I feel that I would be remiss if I failed to document what, at this current juncture, remains one of the top three most gone-awry traveling days of my life, so here we go with the unabridged version. Let’s start by getting it out there that I get serious anxiety about flying with Ella in the first place. I had done four different plane trips with her at this point, and while we obviously survived, I wouldn’t classify any of them as going “smoothly” or “well.” Traveling with a baby is just the pits. Especially when they are mobile, and vocal, and exceedingly angry when confined to one space for more than about three minutes. So even in the best of times I was dreading this flight beyond belief (and I acknowledge that I sound like the world’s biggest whiner because I am thankful I got travel and see my family at Christmas at all).
Our odyssey from Provo to Alaska started with a bang on the Saturday afternoon that we were scheduled to depart, when I was casually texting my dad. Now, I should explain that my Dad had gotten us our tickets to come up to Christmas with his airline miles. I know, another strike against me in the big-fat-whiner column, seeing as these were free tickets. Anyway, my Dad loves to track his miles and flights and everything (like a wizened miser counting his gold) and has an app on his phone that gives flight status updates, etc. During our conversation about something unrelated, Dave and I were zipping up our bags to get ready to head out for our flight, which left SLC at 5pm. I believe it was around 2 or so at this point. My Dad asked how our trip was going so far, and I informed him that we hadn’t left yet, haha silly Dad. He simply texted back, “where are you?” To which I panic-strickenly responded, “HOME!” Then he calls me and says our flight left from SLC at noon and we were supposed to be in San Francisco on our layover right now.
A few calls to United and a few heart palpitations later, and we figured out that, while our flight had originally left at 5, United had changed in back in November and failed to tell us. My dad checked his junk mail folder, trash folder, everywhere in his emal, and there was NO indication of any sort of notification that they had moved the flight UP 5 HOURS. Naturally at this point I am in tears. I had already worked so hard to psych myself up to do this long sojurn with Ella, and now we definitely weren’t leaving on time, and possibly not until the next day.
My dad called back in a little while after talking to United (who, I might add, made no apology or any sort of recompense for royally screwing up. I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about any experience I have ever had with them, and certainly not this interaction), and he said the best they could do was a flight that left at about the same time, but went through MINNEAPOLIS. Yes, Because it makes a lot of sense to fly eastward and then west again. So instead of a 1.5 hour flight and then another 3.5 hour leg, we would be doing a 2 hour flight and then a 5.5 hour flight, the second of which would be from 10pm-3am our time, resulting in an extremely overtired and therefore LOUD baby.
At this point, I am not going to lie, I seriously considered not going. A cozy Christmas in our apartment, just the three of us, seemed just the ticket. Grandparent time for Ella be darned!
But we knew that wasn’t really an option, so we scrambled to get our stuff in the car and we set off for the airport. Dave and I were both determined to have a good attitude and that we would try to stay positive about this change of plans. Things went relatively smoothly getting our tickets, through security, and even getting on the plan to Minneapolis (except for Dave forgetting about the no liquids rule and having to chuck some toiletries. Gets us every time). By this time it was getting to be about dinner time and while we had snacks with us, we figured we would grab a sandwich or something on the layover.
|Airport acrobatics aka operation keep baby distracted
The only hiccup on this first flight was Ella gagging on a little chunk of bread, and throwing up ever-so-slightly on her shirt and my pants. But luckily I was super-prepared (or so I thought) with one extra change of clothes, so crisis averted.
*I should interject at this point and try to defend my seemingly lack of foresight by saying that since Ella was 14 months old, I really thought that one back-up outfit would be plenty. We were past the days of constant spit-up and blowouts. But I didn’t account for my girl with the most sensitive gag reflex in the land.
|Grainy selfies during the good times!
Minneapolis was a blessedly short layover, so short that we didn’t even have time to eat, but Dave was able to run and grab us a Subway sandwich to share once we were on the plan, while I let Ella scoot around a little on the filthy airport floor. She was definitely melting down by boarding time, and we were getting the great stares from strangers that come along with said meltdowns, so we were realllllyyyy hoping this meant she was tired enough to fall asleep promptly once the plane started moving. As soon as we got settled on board I asked a flight attendant for a little carton of milk, and based on how she reacted to flying with me during the summer, I figured that taxi/takeoff was kind of our one shot for lulling Ella to sleep with motion/bottle. Consequently, as soon as the plan started to move, we began our campaign.
