It was Sebastian’s first time flying and my biggest worry was whether I could handle him on my own through security. I didn’t think of any other situations that could occur because I was so focused on just not carrying too much stuff and getting him safely through the airport. I was already pushing the envelope, taking an evening flight with a baby and flying for the first time with Baby and without Hubby.
Hubby drove me to the airport, since we were already in Jersey this past weekend. And, it was very sweet of him to insist on parking the car and pulling the large suitcase carrying the minimum amount of clothes that Sebastian and I needed and then all the other stuff that a baby needs or…the stuff that makes life easier. That included: diapers, wipes, a sun shade (for the beach), his hat, vitamins, the lion he sleeps with, two blankets, bathing toiletries, a towel, a few toys, teething items, nail clippers, his food processor (since I make all of his baby food), a travel crib, etc. Trust me, this is a different lifestyle for me. I can’t remember the last time I did anything but carry on for any trip, domestic or international.
So, we checked in and then we heard a guy say to the gate agent that he was hoping to get a pass to go all the way to the gate with his wife. So, we asked for that as well. Even though the lady with the power gave the pass to that guy (right in front of us), she gave me a once over and decided that we weren’t worthy of a pass, claiming, “We have moms and babies that travel all the time by themselves, so you aren’t going to get one.” It left a bad taste in my mouth, but there was no use fighting with a cranky, minimum wage worker, who clearly didn’t like her job. So, I went into the security area after saying goodbye to my hubby.
Luckily, one of the TSA workers was nice and let me through the elite access line because he saw I was with a baby. As I waited in line, I saw this sign. I thought it was hilarious, but clearly, someone left a kid on a table, if they have a warning like this one. As a carryon, I had a diaper bag. I didn’t bring my big camera, which I was regretting, but I knew it was just going to be too much to bring a baby and two bags. An iPhone has a good camera and I wanted to simplify my life.
I unpacked my laptop, took off my shoes and threw them in separate bins, laid my bag down and a couple was angered that I was taking too long and said that they were going ahead. I ignored them as they jumped ahead of me and smiled at Sebastian and pulled him out of the stroller. This was the challenging part, I am used to my big city stroller and not used to folding an umbrella stroller with one hand. I attempted to hold him and do it, but it wasn’t working, so I turned around, looked at a man, who 1) looked like he had kids of his own and 2) looked like he had a kind face and asked him if he would hold the baby. He was very happy to do it and said that it’s been 18 years, since he had kids this young, but he loved holding babies. Sebastian didn’t love going into a stranger’s arms, but he saw me close by, so he waited without crying. We got through the metal detectors and I was able to handle the rest with him in my one arm.
We had a gate change, so we used the moving walkway to get to our next location.
Finally, we got to our gate and I SMS’d Hubby to let him know that we were there and would be boarding in a half hour (at 6:25). I was happy because this would be perfect timing for Sebastian to breastfeed and pop his ears as we flew off the ground. I noticed that there were a lot of people on the standby list that were not getting on the plane and they kept making announcements, saying that the flight was overbooked by 11 people. The vouchers that they were giving out kept going up in price. It started off at $300 and went all the way up to $800 credit for a flight, plus a hotel voucher.
I just couldn’t wait to get on the plane and start my vacay. All of a sudden, at 6:20PM, an announcement was made, there would be a delay until 10PM. Look, I’m used to delays, I’ve flown hundreds of times, but a four hour delay was insane. It turned out that our flight crew was in Tampa and there was a tornado in Tampa. I didn’t find any of that out from United, of course. They like to be vague and uninformative. I found it out from google. Thank you, google!
After speaking with a gate agent and trying to see if I could get an alternate flight to a different airport, I realized that there was nothing open. Nothing to Midway in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Rockford, not even in Minnesota. I expressed how difficult it was going to be to wait with a baby for the next four hours and I received a $10 dollar meal voucher. I decided on a hamburger and a shake. Sebastian loves beef and, although my bet is that it’s not high quality beef, it was still food that both of us could enjoy.
