Friday, December 17, 2010

I'll be home for Christmas

When I flew back to Copenhagen for Christmas, it was like a flashback to last year, except this time the baby was outside my belly rather than inside. In fact we went exactly the same route, via LAX and London Heathrow where I dropped off Mark and then continued the last leg to Copenhagen with Zoe on my own. The great thing was that we got to fly economy plus with Air New Zealand, the only airline where economy plus is really actually business class, because our tickets were actually return tickets from another business trip (don't ask...). Where last year that meant we got to dine from a select menu, watch at least one movie out of the 100+ videos on demand and if I remember correctly also a bit of intellectual conversation, this year we got to eat in teams, lie with a sleeping baby on top and watch half an hour of soundless Finding Nemo while trying to cover Zoe's ear with a set of complementary head phones. I still drank the champagne that they bring out before take-off though, this time around with a little less guilt because Zoe was no longer directly attached to my bloodstream.

When we landed in London Heathrow after a too short night as all east-bound Atlantic flights are, Zoe and I went back through security to wait with Mark for his flight. Ours was a full hour later in a different terminal. Heathrow is a maze of walk ways, between terminals through several sets of security. Having used it as a hub for over 10 years I knew it well and also knew that despite most other airports, it is actually perfectly possible to get into a terminal where you are not departing from. The transfer desks where you get your boarding pass is after security. We went to the Whetherspoons Pub for breakfast because as much as Zoe and I were able to get in to terminal 3, we were not flying out with a Star Alliance flight so we couldn't get into the lounge. Zoe was the least tired one of us and did most of the conversation as 7 months old babies do. Finally, after 2 hours, Mark proclaimed that he was going to get his plane and he kissed us goodbye. It would be a full week before we would see him again.

When Zoe and I landed in Copenhagen I called my mom who were suppose to pick us up. She frantically told me that I had to take a taxi because my brother had not even arrived yet to pick her up, because of all the snow the roads were blocked up. I loaded up all our belongings including Zoe's little stroller on a luggage cart and went to the taxi rank. As we drove through the snow-filled Christmas lit streets, Zoe dozed off and my mind ventured into memories of Christmas comfort food like marzipan, pickled herring and rice pudding with cherry sauce. I was home for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Security with a baby: liquids

I always hated going through security, particularly since they introduced the so-called liquid ban in 2006 because as a woman you always have the lip gloss or hand creme in the back pocket of your bag, and being environmentally conscious I like to fill up my water bottle instead of buying a new every flight. So I always bring an empty bottle that I then fill once I have cleared security. In UK airports they for some odd reason don't have water fountains as in the US and the water in their bathrooms is heated. Here I therefore shamelessly walk over to any food vendor without a queue and ask them to fill my bottle.

I have always had to bring milk for Zoe. The first flight because I was at this point pumping and feeding her with a special needs feeder and for most following flights because it is nice to have a bottle. Luckily, all places I have flown have exceptions for baby milk, however still with restrictions. Rule number 1: Always declare the milk before you put your stuff through the x-ray. I have sometimes forgotten and not got into any trouble but I have heard of others who did.

In the US they most often take you aside and swipe the container of milk with explosive-sensitive wipes, or so it looks like. Make sure you have plenty of time because you often have to wait for an available officer that can leave the security station. Believe it or not but airports in the US are actually some of the most lax about this part and I have sometimes 'forgotten' to declare my milk and gotten through with a bottle buried deep in my luggage.

In Scandinavia the officers acknowledge that you say you are carrying milk for the baby and let you through without looking at it. That said, I do speak the language and I am sure I get some positive discrimination here.

