Yes, I can hear your baby. I can see you both, too, when I get up to go to the bathroom because you’re only a few rows back. You’re avoiding eye contact with everyone around you, tearing frantically through your bag while trying to engage your yowling little one in a game of peek-a-boo. And I feel for you.
I have been in your shoes, flying solo with a baby who decided to exercise his lungs all the way from Nashville to Boston. Literally from takeoff until touchdown.
I have sat hunched over in the middle seat blocking my baby in his Britax with my body from the view of the aisle seat occupant as if that would make us all invisible to one another. Knowing all the while that people rows ahead and rows behind were clucking their tongues in disgust at the caterwauling they couldn’t escape.
Not that I could escape it, either. I couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom because it was just me and my screaming baby with no co-parent on the flight. Picking the baby up didn’t do anything to stem the tide of howls anyway (even if I did briefly consider taking my beautiful bundle of volume into the pantry sized potty just for a change of scene). And if picking him had been a viable option? That would have meant revealing ourselves to a plane full of people who probably hadn’t paid good money to listen uncontrollable sobbing for 943 miles. Keeping a low-profile seemed like the mannerly thing to do.
I know how it feels to want to don a parachute-Ergo hybrid, rip open an Airbus 320 door at 30,000 feet, and take the plunge to escape the judgmental stares of a sea of strangers. So I have something to say to you and all the other mamas flying solo with babies who for whatever reason can’t seem to relax and enjoy the trip.
Stop the endless shushing that we both know isn’t doing anything. Stop trying to read yet another board book through the noise. Stop offering a cycle of snacks and toys and pacis and juice and books and crayons at breakneck speed – loudly enough so the passengers around you can hear.
Remember, I’ve been there, which means I know that at this point what you’re doing is not trying to comfort your baby who is now past the point of no return. Instead you’re trying to make sure that your fellow travelers – especially the ones who gave you the stink eye the moment you stepped onto the plane with a baby in your arms – know that you are doing something… anything to calm that sound machine in the car seat next to you. You’re not just letting your baby scream, you’re doing something about it. Trying to, anyway.
In other words, you have been making shushing noises for the last 45 minutes to make sure everyone knows you’re a good mom. Even if you’re the mom with the screaming baby.
But you know what? Those people who are silently or even not so silently judging you are going to judge you no matter what you do. They’re not going to see that your entire carry-on bag has been packed full of age-appropriate diversions from graham crackers to toy cars and your little one’s favorite lovey plus fifteen spare pacifiers. They will never know you came oh-so-prepared. The minute those folks saw a baby, they had you pegged.
And the moms like me who have been where you are right now aren’t going to judge you no matter what you do. Or don’t do. We know that sometimes babies are just gonna wail. Maybe it’s the air pressure popping little ears or a nap got skipped, but in any case there is nothing you can do.
So sit back. Press the call button and get yourself a tiny bottle of sub-standard wine. Or two! While you’re not going to relax and enjoy the trip if your baby refuses to do the same, that doesn’t mean you have to spend the next however many hours stressing out or, worse, beating yourself up. You know you’re a good mom. I know you’re a good mom. You shouldn’t have to playact to prove it to a plane full of strangers you’re never going to see again.