Sweat trickles down my back and the person sitting next to me shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He is avoiding all eye contact and to be honest, I don’t blame him.
My five-month-old lets out another frustrated yell, head-butting me in the process. He does not want to be on a cramped domestic flight and the infant seatbelt has turned him into a thrashing ball of fury.
The captain announces over the tannoy that there is a delay on the runway and the temperature seems to rise by five degrees. My son starts to sob and his cries are growing louder by the second. I make a mental note never to catch a flight again, before attempting to feed him.
There is no possible way I can be discreet in such a confined space. I would like to thank the man across the aisle for staring at the floor as my right breast was rejected by my hysterical child. The fact that no-one looked at me with judgement or disgust made things that bit easier, despite the sweat, snot and tears. Why on Earth did I put myself and therefore my child through this ordeal though?
The week previously, I had caught a flight from Aberdeen to Birmingham to visit my parents. Prior to having a baby, I made this journey regularly. I prided myself on turning up 30 minutes before departure with hand luggage and a magazine for in-flight entertainment. This time round I arrived like a laden donkey complete with anxiety issues. And to top it off, my partner was unable to come with me.
My outgoing journey was actually a breeze though. I would go as far to say that I was winning at mum life. We were given priority through security and again for boarding. I imagined this is what celebrities must feel like, minus a bag full of obnoxiously loud rattles and emergency snacks. Staff were beyond helpful, offering to hold my son and carry my luggage.
Upon arriving in Birmingham, we then had to catch a train. There was no air-con and the heatwave was out in force. But stripped to his nappy, my son fell asleep. I felt smug in the knowledge that I had this travelling thing sussed. I even managed a few gulps of warm orange juice – quite the luxury.
Upon disembarking, four people offered to lift the buggy. Such small acts of kindness are a reminder that humanity does exist… and modern-day buggies are still far too heavy.
My mother met her grandson for the first time on a train platform. I apologise to those who witnessed two sobbing women; we’ve just about stopped crying.
By the time the return journey rolled around, I was almost too confident which I fear may have been my undoing. There was no priority boarding, no offers of help. I don’t believe I am entitled to special treatment simply because I have a baby, but compassion goes a long way. A disinterested member of staff told me to leave the buggy at the top of a flight of stairs before boarding. I attempted to fold the buggy with my grumpy son balanced on my hip, before thrusting my child at a startled passer-by. Needs must.
By the time I was finally seated on the plane, I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Fellow passengers nervously traipsed past me, bodies sagging with relief in the realisation that their seat number wasn’t next to the devil baby. When what I now refer to as the flight from hell finally landed on Aberdeen tarmac, I almost wept with relief. Only to realise every single person wished to be the first to disembark and my son was at risk of getting hit by bags yanked from overhead lockers.
If you see a mum travelling on her own, offer to help. Hold the baby, buggy or simply tell her that she is doing an amazing job. She’s probably wondering how on earth she will change a nappy in a tiny aeroplane toilet or grab a drink of water as her child yanks her hair.
I am preparing to fly home once again this month and my son seems to be growing more mobile by the minute. He has also discovered the joy of throwing things, from toys to mushed-up food.
Pray for all involved.