In the UK, particularly in London Heathrow Airport they are extremely thorough and this is where I have had a few almost inconceivable experiences. My first trip through here was, as I said, with Zoe when she was three and a half weeks and I was still pumping milk and feeding her with a special bottle. I had about 3 small bottles of breast milk with me, all under the allowed 4 oz (100ml) in plastic bags. After getting through with Zoe (this was a time where I was asked to take her out of the carrier so she had woken up and was a bit unhappy) we waited about 15 minutes while my bag had been placed on another table in a queue and one officer slowly went through each of the bags with their owners. When he finally got to my bag he looked at me sternly and asked what it was. I answered that it was breast milk and he then asked me to taste it. That's right, I had to taste it to get it through. I objected, arguing that it was in fact under the normal limit for liquids and if it had been creams, toothpaste etc, it wouldn't have been a problem. Okay, he answered, slightly annoyed, then just taste one of them. At this point we were late for our connecting flight and I just poured a bit of milk out on my hand and licked it up. So I can now tell you that breast milk is rather sweet and thin.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Long haul flight back from Sweden

Flying back from Sweden with a 4 month old baby was not bad at all. Zoe slept almost the whole long haul flight from London to LA, letting Mark and me have nice dinner and watch a movie. Zoe was snoozing in the bassinet above our seats, where she occasionally opened her eyes, looked drowsily at us and then dozed off again. This preemptively made up for the full on cry all the way from LA to San Diego.

We had been relaxing in the LAX lounge when the personnel came down and told us that our flight was about to board and the gate was quite a walk away. It was still early which is why we hadn't packed up yet and I was feeding Zoe. I had to de-latch her and put her in the carrier where she started crying. She was not done eating. What we also hadn't realized was that we had to go through security again. And the line was long. I looked the officer in the eyes as he sent us out a door where the end of the line had snaked around to, hoping he would realize I was carrying a crying 4 month old and let us through before everyone else. He didn't budge. Outside I started pacing back and forth while Mark stood in line for us but Zoe was still out of it. People looked sympathetically at us but nobody offered us their spot. When we got inside the door, still with a wailing baby, there was a bit of commotion up front and the security officer from before came over and, still not looking at me, told us to come up front. They let us go through in front of the still snaking queue and I almost felt the communal sigh from the crowd as we started jogging towards the gate.

At that moment a little airport car came towards us with a woman that was about to save our night. "Do you need a ride?" she said and we nodded. With Zoe still crying we made the flight as the last passengers and a check-in guy letting us know that we were very lucky. I didn't feel very lucky because Zoe was still crying, now hysterically, so hysterically that she couldn't even latch on as soon as I attempted after sitting down and fastening my seatbelt. She just cried and cried. Mark took her for a bit of the 20 minute flight, which felt like three hours, but it wasn't until the pilot turned on the seatbelt sign for our inflight that she finally fell asleep. We stayed on the plane until everyone had left and then very carefully, very quietly put her in the carrier again where she continued snoozing until we got out to the curb. Our friend and summer subletter were waiting with our car and Zoe's car seat. Mark and I agreed that for a 18 hour journey, she had done very well. This was not bad at all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Week 37

San Francisco Airport
“Can I see your boarding pass please?”, the uniformed woman said and glanced down at my bulging belly covered under a green long-sleeved shirt with empire waist and a black coat that was impossible to close below the two top buttons. “How far along are you?”, she continued and little flashes went through my head, thinking through quickly. What was I again? I was actually 37 weeks but since most airlines would not allow you to fly pregnant after week 36 I needed to lie. But how much? And what if she didn’t believe me? I did have a doctor’s note but it stated my real due date and I would have to either tell her that was wrong or hope she couldn’t count. I opened my mouth but only a few ehh’s came out. What if she didn’t let me on? How would I get home? I guess I could rent a car and drive the 10 hours back to San Diego from San Francisco but how could I sit in a car for that long? And I needed to be back for a meeting the next day.  Why couldn’t I just have finished this project earlier? I had traveled up and down five times the past three months to study an urban planning project. My research project depended on this data and I had meticulously calculated that I would be okay to fly, even asking my midwife to provide me with a note explaining I was okay to travel until week 36. Except I had mistakenly planned the last trip during spring break and since nobody was around, the trip had to be pushed a week. Nobody will notice I had thought one month before when I was still able to wear my heels and prance around in my coat with only one button open. But now I felt my belly pull me down and my back hurt from walking the half mile down to the gate. I wanted to be home before I had even left the day before. If they would let me. Please let me go home I thought. The attendant interrupted my third ehh: “Well, you look great, good luck with it”, she smiled and handed me back my boarding card stub and turned her gaze to the next passenger. I sighed in relief and walked my short but steady steps down the air bridge to my window seat. I was on my way home, alone. Next time I was going to fly, I would be two.