Paying our Parenting Dues: Our Flight to Alaska

We concluded our trip to Alaska a few days ago, and (after much sleep and perhaps an IPA or two), my husband and I reminisced about our hellish flight from LAX to Anchorage. Going into our AK trip, we were blissfully confident about flying with Canaan. After all, this trip marked her 9th vacation via air travel, and we, bless our naive little hearts, have now raised a tiny human for almost 18 months (which makes us experts in parenting, obviously, regardless of the fact that some condiments in my fridge are older than she is). As luck would have it, Canaan caught a cold a day or so before we left, which didn’t manifest itself until eating dinner with our parents and watching our healthy looking tot barf up an entire slice of pizza. Ugh. That’s ok, we assumed. Since she’s now had close to 13 million colds, we figured she’d shake it with a full night of rest and some mama milk (because apparently, I’ll be nursing her on her wedding night). She’ll be healthy by morning. Right? Wrong. So wrong.

We flew from Denver to LAX first, to meet up with my folks and spend some quality time in California. The flight from Denver to LAX is fairly short (2.5 hours), and while we had a pretty tired and fussy baby on our hands, our airtime was nothing particularly eventful. Now, before I go further, I should tell you that our baby girl developed asthma last year after a particularly gnarly case of RSV. We spend about 70% of our time traveling or going to highly public places such as museums/zoos/aquariums/libraries, etc., so we’re definitely building that immune system. The asthma, while dormant and unexciting most of the time, rears its ugly head anytime whenever Canaan catches an upper-respiratory cold. She has an inhaler/spacer, and though we only use it on an as-needed basis, we luckily packed it with us in her diaper bag for our Anchorage flight.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed waking up at 4am for our AK flight [let’s be real, I looked and felt like death warmed over], we soon arrived at the airport ready for vacation. Our flight with Alaskan Airlines was particularly full, with several people on standby, and the employees kindly asked for any volunteers who were willing to check their carry-ons free of charge. I, benevolent and optimistic, offered up our carry-ons, keeping with me only a diaper bag, and boarded the flight alongside my family who sat just a row away. As the plane began taxiing out onto the tarmac, my sweet lap-sit child, who had already fallen asleep in my arms, jolted awake coughing and instantaneously vomited what seemed like a gallon onto Seth and I. No, forget a gallon, it was definitely the whole darn cow. Before. We. Even. Took. Off.

Utterly shocked and honestly quite sassy, I sprung up from the chair and asked the flight attendants if I could head to the bathroom before we actually took off. I was told I needed to stay in my seat, but the flight attendants were very sweet and brought over an entire tree’s worth of napkins. In the up-chuck chaos, the flight attendants paused their safety briefing which evidently required notifying the pilot, and caused our flight to be slightly delayed (15 minutes or so…sorry to my fellow passengers). Canaan managed to completely soak Seth and I  from head to toe, through my nursing cover and all. Since I only had a diaper bag with me, I was without a change of clothes, clean nursing cover, or sanity. With a five and a half hour flight ahead, I smelled like something out of your worst nightmare (good thing those airplane cabins don’t re-circulate air or anything), and was about as cranky as cranky can get (probably owe that sweet husband of mine another apology or two). When Canaan, feeling sick as a dog, only wanted to nurse instead of eat the lunch I packed for her, I sat rolling my eyes at the man a row behind/across from me who seemed rather interested in the peep show he was getting free of charge as my nursing cover was sealed off in a biohazard bag. When she finally woke up from the nap she fought for so long, Canaan had her first full-blown asthma attack which, though heart-poundingly terrifying, was mitigated by her inhaler that I was so blessed to have packed.

Ok, ok, I’ll admit that it all seems a little dramatic, and at the time, it definitely felt that way. We survived the flight and later counted our blessings that despite it being a challenging day, we are incredibly lucky to be afforded the ability to travel, love on our daughter, and make memories along the way. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and if there’s one area of self-growth that I’m working on most, it’s the ability to roll with the punches, praise in the storms, and laugh along the way. Traveling with kids isn’t always easy, but it isn’t always hard. Sure, I literally found vomit chunks in my underwear when I finally had the chance to rinse my clothes off in the airplane bathroom sink, but you know what else I had? An amazing husband by my side, and a toddler whose airways were opened by the miraculous invention of albuterol. You know what? While I won’t deny that vacation had its hard moments, it also included some of the most awe-inspiring, joy-evoking, world-expanding ones as well. We paid our dues on this flight, but we won’t let that hinder our wanderlust. Have you had some tough travel moments? Share them with us in the comments below!

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