Monday, 24 May 2010

Going airborne By Kate

Okay, so I admit I am petrified of flying. In the past, the only thing that would get me inside a jet and up in the air was a generous dose of Valium. Given the choice, I would rather travel any other way except off the ground. But sometimes it just can't be avoided. An important family wedding and work-related time-constraints meant flying between Madrid and Bristol was the only sensible way to travel on this occasion. Unfortunately, because I'm breast-feeding, Valium is out of the question. Oh, and did we mention that we would also be bringing a 16 week-old baby, somewhat prone to over-tiredness and not always inclined to feed to order? I viewed the coming expedition with something akin to terror. A shame, as that rather overshadowed the pleasant anticipation I felt about attending Hermione and Richard's nuptials, but there wasn't much I could do about it.

So I duly dosed Rosie with a little infant paracetamol to hopefully help ease any pressure-change headaches, timed her penultimate feed so she would be ready for the next as we took off, put her in the sling and joined Theo, plus bulging rucksack, backpack and baby-bed, in a taxi for Madrid Barajas. Rosie fussed a bit in the taxi, which didn't bode well. I gritted my teeth and told myself it would all be over in just a few hours time.When we arrived, the man at the check-in desk cheerfully assured us the flight was on schedule. He was wrong. With sinking hearts we watched the red strip blinking on the departures board. Damn.
With Rosie still in the sling I set off on an extremely tedious walk involving repeated circuits of the boarding area. She was disconcertingly awake. My plan involved her at least having a reasonable nap so she wouldn't go into the long dark tunnel of overtiredness on the plane and be impossible (or at least, very difficult) to calm down.

It worked - eventually. By about the fifteenth circuit, Rosie had got bored of the lack of scenery and nodded off. I kept walking.After an hour, our plane came in and we lined up to get on board.

At this point Rosie woke up and let me know she was hungry. That was a nuisance, to put it plainly. The Flight Plan had involved her feeding during our ascent (and descent) so the swallowing would protect her from the discomfort of the pressure changes. But Rosie was threatening to make A Big Noise if her hunger wasn't satisfied and soon. I hesitated for a moment, then sat on a window sill while Theo kept our place in the queue and allowed her to start to feed. As it happened, she had to curtail her eating almost immediately as we were called to board. Fortunately, the distraction that involved meant she forgot to protest too vigorously about her interrupted meal.Once ensconced in seats near the front, we fiddled with the infant seat-belting arrangement and got ready. We didn't have to wait long. With my flight-fear adrenalin shooting through me I felt the jet lift off and Rosie was able to resume her feed. Whether it was the calming hormones released by breast-feeding or my overriding concern for my daughter, I soon forgot to panic as we climbed to 38 thousand feet.

Once we were up and Rosie had finished feeding she started to fuss. "Here we go," I thought with sinking heart. As Rosie's wails started to reach a crescendo, a kindly member of the cabin crew took pity and suggested I take her into the galley area. With Rosie swaddled, dummied and hugged close into my chest I stood looking at the neat rows of aircraft snacks while rocking and shushing Rosie in my arms. Whether it was by these efforts, or the effect of the sound and motion of the plane, it worked. Within five minutes she had fallen asleep. I let out a breath and returned to our seat. Rosie then obligingly slept for the rest of the journey.
In fact, I had the devil's own job to rouse her sufficiently to get her to feed on the way back down - I joggled her and massaged her feet and ears in an effort to encouraging some sucking, feeling increasingly desperate as the pressure began to build up in my own ears. Just as I was on the point of giving up, Rosie suddenly got the idea of what was required of her and started to drink. Behind us another youngster started screaming. Rosie remained calm, sleepily sucking every few minutes as we flew over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and finally came into land.

Back in the sling, Rosie went straight off to sleep again as we collected our baggage and went out to our little welcoming committee of Theo's parents.

In fact, Rosie proceeded to calmly sleep her way through the car journey to Cirencester and after a brief awakening for a nappy change and feed, had a pretty decent night of it - as Theo and I gratefully grabbed some snoozing ourselves. Now I could look forward to the wedding.

...of which more in a later blog...

Having had one flight that was so much better than I could have hoped, I wasn't optimistic the second one would pass as tranquilly. It was bang in the middle of "evening fuss time", never an easy part of Rosie's and my day.

After an unsuccessful attempt at getting Rosie to sleep in her baby bed in the airport (we were ridiculously early - one of Theo's annoyingly over-efficient habits!!) I put her back in the sling and started doing circuits of the refreshments posts in Bristol's new terminal. The pattern at Barajas was thankfully repeated and after a while Rosie took a decent nap while I stopped off to chat to a couple of former work colleagues, who were awaiting a flight to Amsterdam and a pair of friendly middle-aged women who were about to go to Budapest.

Once again, we sat near the front. I almost blew the take-off feed when Rosie wanted to start supping ahead of schedule then, when I tried to buy a bit of time, roared her displeasure. Luckily (and this is a first) I managed to persuade her back on the breast where she obligingly stayed until we had reached our cruising altitude. So far so good.

Rosie was a bit too wakeful to be encouraged to sleep again so Theo and I distracted her with a nappy change on the spare seat in our row, then by waving a teddy at her and generally passing her back and forth between us until she started to fuss in her familiar "I'm tired now, Mother and Father" way.

Not feeling too hopeful, I swaddled her and repeated the dummy/rocking/shushing routine, this time in my seat. After ten minutes she was asleep. I felt cheered and distracted myself from my own flying anxiety by cuddling her, generally admiring her, feeling a bit pleased with myself and wishing I didn't have a streaming cold.

Once again, Rosie was very sleepy when I tried to get her to feed going down and once again she took a few swallows just at the critical moment. I wished I had someone to breast-feed me as the congestion I was experiencing with my cold meant my ears and head were feeling like a plunger was being gradually and painfully applied to them.

In an almost carbon copy of our previous landing, Rosie remained placid and dozy while we grabbed our stuff and put her back in the sling ready to head for home. I, meanwhile, had gone deaf. But given my fears - on my own account as well as Rosie's - I have to say that I passed the too least stressful flights of my life. Valium? Huh. Looking after a sixteen week-old baby is a far better way to get airborne without damp palms.

No comments:

Post a Comment