Never did I think the person holding a screaming baby on a cross-county flight taking off at 5:30 a.m. would be me.
Yet there I was, returning to New York City with body odor ripening as my deodorant quickly vanished under the stress of what would be the flight from hell.
Ah, the joys of flying with your baby.
Why me, God? What did I do to deserve this?” I thought while people searching for their seats prayed it wasn’t next to this dude wearing a Seattle Seahawks hat who had a 1-year-old squalling for freedom from his Baby Bjorn.
When the couple sitting next to me realized they were stuck with us, I apologized in attempt to win some sympathy. It didn’t work. All I got in return was a look of disapproval.
After everyone buckled in and the lights dimmed for takeoff of our five-hour flight, I followed our pediatrician’s advice and gave my son an eight-ounce bottle of milk. It was the first time since I woke him at 4 a.m. that he was silent. During those brief 10 minutes, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and calmed down.
It was then I realized nobody was going to say anything to my face and, besides, who cares what other people are thinking. If someone said something about me and my son it would made them look like an ass. We were simply trying to get home.
Once I calmed down I could feel my son, who was strapped facing forward on my chest, fall asleep. I took another deep breath, closed my eyes and slept for about an hour.
That’s when I had to use the bathroom.
Flying with your baby … and no on-board changing table
When I closed the bathroom door the only thing I was thankful for was that I am not claustrophobic. Have airplane bathrooms shrunk? Maneuvering inside such a small space with a 22-pound kid strapped to you is like doing yoga inside a box.
My first option was to take my son out and place him on the floor while I peed. That thought went down the toilet when I looked down and saw water. And probably worse.
The second option: pee with him still strapped on. I hate to admit it but this wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. So how bad could it be?
I had to maneuver around to avoid my peeing all over my son. Wailing ensued and my nerves shot through the low, slanted roof as I attempted to relieve myself. I was astonished that I managed to shoot in the right direction. “Damn I’m good,” I thought as I zipped up.
Now, time to change the boy.
As I searched aimlessly around the small space for a changing table, I started to think I was still half-asleep. I splashed some water in my face to try and snap out of it. After another fruitless attempt, I opened the door to ask the flight attendant for help.
“This particular plane doesn’t have them,” he said.
I closed the door, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. All I have to do is be quick about this, I thought. Piece of cake.
I took my son out of the Baby Bjorn and turned him toward me. “Sorry. There is no changing table so we’re going to have to do this old school on the toilet,” I said. I hugged him, placed the changing pad on the toilet lid then placed him on top. He had this look on his face of “what the hell are you doing to me?” that reminded me of Stewie from Family Guy.
Then he slipped off the toilet seat.
I imagined people in the last 10 rows of the plane hearing his cries and thinking the worst. Sweat dripped from my forehead while I got him off the pee-covered floor. I cursed United Airlines.
After finally changing my son, I looked at myself squarely in the mirror and vowed out loud to myself, “Never again will I fly alone with my child.”
I know one thing is for sure, next time I see a father flying alone with his child I will go out of my way to say hello and tell him what my experience was like offering whatever assistance I can.