So it has come, it is time to take our first holiday as a family. Oscar is now more than three months old and I finally feel confident enough to contemplate travelling with him in tow.
Not only will we be leaving the safe haven and routine of home, we'll also need to take a plane to get there. I've never been a big fan of babies on aeroplanes, not least as a fellow traveller arriving at my seat only to find a pair of harried-looking parents adjacent to me with a tired and dribbling infant on their hands.
I've always been sure to pack my earplugs for flights, yet have always resented having to insert them as a result of a baby's wailings, feeling exceedingly hard done by when I had the misfortune to be seated close to one. Boy, was I self-absorbed before kids!
Now, it's our turn.
And yes we do look harried and also a little bit stressed as we board the flight, running late as they announce the last call. The plane is full, and maybe I'm paranoid, but I'm sure I witness fellow passengers spot us with Oscar strapped to me in his baby carrier look at first apprehensive and then relieved as we pass their seats and continue down the aisle. I'd never really noticed just how narrow these aeroplane aisles are, and how difficult it is to manipulate baby, plus baby bag, plus voluminous handbag down one without bumping other people's elbows and feet along the way.
We arrive at our seats on the bulkhead (hooray for that extra bit of legroom to accommodate the bassinet!) and receive a couple of close-mouthed smiles from our neighbours as well as a downright obvious grimace from a grumpy looking gentleman across the aisle. The next 10 minutes before take-off and strapping in consist of me repeatedly unpacking and repacking the baby bag for things I will definitely, maybe and never need for the first 20 minutes after take off. Oscar is thankfully happy and obviously excited to be there, being able to stare at all these people in close proximity and spends most of his time smiling and gurgling at anyone who looks at him.
After we take off and reach cruising altitude, our baby is thankfully not displaying any signs of discomfort with the change in altitude and happily gulps down a full boobful from me, contented with the fact I'm allowing him to simply feed and snooze at his leisure, rather than having me tickle his toes and face to get him to wake up and hurry up like I usually do. He is then happy to be settled to sleep in the bassinet for about 40 minutes – oh joy!
P and I congratulate ourselves maybe a little too soon than we should that things seem to be going according to plan. We even manage to eat our meal at the same time – cardboard plane food never tasted so good.
When he wakes up, we spend the next hour or so playing with him and he seems to be really loving it. Perhaps it's because he never really gets all this full on attention for such an extended period of time from both parents? It's after another feed and then sleep number two that things take a sorry turn.
It's the law that you have to wear the baby on your lap using a seatbelt extender at take off, landing and during times of turbulence. Unfortunately, the flight starts to get a bit bumpy, and the cabin crew insists that I take him out of the bassinet and strap him to me. This does not go down well. Apparently, Oscar had been offered his dummy too many times in the last few hours for his liking, so he continues to reject it, preferring instead to grizzle and cry with tiredness and frustration. He also refuses the breast because he is full, and it would appear, his ears are now starting to hurt. Because we are experiencing turbulence, neither of us can get up and take him for a little walk around the plane to share the joy of his whining with other passengers not within earshot. So we are stuck, shushing and rocking, and I am starting to perspire as I am so very aware that the people around us are also being subjected to the noise and they don't even love him like we do!
Every minute of this passes as if it's an hour, and as we finally start to descend through the turbulence, Oscar's crying reaches its peak. No, he still doesn't want the dummy, but yes, he will now take the breast. I plug his little squalling mouth with my boob and all is suddenly quiet except for the whirr of the plane's engines and I swear I can hear audible sighs of relief around me.
After we land, P and I have already discussed waiting for everyone else to leave before we do, unlike our usual pre-kids mad scramble to get out, get off this plane as fast as we can. As the other passengers file past us, the baby is all smiles again, the little charmer. A couple of people actually smile at us with genuine warmth. I smile back with maniacal desperation so pleased that the whole plane doesn't hate us. But really, after all of that, he was very good – who wouldn't object to being rudely awoken out of a deep sleep and forced to sit up? I resolve not to care any more about what others think when the baby cries on the plane. After all, we will never see any of these people ever again, and if they forgot to pack earplugs then it's their own fault, isn't it?
Related articles on Parentdish:
Top 10 tips: Your first holiday with a baby
The Newborn Diaries: Baby does New York
Best buys: Travel gear
What do you think? Are babies on planes a simple reality of life or should parents avoid traveling with them? Do you have any handy travel tips for parents with babies on planes?