Liv took Jasper to Palmerston North last week to spend some time with her mum. It was the last week of the school term, so the plan was she would fly down with Jasper on the Sunday, and I’d drive down the following Saturday and spend a few days there before driving us all back to Auckland. That would be our first proper road trip with J, but more on that later. First, you need to read Liv’s account of the plane ride. It was quite an ordeal!
It’s safe to say I was pretty anxious about our first flight. Everyone tried to reassure me that everything would be fine as long as I fed him on take off and landing, as the sucking helps to stop the baby’s ears from popping. I kept saying to myself “it’s only an hour, even if he screams the whole time it is only an hour”. Still, I had trouble sleeping the night before.
We were due to depart at 3.30pm, but I wanted to be at the airport super early because I thought it could be busy being a Sunday afternoon and the day after the election. We got to the airport about 2.20. I’d done my research and knew I had to check in at the counter instead of the electronic booths so that we could get Jasper’s pram put on as luggage. We did that and then went down to the eating area to grab a late lunch. I fed Jasper and also got Caleb to make up a bottle of formula for the plane just in case he went crazy. I put all the things I wanted within arms reach on the plane into a plastic bag inside our carry on. Things like a bottle, a dummy, my Kindle, my water bottle, a serve of formula and a spill cloth.
We headed down to the check in area for the regional flights and I put Jasper in the carrier so I could wear him. He quickly fell fast asleep. We said our goodbyes to Caleb and boarded the plane. As soon as I got on the plane the other passengers quickly offered their help to get us into our seats. It was extremely reassuring. The Air NZ person came and told me I had to take Jasper out of the carrier and put him into an infant seat belt. This is literally a seat belt that clicks onto the adult one. I have never felt less sure about Jasper’s safety in all his life. I asked where to put it on my belt and she said “anywhere, it doesn’t matter”. She probably knew, like me, that there would be no way in hell of him surviving a plane crash with that sorry excuse for a restraint. He was far more secure in my carrier but I obliged and put him in the belt. Luckily he stayed asleep for the first half of the flight. I just gave him a dummy for a few minutes to suck while we took off.
About half way in Jasper woke up and I gave him his bottle. Trying to get your tit out on a cramped domestic plane seemed way to hard. He happily drank away.
Then all hell broke loose.
We had just flown past the mountains and then wham. We started having really bad turbulence. You know how the plane kind of drops as you are about to land? We were having that in the air while flying. Jasper starts screaming, that awful screaming where his face goes red. The lovely lady next to me holds him for a minute while I dig around for my nipple shield (Jasper still won’t latch without it, after he got so used to it in the early days). I try and feed him to calm him but he still goes nuts. There was no way he was having a bar of my boob. We try to play peek-a-boo and his crying becomes a much more manageable whinge.
Eventually we go to land. We started our descent and then the plane started shaking and falling again. The turbulence was back. I’ve never experienced anything like it, people were holding onto their armrests trying to stay sturdy. Jasper starts screaming hysterically again. We start descending and then all of a sudden we jerk upwards. A few minutes later the pilot told us that it wasn’t safe to land and that we would circle above for 15 minutes and then try again. He said it wasn’t likely though, and we’d probably have to land in Wellington and be bussed up to Palmy. We still have crazy turbulence and now I’m starting to panic. I only have enough formula for three bottles. He’s already had one. If we get diverted and then have to catch the bus to Palmerston North, Jasper will starve. (A slight aside – I have pretty much no breast milk from about 3pm each day, which is when Jasper starts to get formula fed for the night, so breastfeeding was out. Also, I had no idea how Jasper would be transported on a bus. Would I just hold him?)
So, we have crazy turbulence. I am clutching on to my son for dear life because he is in a shitty excuse for a seatbelt, I don’t know how we will get to palmy, I have no food for him and I am pretty much thinking I am the worst mum in the world.
We fly around in crazy turbulence again. We attempt to land again. Nope, same thing happened as last time except the turbulence was worse. We jerk upwards again and the pilot again explains that we can’t land and it looks like we are on our way to Wellington.
I’m pretty much a mess at this time. I’m getting the sympathetic stares at Jasper’s screaming and I’m starting to worry about the night ahead. The lovely lady next to me could see I had tears in my eyes. She picks up Jasper (we’d abandoned the seatbelt at this point) and I make up the bottle and mention I can’t give him much because I only have enough formula for one more bottle. She grabs my hand and says when we land in Wellington she will call her husband. He can pick up the carseat from my mums in Palmy on the way and drive the two hours to meet us at Wellington airport. While we are waiting at the airport she will get a taxi and go and get some formula and come back. She was pretty much an angel in disguise.
Our plan is in place. I’m feeling a bit calmer, Jasper is having his bottle. Then, the turbulence hits again. Cue the screaming (from Jasper, although I suspect a lot of the other passengers wanted to as well). The pilot surprises us and says he is going to attempt one more time to land. It was shaky as all hell, but he did it. Everyone clapped when we landed. I’ve never had that happen before. Suddenly a few people jump up around me. They are pulling my bag down from the overhead luggage, packing up our things, helping me get Jasper into the carrier and then let me get off the plane first. I suspect most of them must be parents and knew how terrible I felt. The minute we stepped outside he stopped crying. My happy Jasper was back again. We survived our first flight.
It’s funny how in the heat of the moment everything seems so awful. Reasonable Liv knows someone would have organised formula for us. But I’m so thankful for the lady sitting next to me on the plane. I’m still trying to hunt her down to send her a thank you card. Strangers are wonderful.
I have no worries about flying again with him. I don’t know if it’s possible for it to be any worse. And now I know to just pack a heap of formula in my carry on just in case.