Taking a 9-week-old on a 4.5-hour plane ride to Denver is not what I dreamed about when I looked forward to motherhood, but neither was spending three work-weeks in a row at home while my husband traveled for business. So Jelsa and I packed our bags.
The trip began as smoothly as a bike hitting a curb – in this case it was the Southwest curb as we attempted to check our bags at the Southwest curbside check-in. “Do you have her birth certificate?” the man said while pointing to the unidentified newborn in the stroller beside me. “No,” was my articulate reply. “But she is 9 weeks old and my daughter and here – look at the scar from my c-section…” Ok, I didn’t really offer to expose my still slightly chubby belly, but I think I convinced him Jelsa was mine. He wrote up a “non-ticketed lap child” “ticket” (huh?) and we were off.
Feeling confident after crossing that milestone, we headed to the security check line and made nice with the folks behind us. “What’s her name?” A simple question but one that usually involves me spelling j-e-l-s-a because people just don’t seem to get it – and then that usually leads to me telling them that the name is from a town in Croatia. “Oh – is she adopted?” this woman concluded. Hadn’t gotten that before. “No” was my articulate reply – and then I proceeded to point to my belly and explain how she was removed from this slightly chubby thing. Probably not necessary, but I was in the mood to prove this child’s bloodline.
For those who have ventured airborne with a newborn alone, you know the security gate is the best part of the whole trip. It is at this very special gate that you get to abandon all sense of peace and order and begin throwing, stripping, grabbing your body and belongings every which way. Managing to put everything but my daughter on the belt, I walked up to the TSA man ushering me thru the frame. “We have a problem here,” he said while holding my boarding pass. I looked up at him – in my bare feet and holding my spit-up covered daughter – and just asked why. “Is she a Packers fan?” was his reply. Dude, not in the mood for humor. Jelsa was wearing her “Little Packer fan” bib – not because she is a fan, but because it is the most absorbent bib we own. I said “Go Ravens” and he waved me on.
We had a solid 20 minutes to nurse and regroup at the gate. Then we lined up to the board the plane – and another hiccup. The agent asked for my nonticketed lapchild TICKET and I couldn’t find it in my bags. I handed Jelsa to another agent nearby and tore my bag apart. I managed to reach my seat about 10 minutes later – an agent following behind with magazines and my purse from my bag. It was a mess.
Despite the fact Jelsa slept less than 30 minutes of the 4.5 hour-flight, we managed just fine. An empty middle seat, no diaper explosions, spit-up contained to my person – what more could I have hoped for? And to top it all off – a older man two rows back thought it worth his while to take pictures of Jelsa the entire ride. He must have taken close to 20 – all without me knowing. I saw a flash once in a while, but I was focused on the baby. He gave me his business card and an email exchange later in the week brought the pictures to my laptop. Weird, but a nice twist to the story.
If there was any question about making the trip, all doubt was erased when I saw my parents waiting just behind the “do not enter” sign as I stepped off the elevator in the Denver airport. I walked up and Dad proceeded to get on all fours to greet his new granddaughter.