On Motherhood & Sanity


Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Traveling with babies (excerpt from my book)

(book excerpt)

(…)The first challenge was actually moving from the US to Phnom Penh with a two month old (...)

Those of you with no children must be thinking that such a small thing surely does not exceed authorized hand luggage regulations, and what’s the big deal. Those of you with three or more children are probably thinking just the same. But a baby for a first time mother is equivalent to some sort of extremely sophisticated radioactive explosive, which must be handled with utmost care. It must be kept at the right temperature, and delicately positioned according to a series of formulas that change throughout the day in mysterious ways. A move too rough or a sudden change in temperature could trigger “the alarm”, otherwise known as crying, and we honestly believe could actually kill the little creature.

Babies grow on an hourly basis, and all potential situations must be catered for, which explains the average luggage requirements for every new parent:

- 2 oversized bags (per child)

- 1 buggy

- 1 cot

- max carry-on allowance

- one change of clothes for each parent (in the suitcase, although I soon learned that carrying a change of clothes with you is best, as you are just as likely to end up covered in pee, poop or vomit)

Add to the above ‘basic’ toys, blankets, formula and snacks, and you are likely to be tilting the airplane.

Moreover, every parent is convinced that their kid cries at several decibels higher than any other man made machine, and of course, any other baby. Parents’ nervous systems, and in particular the mother’s, are genetically designed to react to this sound.

This is good for evolution, not always so good for the mother.

But we all react differently. In my case, I sweat profusely and can actually see energy exiting my body, in search of a quieter place no doubt, while I can feel all eyes on me. In this case of the plane but the same applies to all spaces where your child might cry; like shopping malls or stadiums.

A mother quickly develops the gift of mind reading, as I distinctly perceive how each and every person on the plane –even those that are sleeping- thinks:

“tska tska… baaad mother”

Word to the wise, avoid all western airlines when travelling with babies, unless you want to have some 12 year old stewardess give you advice along the lines of:

-“could you try to get the baby to stop crying?”

hmm, hadn’t thought of that! or better yet,

-“maybe she’s hungry” or “she looks tired”

I’ve lived with this thing day in and day out (quite literally) since it was born, but you have managed to crack “the code” in two hours… right

Unhealthy thoughts will haunt you as they sit by the door filing their nails, or rolling their eyes because they cannot leave the plane until you do, and of course, it is going to take you a while to collect all your belongings, which had left point of origin in a quasi military order, but are now scattered throughout the plane and you must retrieve on all fours.

This triggers “the alarm,” and they continue to file away as you squeeze yourself between seats, over all sorts of left over food –NOT from this flight- with sweat trickling down your body.

Finally you exit the plane carrying two bags on each arm, a backpack and front pack (the baby) only to discover half way to the immigration line that you forgot to button up your shirt after the last feeding.

Which brings us to another myth of motherhood.

Unlike the models in the magazines will have you believe, it is NOT trendy, it is NOT glamorous, and it is NOT sexy, (unless the smell of sour milk puke turns you on).

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