Off we go…again

Less than 2 weeks to go til I take to the skies with an infant – again. 

Ioan (10 months) and I leave for New Zealand in 10 days and I seem to have a million jobs to do before then. But instead of doing them, I’ve dug out this piece I wrote back in January at the start of our family-travels.

Reading it back, I can’t really believe I’m about to do it all again. Never mind – up up and awaaaay!

Jan 2013

I’m at 50,000 feet and I’m holding my breath.

It’s touch and go…I’m saying a silent prayer…willing it all to be ok. And then –breathe out – my 2-month-old baby finally settles to sleep.

I’m lucky enough to have flown a lot in my life BB (Before Baby) especially in the last few pre-pregnancy years. It’s the classic modern woman thing: my body clock started ticking a bit louder and I rushed around like a mad thing,  trying to satisfy the travel bug. I suppose I thought that once a baby came along, “that would be that for a while.”

And yet I find myself here – in a darkened cabin again. My biggest inflight dilemma used to be whether I had the guts to ask for TWO drinks off the trolley. This time I’ve got projectile poo and uncontrollable screams to worry about.

Lying in the skycot in front of me is my baby son Ioan. He is travelling with me and my husband  from the UK to live in Taiwan for 5 months.

Flying long-haul with an infant is a daunting business. Lots of blogs and articles offer advice for flying with older children – from toy bags and snack suggestions to more dubious tips about what medication might make them sleep.

But I’m just a few weeks into first-time motherhood. I still feel unqualified to look after my baby on terra firma, let alone several thousand feet up.

What if he won’t sleep? What if his ears pop? What if there’s an epic nappy blow out or I drop him down the loo during turbulence? How in God’s name will I get all our stuff into the right number and weight of bags…and even if I do, how on earth will I carry them?

Ioan plane1What do you mean fish or chicken? I definitely ordered the MILK”

Long haul travel is allegedly easier when babies are really tiny than later on.

“It’s a lot easier at 2 months than at 8 months…and a lot easier still than 10 months or, heaven forbid, 18 months. Oh god, that really would be terrible.”

So friends and relatives assure me. Their wisdom is no consolation. This is for two reasons:

1)   Because of his Dad’s rather exotic work arrangements over the coming year and a half, I will also be flying with baby at the aforementioned-in-doomy-tones 8 months, 10 months, and indeed 18 months.

2)   A rather nasty family anecdote concerning a cousin who flew at 8 weeks and – when at altitude – turned BLUE. I’m not sure anything can make the prospect of your newborn turning blue seem less horrific – no, not even the thought of a tiny person having a tantrum in an aeroplane loo.

In the end we were pleasantly surprised. We had dreaded endless tears, but he spent much of the journey beaming at strangers. Little flirt.

We touched down in Taipei after 14 hours, a little battle-weary, but safe and sound.

And along the way I learnt a few things:

  • Try to travel with a partner, parent, or any other volunteer, insomniac or baby-whisperer you can lay your hands on. I flew out with my other half, but am already in a cold sweat thinking of the return journey with only a teething, crawling munchkin for company
  • To buggy or not to buggy? That is the question. We brought ours, mostly for the car seat and it just about worked because there were two of us. But if you don’t have the spare pair of hands, bin the buggy and use a baby carrier or sling. I have to take the buggy back to the UK alone (there’s that cold sweat again) and am just going to have to beg for help at every stage. Possibly in tears. (Note: I won’t be acting.)
  • Feed feed feed. It was the answer to every one of my in-flight worries, from ear-popping to crotchetiness (baby’s, not mine). I thank my stars I was breastfeeding for sheer convenience, but formula can be brought on board too (check details on the airport websites). And if you’re breastfeeding, an apron like those from Bebe Au Lait makes it a breeze for even the most self-conscious.
  •  Don’t punish yourself. If your baby cries, no-one will demand you be tarred, feathered and ejected from the plane. At worst, you may get death stares behind your back. And if you’ve survived labour, what’s a puny death stare or two, eh Supermum?
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