Have child, will travel

After numerous heated discussions and difficult exchanges, husband suggested I go to Melbourne and just chill out with friends for an extended weekend.  At first I was reluctant, thinking about how hard the flight would be with the Dude, who just doesn’t do the comfort feeding thing and doesn’t just fall asleep, but I finally agreed to go and booked some flights on Qantas.  Luxury!  Normally we fly dodgy Tiger but with the Dude I wasn’t taking any chances, and besides, it wasn’t actually much more expensive.  I booked an 11am flight out on the Thursday, thinking that would be cruisy, and a 4pm flight home on the following Monday.  But it wasn’t to be so cruisy!

Firstly, about a week beforehand, husband revealed that he’d volunteered for a day out accompanying some deaf kids into the city to the Botanic Gardens and on the ferry etc. Which is lovely, except it happened to be the day I was due to fly to Melbourne.  And he had to be at the school by 8:30am.  In North Parramatta.  An hour’s drive away.  And my flight was booked for 11am.  Urgh.  We discussed the possibility of him bailing out, but he’d already saved the day as someone else had pulled out and I thought it would be pretty slack to bail at the last minute like that.  So after discussing the possibilities – him taking public transport to North Parramatta (erm, that’s like having a death wish!), me taking public transport to the airport (erm, again, a bit of a death wish, given I’d have the baby and my wheely bag), me taking a taxi to the airport (for $70? Hmm, think again) – and finally settled on a plan.  He dropped me in the city at about 7:45 and I strapped the Dude to my chest, put my nappy bag in my wheely bag, and took the airport line straight through from St James – easy!

A few things to explain here: I decided not to bother with taking a pram as the Dude isn’t a fan and I can’t fathom how one person can possibly handle a wheely bag and a pram at the same time.  Seriously.  How is that possible??  The other thing is that I don’t own a nappy bag.  My nappy bag consists of a rather tatty Target ‘green’ bag.  I have the material at home, just haven’t gotten round to making one, and there’s no way I’m spending $100 on a proper one, what a total rip off!  Plus I’m not a fan of carting round a whole bunch of shit just because I have a baby.  Sometimes I take a nappy and wipes, occasionally a change of clothes, a hat, socks… that’s about it.  So anyway, all I had was my modest wheely bag, my handbag and the Dude strapped to me in the Ergobaby.

The train trip through to Sydney airport’s Qantas domestic terminal was a breeze.  Fast, easy, simple.  The only drawbag is being subjected to extortion when you pay $15 for a ten minute train journey!  Freaking rip off!  But that’s Sydney for you… Anyway, I got there, decided to check my bag, and was impressed with how easy it was despite the fact that Qantas seem to have now gotten rid of actual people to check you in and you do the whole thing yourself: check in and print off your boarding pass and bag tags, attach your own bag tags, then drop off your bags yourself.  Pretty cool really.

I headed through security and grabbed a bacon and egg muffin at Hungry Jacks and a big veggie juice at the food place next to it – yum!  I found a nice seat facing out over the tarmac, finished my food and drink and gave the Dude a feed.  I had a couple of hours still before my flight at 11am, and I planned to get him to have a decent sleep so he’d be cool for the flight.  It was great, I strapped him to my back, then grabbed a coffee, then found a bench and stood rocking him while crocheting and sipping my coffee, too easy!  At 10:40 I went to board my flight; and that’s when things started to go awry.

The flight was delayed 25 minutes, so boarding at 11:05.  I kept walking round with the Dude, gave him another feed… It was 11:30 and we still hadn’t boarded.  Finally we all filed on.  Apparently the flight before had been late in.  I was beckoned to the front and slipped on board first, which was brilliant.  My seat was right at the back and the one next to me was empty, perfect!  The male and female flight attendants immediately flocked to me and took the Dude, who was happy to hang out with them, a total miracle, as normally he screams as soon as I pass him to someone else, unless it’s daddy.  This was going well! And then we sat on the tarmac.  For an hour!  The Dude got restless.  The lovely male flight attendant brought him some baby food, awful artificial Heinz vanilla custard (I read the label enough to notice the second ingredient was ‘sugar’ and then pretended not to notice), which the Dude of course absolutely loved and ate about a third of the tin!  But we weren’t flying anywhere on this plane it seemed, and were soon asked to disembark as the flight had been cancelled due to electrical problems.  I filed out with everyone else and stood in line for 10 minutes whereupon we were booked onto a 3pm flight.  Hmph.

Anyway, eventually we did fly out on the 3pm flight, but sadly the attendants on this flight weren’t of the calibre of those on the first and basically ignored me the whole time.  The Dude had had enough by this point and promptly screamed the plane down for most of the flight, even though I tried to soothe him by walking around and feeding (it only worked for the first 15 minutes during take off).  I finally arrived in Melbourne at 4:35pm and had to wait for my friend to pick us up as because of the delay she was stuck in traffic!  What an ordeal!

Some general observations about flying:

  • Baby change area at the airport? This had to be the most impractical place to change a baby, unless the baby in question is completely covered in poo and you need to give him a bath to clean him up… Where is the bit you change them on? I really do need to invest in a portable change mat, as the changing area consisted of a narrow, hard metal bench.
  • People that work at Sydney airport – really, this is your career? Reminds me why I want to leave Sydney!  I watched people working behind counters and in shops and thought, damn, what a way to live, how boring and average.  Yes, I am a cynic.  And a snob.
  • Are people really that lovely and helpful when you’re travelling with a baby? Some, yes, but judging by the stupid article I read in the Age about flying with a baby, some are just callous assholes who probably wouldn’t have the guts to say to your face what they’d say in an online comment.
  • There is a huge difference depending on the flight attendants.  I guess they see a million babies complaining on flights every day, but it made SUCH a difference to have those lovely flight attendants on that first flight.  I personally thanked them both before getting off the plane, and the female flight attendant came up to me in the airport after we got off the first plane to check if I’d been successfully rebooked and commiserate.  So nice.
  • Some people are tolerant and understand just how embarrassing and stressful it can be when your baby is screaming and you just can’t do anything.  As I sat waiting to get off the second flight to Melbourne, waiting for everyone to get off first, a smiling guy in a suit leaned down to me and said, “don’t worry, we’ve all been there before”.  I smiled.  Thanks man, I really needed to hear that.

My conclusion? Having kids and participating in mainstream society do not exist in the same dimension! But what’s new right?  All I know is, I did it, I took a flight alone with my baby and it was all good.  In fact he slept for the majority of the flight home – miracle or what!  I can’t say I’ll be doing it again in a hurry but at least now I know I can.

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Author: curiosikat

Writer, editor, linguist, social historian...

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