Now, looking back, I can see what went terribly awry. I have seen the gallon challenge youtube videos. All of my high school friends did it. I know that the human body can only handle so much milk. But in that moment, when Ella was chugging milk drowsily and nodding off to happy dreamland, all I could think was WE NEED MORE MILK. Therefore, we let our poor child drink three bottles in a row (and at home she normally would barely polish off one, usually more like half, at a time) without the slightest thought of what it would do to her tiny stomach.
Partway through the third bottle was when it happened. If you could think of the images and video footage of Old Faithful and perhaps any larger geysers that exist in the natural world, that was what came shooting forth from Ella. We are talking vomit at breakneck velocity and mind-blowing volume. It hit the wall of the plane and ricocheted to such corners that I was very worried it had gotten on the row in front of us (we checked and it did not, thankfully). Dave was somewhat sheiled by the fact that he was holding ella in a blanket, and he had his coat on his lap. I looked like I had been through a carwash. And you can imagine poor, bewildered Ella.
I would like to say a few words about the passengers surrounding us. They were actually very nice considering the fact that the plane smelled of the aftermath of a baby frat party and Ella was screaming at the top of her lungs. I felt so, so bad for the girl in our row. Luckily she had the aisle, but still. What I was confused about was why she didn’t move, because there were tons of empty seats on this particular flight. I even said, “I am so sorry, I will totally not be offended if you want to move!” but she didn’t…..and had to endure us crawling over her in vomit-covered pants for the next four and a half hours. I also noticed that the guy in front of us immediately turned his air on full-blast. Not that I blame him in the least. Recirculated barf-air is better than stagnant.
Back to the story: Upon this new development I pinged the flight attendant, who helpfully brought us three dry paper towels and a small plastic bag. While I definitely don’t think it was her job to clean any of this mess up, I did think perhaps at least a larger stack of paper towels, or perhaps those moist towelettes they have hanging around would have been more useful, considering the level of carnage. We stripped Ella down to her diaper, and since we had already blown through our spare outfit that was that for the rest of the flight. THANKFULLY, Dave had carried on his suitcase and so I changed into an ever-so-stylish pair of basketball shorts and a T-shirt. That was really a huge blessing because there was no way I could have sat with the situation that was happening on my clothes.
Poor Ella was not only rattled emotionally, but was now wide-awake and had an empty tummy. We were nervous to give her food again too soon, and it was so wayyyyy past her bedtime at this point that naturally screaming was her only option. I felt like the WORST mom on the planet–not only did I overfeed my kid, but she also had no clean clothes and now she was just so sad. We tried to calm her down, but she cried for a good three out of the five hours of this flight, even once we gave her some food and let her play on the beloved iPad. Dave finally coaxed her to sleep around one in the morning. Anyone that has flown with a crying baby knows that when you get them to sleep you act like those snipers that lay perfectly still in wait–you are barely blinking. At one point Dave leaned over and whispered eagerly at barely-audible levels, “could you scratch my eyelid?” To which we both promptly lost it at the ridiculousness of this situation.
We finally made it to Anchorage, smelly, damp, and a little shaken, but all in all ok. Of course my family had no idea what had happened so you should have seen their faces when we staggered out: me wearing huge men’s clothing, Ella basically naked (this is Alaska in December, mind you), and Dave, surprisingly, not looking too bad. Luckily once our bags came through we were able to dig through and get Ella some clean clothes and a blanket for the car ride.
My saintly mom took the putrid plastic United Airlines courtesy bag down to the laundry room the next morning (without me knowing), and when she brought the clean clothes back up she was like, “wow, you weren’t kidding, that was one of the worst things I have ever seen.” Oh well, we learned our lesson on regulating milk intake, and it was a small price to pay in the end for a classic Hopkin Christmas!