Monday, December 13, 2010

Travel. Hell.

Jack and I flew to Arizona on Thursday. Here's how I packed for a 5-day trip:

Rolling suitcase (carry-on): 1 pair jeans, 1 skirt, 5 tops, 2 pairs comfy socks, 2 nursing bras, 2 nursing tanks, 1 jacket, 8 baby onesies (4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve), 2 baby shirts, 2 pairs pants, 3 pairs baby socks, 1 bib, 1 waterproof flannel pad

Diaper bag (carry-on): 8 disposable diapers, travel pack wipes, pacifier on chain that clips to clothing, colorful board book, blanket (with easily identifiable front/back, for placing on airport floor), nursing cover, 4 energy bars, empty bottle for water, Jacques (the Peacock), crinkly toy, toy keys, change of clothes for Jack, change of top for me

Liquids (quart size zip-top bag): tylenol, hand sanitizer, saline, vaseline, diaper rash prescription, a few makeup items for myself

I also brought two carriers: 1), the Bjorn, for easy in/out at security and for wandering around the airport, 2), a linen ring sling, for supporting Jack's weight while on the plane. The ring sling was awesome -- I could nestle him in there while I was seated and readjust as needed.

The Baby Bjorn: easy-in, easy-out, totally hands-free and secure

The ring sling. Takes a little fiddling to get comfy, but nice because I can adjust the sling to make the pouch into whatever shape I'd like. Jack can face in or out, and it is perfect for sitting on a place -- the sling takes some of Jack's weight off of my arms, but it still enables him to move around a bit. And we can nurse in it.

My parents had toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, baby soap, diapers, wipes, some toys, a pack'n'play, and a stroller. My good friend Erin picked us up at the airport and loaned us her carseat

Of all of this stuff, there were only two things I could have done without... the nursing cover (because the sling works as a cover on the plane, and I'm not that modest when I'm around folks I know), and my jeans, because they took up tons of space and I can just as easily wear a skirt. I probably could have done with just the ring sling, but it was nice to have the Bjorn for the airport. I usually like to keep a hand on Jack when he's in the sling, but the Bjorn is totally hands-free.

Traveling itself was great. Security was a pain (they made me take him out of the Bjorn), but we managed. Jack loved all of the excitement and activity. He smiles so easily, and lots of people were grinning back at us as we wandered through the airport. He was the youngest baby I saw, and he was also the only one I saw not in a stroller. The people around us on each flight were excited to see such a young baby, and they were so unbelievably nice and helpful. He had a diaper blow-out the minute we got on the plane, but I had spare clothes packed for him. He didn't really want to nurse for take-off and landing, but I wiggled his ears for him and tried to get him into the pacifier.

Jack slept through the first flight, but he was wide awake for the second flight. It was challenging when he was awake -- I had to play with him almost constantly to keep him entertained, and we got up a few times to walk the aisles. We were very lucky to have a whole row of seats to ourselves, and that made everything easier. He let out a few yells when he got really antsy, but several people specifically commented to me that he was a well-behaved baby, so I think I was more worried about Jack bothering people than any of the people were actually bothered.

So, the flights themselves were tiring but OK. The tough part came when we landed.

Jack was...
  1. Extremely (extremely) overstimulated and overtired
  2. Teething, full force, with associated pain, fussiness, and constant gnawing
  3. Sick! 101 fever, major congestion, and... our doctor back in CT thinks he had and got over an ear infection while we were in AZ.
Poor Jack couldn't breath through his nose at night. The air in Arizona is quite dry, and the house temperature is warmer than what he is used to. Getting Jack to sleep under normal circumstances is challenging, and getting him to sleep while he was so sick, so stimulated by all of the new people around him, and in such unfamiliar territory... was impossible. For the first several days, Jack simply didn't sleep for any sustained period of time.

I planned to co-sleep with him at night so I could nurse him and keep him content, but he didn't even want to do that. All night long, he would only sleep for 20-40 minutes. He spent the rest of the time thrashing around or crying. He didn't want to nurse. Nothing seemed to comfort him. The first night and the first day were kind of OK, but after that point, he just freaked out. He needed to be held and bounced and walked around for most of the day. He spent his nights trying to get comfortable. For some reason, face-planting seemed to make him happy (see photo above).

It was miserable. I think I got about 4-5 hours of "sleep" each night, and by "sleep", what I really mean is "kinda sorta napped for 20 minutes at a time".

I hoped to have a relaxing trip home. I hoped to hand off my baby to my family and enjoy all of the oohing and aahing. Instead, I was completely physically exhausted, stressed out, and very aware of how difficult my baby seemed to be to everybody around us. It was not a relaxing trip.

So parenthood goes.

Jack seemed so upset that I finally called his doctor. After describing the sleeping problems, they felt fairly certain he had a minor ear infection. Ear infections often go away on their own, but the problem is that they can cause quite a bit of pain during the elevation change on the airplane.

I got really stressed out. We had no doctor nearby and 12 hours before we were due to board a plane. What would we do?

Well, Continental solved the problem for us. They canceled my flight. And then we woke up and Jack was suddenly happy again. He slept. He smiled. He giggled. This morning, he was my normal, happy baby. This afternoon, he was only slightly challenging. It would have been a nice day if I hadn't been so exhausted.

We're flying out on a redeye tonight. I think one more sleepless night might just destroy me. It will probably be easier for Jack, though. There are no direct flights from Phoenix to CT, and so I specifically chose both legs of the journey so that the connecting flights were approximately equal in length (2-3 hours each) with short (1 hour) layovers. For the new flight, we'll be going direct to Newark (4.5 hours!), have a 2 hour layover, then a short flight to Hartford (1 hour).

Wish us luck.

I just committed myself to an international flight for work. The three of us will be flying to Barcelona in May, when Jack is 10 months old. This may have been the worst idea ever.

Fun photos and better stories from our AZ trip to follow in the next post!

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