I have been traveling on a plane with one or more of my kids since my oldest was 3.5 months old. I can tell you in the little over six years of doing this; I have only experienced two negative encounters. Both times were due to a crying baby, yet the reasons behind the tears were drastically different. Regardless, both of these situations resulted in this momma bear in tears as well, and just like my babies, the reasons were drastically different.
On Friday afternoon, Sonzee and I boarded a plane in Burbank, California. We were flying Southwest airlines and I chose the first open window seat when we got on the plane. When I travel with more than one child, I tend to go to the furthest available seat, usually the last row so we disturb the fewest amounts of people. After I collapsed the stroller outside the plane I grabbed my purse, Sonzee's emergency bag, Sonzee's feeding tube backpack, and of course the bear herself. She was not so pleased with me for removing her from her stroller, so of course she was protesting as we entered the plane, thus the reason behind me grabbing the first available window seat.
There was a woman sitting in the aisle seat and she had her purse on the middle seat, I later learned through conversation that she travels back and forth weekly to Burbank from Phoenix, so the experienced flyer that she was, she marked the middle seat as taken until the doors closed. Sonzee quieted down shortly after she was in my lap and facing outward. She is not a baby who prefers to be held, so I took my deep breath and prayed that she would cooperate for the short hour-long flight, and be kind to us all. We took off shortly after boarding the plane and with some slight readjustments, little bear was asleep, and I was as relaxed as I could be while flying 36,000 feet in the air.
The flight went by quickly, and I was thinking in my head (it was clearly a premature celebration) how Sonzee was going to get at least a high silver or low gold rating on the "star chart" I refer to when flying with the kids. The pilot made his announcement for our decent, and shortly after I noticed Sonzee's body was doing random jolts. It was more like a startle reflex, so I just rubbed her head and wishfully willed her back to sleep. Within 5 minutes Sonzee let out the most horrific screams. I of course did all I could to get her to calm down (despite what others might suspect because the majority of parents holding a baby in their arms do not enjoy them screaming at the top of their lungs directly into their ears in addition to the fact that they are mortified of the situation).
We (finally) landed and it surely felt like the longest 7-10 minutes of my life. I honestly could not wait to get off the plane. As I stood up, gathered all of our belongings, and situated the bear in the best possible position so she might stop screaming, a man a row ahead of us turned to me and said, “You are doing a great job mom”. I have to admit there was a part of me on the inside that was jumping for joy, while the other part still just wanted to get out of the plane and put Sonzee in her stroller where I knew she would finally calm down. I ran off the plane, and we were waiting for the stroller, Sonzee of course still screaming as loud as she could. The pilot clearly reading the distress on my face went down himself to grab it for me. As I waited, I was bouncing little bear, shushing into her ear, kissing her head, praying she would calm down, and holding back the tears that were filling my eyes.
That is when it happened. The tall well-put together businessman with his little black designer rolling bag approaches me. He walks right up to me as if we are friends, as if I somehow communicated to him that now would be the most perfect time for him to share his thoughts. He pulls up the bag and stands it up straight. He looks over at me and he says, “I have two children and I flew with them all the time when they were younger, here’s some advice, it’s her ears, give her a bottle during takeoff and landing.”
I have to give myself credit, because even though the tears were clearly visible now, I was able to give him a reply that I could only hope would help his future advice giving. I turned Sonzee so her face would be right in his sight of vision and I said, “Well unfortunately she is intestinal fed and she can’t take a bottle”. To which he replied, “Oh, sorry, good luck with that”.
I am unsure which part of his advice hurt me more; was it is the fact that I wish it was that simple, that I could simply give her a bottle and she would calm down? Maybe it is the fact that possibly it was not her ears that were hurting, but rather those startles might have been mini spasms and that was the reason she was screaming. Could it be that she was simply having a CDKL5 crying/screaming spell and even if she did take food by mouth, nothing would have helped her? Maybe, it was because he was so far back on the plane he would not have known if I had even tried to give her a bottle in the first place!
Regardless of his attempt to give what he felt was appropriate advice, I hope what I said to him resonated just a smidge. Maybe the next time he feels he should be sharing his “I was the best dad ever advice”, he might pay a little more attention to his surroundings and take a second to realize that not every situation is cookie cutter, and what might have worked for him, won’t work for everyone else. As for the man who told me I was doing a great job, you my friend are one amazing individual!
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