Learning to FLY... with a toddler

In a previous post I said how going on holiday when Joey was very small (nine weeks old) was one of the best decisions Greg and I made. Very true. But as a trip to Spain approached last summer, when Joey was nearly one, the thought of the journey there and back filled me with fresh anxiety.

On our first holiday I managed to get Joey to use a dummy both ways, and aside from a big explosive poo as we took off (from Joey I might add) he did ALL the sleeping.

I knew that going to Spain for our friends’ wedding would be a lot harder. Joey was extremely mobile and had buckets of energy and willpower (stubbornness) that we would have to contend with. I was sure he wouldn't sleep, and that he wouldn't sit and watch an iPad - he couldn't focus on one thing for more than two minutes.

I dreaded a ten-minute car journey to Tesco with him, let alone three hours on a plane plus an hour's transfer in the car, and then the same all over again on the leg home.

It’s not like I wouldn’t have Greg with me to help. He assured me we would be in it together and that I should stop worrying. I only wish I could have. He may as well have been talking in a foreign language because his words went right over me. I wasn’t not listening, they just didn’t sink in because I’d already made my mind up. It was going to be a disaster. 

I was also panicking about the logistics of getting Joey to and from the venue from our accommodation, during each day of the trip. Just imagining sharing a vehicle with our car-hating baby on those winding roads sent me into a spin. 

My anxiety built up so much in the lead-up to the trip that I ended up telling my friend, the bride-to-be, that I couldn’t do it - I couldn’t face travelling with Joey. I confessed my worries to her and the groom and told them that although we so wanted to be there for their big day, we just couldn’t go. I wasn't expecting what came next, an amazing offer from our friends asking us to stay in an apartment with the bride's sister, her partner and their son, at the actual venue. I was completely bowled over by the kind gesture, and realising how much they wanted to share their special weekend with us, I gratefully accepted. 

Now there was no turning back, so I had to psyche myself up. I lost count of how many lists I wrote and rewrote, including everything we had to pack. As if I would ever forget anything when I’d been scrutinising over it every single day.

I’m sure some of you might be reading this thinking what the hell is wrong with this woman?! What a ridiculous human being. Looking back now, I kind of agree with you. I was being unreasonable. People travel with babies all the time. But I couldn’t help what was going on inside my head, and this all came not long after I had been diagnosed with anxiety and PND. Of course, now I can see exactly what I was doing. I was catastrophising – imagining a situation to be far worse than it actually is and thinking of the worst-case scenario.

Anyway, let’s skip forward to the trip. The big, scary, heart-racing, stomach-churning, sweat-inducing three-day trip. Drumroll please… Joey slept the whole way there. Thank you motion, thank you white noise, thank you tiredness. All combined, they helped give us a very sleepy boy for the flight out. Then, in the transfer, I sat next to Joey and did my best to entertain him, with the help of a bread roll that for some reason kept Joey worryingly happy for a rather long period of time.

By the time we got to the villa I was exhausted, mainly because the cigs in my mind had been 

working at a million miles an hour, but also because I’d been stuck on repeat, singing every nursery rhyme known to man over and over again. The copious amounts of wine we drank that night were very gratefully received.

Our friends’ wedding was incredible. The bride looked so naturally stunning and dancing with her to Backstreet Boys later on was the icing on the wedding cake. Joey also had so much fun at the villa; swimming in the pool and even taking his first proper steps - he came home being able to walk. I was so glad that we’d made the decision to be there. There was just the return journey left to tackle...

The flight home was really quite horrendous. The bride’s poor parents were very unfortunate to be sitting in the row in front of us - at the front of the plane - while we tried everything to stop our very unhappy boy from screaming so loudly that even the passengers at the back were no doubt complaining. 

I was fighting back the tears myself and was so relieved to have Greg there, who took it upon himself to carry Joey up and down the plane’s very awkward and narrow aisle over a hundred times to distract him… My hero! 

But after all that worry and panicking, do you know what? I survived. We survived. Joey eventually stopped crying (in the last ten minutes), we still got home that day, and Joey still slept that night. Yes we annoyed lots of holidaymakers, but now I realise - babies cry, that’s just what they do. (Shock!) And sometimes there is just nothing you can do about it. 

None of us have magic babies that stay silent when we want them to. If we did, they would never make a sound! I had worked myself up worrying about Joey crying, and mostly about him bothering other people around us - the passengers and the crew. But I'm pretty sure they're not still thinking, 'God, do you remember that toddler who cried all the way back from Spain?' 

I now know that the feeling of losing control is what brought on my anxiety. But I've learnt it’s important not to let anxiety take control of ME. The next time I start flapping about an upcoming trip that I know will put me out of my comfort zone, I’m not going to catastrophise. I will remain calm, put the event into perspective and accept that not being able to control something is an inevitable part of life. In the words of Frozen, Let it go...

Master of Mumxiety 

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