My next challenge was going to the bathroom with the baby. I had planned on holding it as long as I could, but with a 4 hour delay, there was no way I could wait. I figured a handicapped stall would be the best bet. I went to the bathroom and the stall happened to be locked, with no one in it. I asked the cleaning woman about the stall and she responded, “It’s locked!” Well, yes, I saw that it was locked, but what was I going to do? There was no extra step to say, hey, there’s another bathroom around gate X or let me wait with the baby out here while you go to the other bathroom. Guess what? I would have (and in fact have) done that for other mothers. Couldn’t someone try acting with that thing called kindness? I was getting moodier by the minute in EWR. I decided to just breathe and walk out and kept walking and then, I saw it, a companion bathroom! Glory!
Sebastian giggled, as I squatted over the toilet. I was so grateful that they had this bathroom, especially when everything seemed to be going wrong. Mission Accomplished.
After that, I went to find a place to charge my phone. I found one plug open behind a phone card booth. I knew if I didn’t charge it now, I would be in trouble when I got on the plane at 10PM. Little did I know, 10PM was a far cry from when that would actually take place. I sat on the ground, rocking the stroller and hoping that Sebastian would soon fall asleep. As I did that, a Korean woman approached me and stood over the baby. She folded her arms and just stared at him for a while and then, she touched his arm. I quickly said, “What’s up? What are you doing?” She then proceeded to give me “advice” and telling me that I’m not feeding the baby and that’s why he’s cranky. Oh, please, give me more advice, lady, I’m sure you know exactly what we’re enduring at the airport and you know exactly what is going on with my child.
I walked away from that area so that I could get away from the lady, and went back to the gate. I then found out the flight was delayed till 10:45pm. Yay, another delay, but at least the crew had to be in the air and on their way to us at this point. I noticed my baby staring at the stroller, so I gave him it. He loved playing with it and hey, Sebastian was getting entertainment from playing with the stroller, I was grateful for that.
While he was sitting on my lap, I felt warmth. I noticed that there was pee on me and on him. I am now completely convinced that the Pampers Swaddlers are the best diapers because I had crappy diapers on him and they didn’t hold the wetness as well. So, I changed him into another outfit. He was fine at that point, until I put him back in the stroller. Then, there were tears.
Note to anyone reading this blog—there are a lot of people that want to hold your baby. Some are normal, others are not. I had a girl who was on standby to Dublin, who held him. She was a daughter of a pilot and always flew standby. Sadly, she got on the flight only to be told that the final person had arrived (albeit late) and she needed to be pulled off the plane. Then, there was the Russian woman. She also held the baby. I hovered over her. She was so nice, but then she decided that she wanted to go somewhere with the baby. I left my bag and stroller and ran after her, grabbed the baby back and sat down, far away. I couldn’t get on this plane fast enough.
Eventually, at 11:00PM, they started boarding. I walked up to get on the plane when they called for disabled passengers. I figured I had missed the call for people with children or that it was coming up. The gate agent then told me that they removed that policy and that I should go back to the end of the line and wait for my section to be called. I didn’t even say anything, I just handed my ticket to her and looked at her with my weary eyes. I think it’s absolutely insane that United removed this allowance for parents with their children and did it quietly. This makes me very angry. On top of waiting for this many hours, this woman was going to tell me that?
After that, we waited on the plane for another hour. Sebastian was first interested in everything around him and then he began thrashing everywhere. He was so hungry, but I needed to wait until we were taxiing, so that he wouldn’t cry from his ears popping.
We finally took off almost at midnight. The baby fell right asleep and we were able to cuddle. I read and held him in my arms and had a flight attendant fall into my seat because she was overtired. I can imagine that the delay wasn’t pleasant on the crew either. She fell over many times throughout the flight. I felt bad for her because she probably had a short turn around time before she had to get on another flight.
Eventually, we got to ORD. My mom met me at baggage claim and we were home by 2AM. Sleep was tough on everyone because Sebastian was overtired, so it was very broken sleep. He was tired, in a new place and wanted mommy all night.
Certainly an airport experience I can’t wait to forget! But, who knows, maybe the delay prevented something awful from happening, and things could always be worse…(not worse than an airline not prioritizing parents with their children though!)