Jonah and I flew solo to California a couple of weeks ago to see my sister, Shanny (short for Shannon), and her four kids, Gabby, Caroline, Sam, and Nate. Jonah was so excited to meet his cousins for the first time, and couldn't wait to see his aunt again! (Gavin, Shanny's husband, is a Navy commander deployed overseas for seven months right now. We miss him!) I was extremely apprehensive about flying by myself with the baby. There's just so much that goes into it, but I kept reassuring myself that people do this every day and get through it just fine. After a lot of prayer and preparation, I decided that any cross-country trip would be worth it to see these kids, right?
And I desperately missed my sister:
Our time in California was better than I could have asked for! All the kids were CRAZY about Jonah. They fought for his attention and wanted to be next to him at all times. The most surprising was Nate, who is 4. All day long we heard him say in a sing-song "soothing" voice (while patting Jonah's head, staring at him only inches away from his face), "Hi, Baby Jonah.... Hi, Baby, Jonah..." over and over again. When Jonah was asleep, Nate would carry the video monitor around with him everywhere and give me updates. "Tay Tay, Baby Jonah is still sleeping. See, look. Right now he's still sleeping right there. He just moved his arm. But he's still sleeping." Ha ha! We got to go with Nate's preschool class to a pumpkin patch one day:
Jonah's other cousins played with him and doted on his every move, too! I thought he might get overwhelmed with all the attention but he just soaked it up. Gabby and Caroline were such good little "mommies" the whole week. On Saturday, we went to the soccer fields in the afternoon and watched Sam play (all 4 kids play, but Jonah was sleeping during the girls' games):
Shanny took such wonderful care of us. She borrowed baby gear from all of our friends so that we were all set when we arrived. She bought about six hundred jars of baby food, sippy cups, diapers, and every puff/teething biscuit/yogurt melt imaginable. I honestly don't know how she does it all when her husband is deployed and she has such bright and active kiddos. We spent our days shopping, having lunches out, taking walks, playing hours of Phase 10 with Gabby and Caroline (I am the Phase 10 champion of the world!), enjoying the California sunshine and the swing set outside, and playing Kinect's Dance Central (have you done this?? Oh my goodness- SO FUN!). It was some much-needed bonding time, that's for sure. I will always be thankful for that week we had together.
I can't wait for Jonah to be big enough to wrestle around with Sam and Nate and to look up to all of his cousins. He will be a blessed little boy, for sure.
Now, for the plane ride. I will NEVER again fly across the country with an infant by myself. Don't get me wrong, the trip was totally and completely worth every minute. But it's HARD. If Jay had been with me, it would have been fine. It's just that that extra set of hands was much-needed, and no help was ever offered to me. It's extremely difficult to maneuver a baby, stroller, carry-on bag, and suitcase through an airport. When I arrived at security, I was told I had to take my shoes and Jonah's shoes off, pick him up, and then collapse the stroller and lift it onto the conveyor (this is very hard to do while holding a baby!). On the plane, Jonah was great in the sense that he almost never fussed. But the problem was that he wanted to stand on my legs and jump up and down (with me supporting him) for the entirety of the flight. My normally sleep-dependant baby slept a total of ten minutes on our way to California (during a ten-hour period), and an hour on the flight back. It was physically and emotionally exhausting, and I had no one to help me. I was thankful though, that I was totally prepared and felt like I had everything that I needed. Some tips for anyone else planning to fly with a baby:
-Try to limit your carry-ons to one bag (in this case, it was my diaper bag) and one umbrella stroller (you'll need it to get through the airports).
-Make sure your diaper bag is organized. I had a prepared 2 gallon-sized Ziploc bags- one full of snacks (Cheerios, puffs, Mum-Mums) and one full of little toys (this one was not needed as much because Jonah was too busy looking at everyone and everything on the plane and wanting to eat the safety manual/armrest/magazine/arm of the passenger next to us). I also had a bottle with formula already in it (Jonah is nursing still, but he doesn't mind formula) so that I could just add water to give him on the take off and landing to help relieve the pressure on his ears. I had about 6 or 7 diapers, wipes, and baby pain reliever, too. The only thing I wish I had remembered was a light blanket. I think this might have helped him sleep if I had draped it over his head while he laid on me.
-When you arrive at the gate, go to the counter and ask if there are any seats available with an empty seat next to it, so that you have some extra room and can put the baby there for short breaks when you need it (I only had this luxury on one flight, but it was wonderful).
-Dress the baby in layers. Some planes will be freezing and some will be stifling. Make sure you dress as comfortably as possible!
-If you are nursing, make sure to look carefully at your flight plan to see when you will be able to nurse. I nursed on my layovers and once in the airplane bathroom. (Yes, it can be done but I don't recommend it!)
-Make friends with the person sitting next to you! You want to make a connection so that they find your baby endearing, instead of a nuisance.
To sum up this very long, drawn-out post:
Flying alone with an infant = No fun. Seeing some of your favorite people in California = Totally worth it.