As I may have mentioned, The Wife is a physician and one of the perks of her position is a good travel budget to encourage her and her colleagues to attend and present at various conferences. She had a poster selected for presentation at a conference in California, and it just so happens that her grandfather, The Baby's great-grandfather, winters within a couple hours of where the conference was. So we decided to make a vacation out of it. We'd go to the conference and then spend a few days with great-grandpa. GREAT!...
When it comes to travel, I am a minimalist and poor planner. The Wife is the opposite. Historically, we've nicely balanced each other out, but when traveling with a baby, minimalism goes right the hell out the window. YOU BRING EVERYTHING. Nuks? Check. Rags? Check. Book that The Baby cannot understand and has looked at twice since birth? Check. Toy that The Baby has never shown the slightest interest in? Check. You do this because you will do anything, and I mean anything, to keep a child occupied during a three-hour flight. What silly objection could you possibly have to bringing along that stupid stuffed animal that's she's never played with? You don't want to take up the space? You want to *look* like one of those couples who has it so together they manage to travel with a baby but without checking a bag?!
You're a fool. So you bring it all.
We got the packing taken care of with little stress once I let go of my silly objections to taking a bigger suitcase (I mean honestly, what was I thinking?). We did a good job of tempering our expectations. This would not be a vacation by the definition that existed pre-Baby. No lounging by the pool sipping drinks. No luxurious dinners out. In fact, while the conference was on, since we were still going to make breastfeeding happen, it wouldn't be a vacation at all - we'd have to work to make that happen.
Tip #1: Temper your expectations. Your days of relaxing vacations are over.
Once the packing is done, the next thing to worry about is moving all that shit plus The Baby. With curbside check-in, this really turned out to be a non-issue. We dumped the suitcases, unhooked the baby seat, dumped it into its nifty red "GATE CHECK" bag, handed that over, put The Baby into her Ergo, and hit the line for security. This would be the first time of many that my blood pressure spiked and I thought I would get an ulcer, but security was amazingly, remarkably, mind-bendingly anti-climactic. The truth is, I don't give The Baby enough credit. If she's comfortable and full and has things to look at, she'll stay happy and quiet for a long time, and she proved it in that security line. The other amazing thing is, people LOVE to see a dude wearing a baby. This is one of the first examples of sexist unfairness with being a SAHD that I noticed. When my wife wears her, it's no big deal; just another lady with her kid. When I wear The Baby, everybody smiles, including TSA. We got a special card so we didn't need to take off shoes and went through a separate line so we didn't fry The Baby with microwaves or whatever the hell those new scanners use. Easy peasy.
We boarded the plane and did our best to stick to a schedule that would have The Baby nursing during takeoff, but she had other plans. This would be the second time my blood pressure spiked. You can see people taking stock of their seating arrangement as they board the plane, and you can see them see a baby, and you see them slump. They know. They know this flight could be a living nightmare, and YOU know it could be the fault of your precious little poop factory. That's a feeling I dreaded, so much so that I actually brought ear plugs for our neighbors.
Tip #2: Bring ear plugs for your plane neighbors. Nobody will take them, but you offering them communicates the following: "I know my child may make this an uncomfortable experience, and for that, I'm sorry."
Tip #3: If possible, time it so your baby is nursing during takeoff and landing. The sucking will help his/her ears equilibrate, which will reduce crying, which in turn will decrease the odds that the flight attendants will through you off the plane or put you down with the baggage.
As I said, we tried to time it right, but The Baby had other ideas and was finished nursing by the time we took off, which also ended up being not a big deal. If her ears bothered her, she didn't show it. After that, it's just a constant battle to keep the kid occupied and/or asleep. This isn't easy, but it's also not anything you haven't done before. Just like you brought every fucking baby accessory in your house, you also need to bring every soothing tool you've acquired since birth. I hadn't shushed The Baby for months, but I shushed the shit out of her on that flight, and it sort of worked. I hadn't stood and bounced her for even longer, but that worked too.
Tip #4: Do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep. This may mean standing with the baby back by the bathrooms, which will make you feel like a total creeper, but if it keeps the kid quiet, nobody will care.
In the next installment, we'll talk about fears of being thought a Bad Parent, then we'll tackle how to stay sane in a hotel with an infant. Oh, and at some point, we'll talk about Poopmageddon, or The Terror at 30,000 Feet.