If you’ve never flown solo with a baby and would like to know what it’s like, just put an angry cat into one of those sturdy bags for life, and try and ride a bicycle around a busy roundabout. Full of impatient motorists. At rush hour. My first solo flight with baby was at 8 weeks and I was terrified. But we got through it, no one died, no strangers were vomited on, baby Tom was amazing and it lulled me into a false sense of security. Since then, we have made ten solo flights with varying degrees of success. Since having a baby, I see all forms of transport in newly challenging ways. Less than a quarter of underground stations have step free access. If a bus pulls up and there are already two buggies onboard, you’ll have to wait for the next one. Trying to get anywhere on public transport during rush hour elicits the kind of eye rolling usually reserved for accordion players, as you apologise profusely to everyone who glances and huffs at you and your buggy taking up the space of two people. Trust me folks, if buggy owners didn’t have to be somewhere at the same time as you, we wouldn’t be out at peak times. We don’t do it just to piss other commuters off. But public transport is a walk in the park in comparison to flying. Well, not all flights, but when a flight goes bad, it can go into Adam Sandler territory.
I’ve learnt to be organised. Ten minutes before boarding, there’s a nappy change for the little guy and a wee for me (it’s impossible to go for a wee on a plane with a baby unless you ask a stranger to hold him/her). But even a simple wee isn’t straightforward when travelling solo. The majority of baby changing rooms don’t have a toilet. I almost weed in the sink once, but had visions of it falling off the wall and trying to justify myself to airport security. Not a reason I’d like to be banned for life from Heathrow for. This is a massive oversight airport-facility-design-people. (Kudos to Dublin airport who offer near perfect baby changing rooms).
Once that caper is over, it’s time to run the gauntlet of the priority queue. Despite the ground staff clearly inviting anyone travelling with infants to come forward first, you’d swear you had wronged every person in the queue judging by the looks you get as you manoevre to the front. People, we will all get on the plane and there is a logic to letting us on first. The fancy-pants card holders and business commuters are the worst. Their faces and reactions tell us we have no right to be on a plane at all. Sure isn’t the bus and ferry a better combo for you and that contraption missy?
Of course there are lovely people too. Helpful cabin crew who offer a hand. The gent who smiles and takes your bag telling you he has two at home. The woman who turns around just before you start to cry and tells you not to worry about the noise, sure isn’t he only a baby and it’s a short flight. I could hug those people.
And when you get to your destination and walk out of arrivals in one piece, you honestly feel you could take on the world.
Until you remember you still have to catch a bus.