrible maternity leave laws. In order to take off three months, I had to use up all my personal leave and take a month of unpaid leave (companies are only obligated to give you six weeks of short term disability). So, needless to say, this was my last little vacation for a while.
My sister had an interview in Seattle, so me and Stela joined her for the trip. For those who have flown with children, you can imagine my anxiety leading up to the big day. I have never gotten the chance to take Prince flying, so I was in new parental territory with this one. Given my daughter’s tendency to have diva moments, I had no idea what to expect from her on this trip.
The day of the big trip, we all woke up at three in the morning to make it to the airport in time for our zero dark thirty flight. Stela woke up with crazy hair, but didn’t seem to mind being put back in the car seat for the ride to the airport. On our way to the airport, I told my sister that I had read a book on flying with babies. She made fun of my dorky parent side, but I was glad I read the book as it prepared me for some of the things I would encounter. For those of you planning to travel with your baby, here are some things I learned from our trip.
1) Don’t fly airlines that are not child friendly: On the flight there, we flew Delta. Delta was great! They allowed all the families with small children to board first, and the staff offered to help carry things to make it easier and faster. United, on the other hand, was not friendly. We had the unfortunate experience of flying United on the return. When I asked about pre-boarding, I was given the stink eye as the woman said, “we don’t do that here – you need to board with group four like your ticket says.” To make matters worse, when I suggested to one of the flight attendants that they should allow families with babies to pre-board, he also gave me a sideways look and said, “babies slow things down.”
At this point I was irritated, and Stela was crying from being cold while waiting in the tunnel behind the rest of the plane. When we finally got on the plane, several people had their bags in the middle of the aisle (because there was no more overhead space) and I tripped all the way back to my seat (with Stela in my arms). News flash United (and all other airlines like this): Allowing families to pre-board with their babies promotes safety. By the time I got to my seat, I was nearly having an anxiety attack from having to avoid falling and Stela was cranky.
2) Bring a carseat bag: If you are not wealthy enough to purchase your baby a seat, bring a bag for the carseat so that you don’t get it back from the gate check with nasty airplane grease all over it. We were lucky enough to have a seat for Stela on the first flight, but after that we had to check the carseat. Considering that the bag went from red to black (from all the dirt), I am glad the carseat was bagged.
3) Feed the baby on take off and landing: Even though many of my readers gave me this wonderful advise, I was stupid and thought that the pacifier could take the place of the boob. On the final leg of the trip, Stela was peacefully sleeping and sucking the pacifier. I thought, ‘hmmm…since she is sleeping I really don’t want to wake her.’ About two minutes into the decent, Stela lost her mind. She jerked awake, her eyes bugged out of her head, and she began to wail as if I was cutting off her head. I immediately pulled out my boob (not caring about those who might be offended) and tried to stick it in her mouth. It was too late though. She was so upset from the pain that she began to slap me. The crying didn’t stop until I forced gripe water into her mouth. The swallowing made her ears pop. Stela immediately stopped crying, and smiled as though she was thanking me for getting it together.
Stela was a wonderful little traveler. She loved the plane noise, and smiled for most of the trip while cuddling her stuffed Llama. We were able to take her touring around Seattle, on a short road trip to Portland to visit her half sister, and even took her on a winery tour. Even though Stela loudly farted and spit up all over the floor in the middle of the tour of Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, she was a real trooper and seemed to enjoy the scenery.
Back to work: Two days ago, I started back to work. For weeks before I went back, I have to admit that I was a bit in denial. I have had a blast staying at home with my baby girl. We have had one way conversations for weeks, and just two weeks ago she began to babble back to me as if she had been a part of the conversation the entire time.
Even though folks warned me that I might get teary on my first day back, I believed that there was no way I was going to cry about leaving my child with my mother. I thought this until I found myself sitting in my car in the parking lot at work – crying my eyes out. My daughter, on the other hand, was gabbing and smiling at my mother and seemed completely fine with this new working mom development.
I haven’t slept since I went back to work, so this post might have been a bit all over the place. In conclusion, however, I want to offer a word of advice to all moms (and dads) who have a chance to spend some time at home with their babies: Cherish every single second, because when you are trudging to work in sub zero weather while missing the smiles and coos you will be comforted by the fact that the time you spent was quality. Also, go on vacation when your baby is young. Once they get mobile, this will not be as easy.