Although I knew it was going to be difficult, I was still excited for my grandmother to meet her great-granddaughter. The trip would consist of wrestling my baby alone with my own physical limitations over a couple thousand miles through several airports and then driving a rental car a couple hundred more miles.
I packed everything into one diaper bag so I wouldn’t have to carry much or check a bag. I reserved the flights, the rental, and the hotel ahead of time, making sure to make arrangements for help at the airport, a car seat, and a crib, respectively. Leaving early, I strapped on the baby so my hands were free. I knew it was going to be difficult skipping naps, staying up late, sitting still, and the altitude on her tiny ears. Despite it all, I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins, “I’m going on an adventure!”
Here’s what I learned about traveling alone with a one year old: it’s impossible.
Let me explain.
I get through security, snagging her just in time from crawling into a restricted area, and head down a long, deserted uphill corridor towards my gate. The help I requested is nowhere to be found, but I’m determined to do it myself — I have been working out. I solider on, baby girl on one hip our bag on the other, purse and carrier draped across me. About half way, my lungs are giving in; I’m panting, but I’m not giving up. Too soon for that. It was hard to walk while using my arms but not impossible, right? I was going to push through it. Pulling her back up, I set my eyes on the top and slowly got closer.
I’m not sure what happened but at the top, where I could hear calls for my flight boarding, I went down. And I mean in a big way. I went from hoping no one saw to hoping someone would stop and grab the bag because I was not going to be able to stand with the baby and the bags and nothing to hold on to. Trying several times, fighting back tears of humiliation, I realized it was futile.
Somewhere between bitter and desperate I thought, “Good Lord, I need help.”
Whatever you might think about the timing, an older man with very short black hair and dark skin appeared just then. He was not smiling. He was holding a wheelchair.
“Where are you going?” he asked. “Get in.”
He took me to the gate, past the line, and on board with no further comment than a wink.
On the flight, the woman behind me entertained the restless babe once I had finished singing the Moana soundtrack and ran out of little crunchies. The flight attendant made sure I had a hand in Atlanta.
Oh, Atlanta. An almost two hour layover in a crowded airport, and my sweet angel baby decides to throw her first full out “don’t change my diaper” fit. Now I’m being as patient as Mr. Rogers until a woman appears behind me, waiting with two kids. I try to to hurry, and to my horror Evy throws a pretty impressive pitch — with my wipes!
“I’m sorry,” I mumble, fumbling her into her clothes.
“Girl, don’t even worry,” the mom says sweetly, picking up the wipes and even repacking my bag for me. “I know all about it,” she laughs.
Putting baby back into the carrier too was an unexpected battle. There I am sitting on the floor of the airport, having let her crawl around to her heart’s content but refusing to share my espresso, and she is melting in my hands.
A gorgeous woman with a stroller passes by, and I am pretty confident I look like a failure. She stops and so does my heart, but not my flailing child.
“It gets better. I promise,” she says with a sympathetic smile.
Three separate airport staff went out of their way to offer to carry a bag because I looked tired as baby waved happily at everyone. Random passengers picked up her dropped shoes or elephant more times than I could count. The next flight attendant found ways to entertain her, so the next flight was easier.
And so was the next one. By the end, people were saying I was doing awesome feeding her with one hand and downing a salad with the other, pretending to chase her around the gate. They said she was “perfect,” pointing at clouds, sharing snacks, waving, and even sleeping!
While I was exhausted and feeling beaten down from the experience, the positive aspect was that there was not one single angry person or complaint during the whole trip. There were only “do you need help” and tiny high fives with my superstar.
The only part that was not just tiring but hard, was trying to hold onto her climbing body at the same time as I’m installing a car seat whilst I had to pee and she was starving. I finally start the car up and find myself leaving the airport behind without a working GPS or map. Surprise. I spent about a half hour surrounded by nothing but cows and rain. I called people and they helped me get directions and fix the GPS on my phone.
At our destination, family helped me get around, shop, and even shower.
The Lesson in all of this…
What I learned is it is impossible to travel alone with a 1-year-old. Unless you are forging the isolated wilderness single-handedly, and even not then if you’re religious, you are never alone.
Please remember, you are never alone.