This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

I Left My Baby in San Francisco

I think I’ve already established that I’m not so good at this Mother thing, what with not picking up my baby or loving her enough and all the times I’ve wrapped her up like a mummy in dangerous paper towels and left her to scream in the middle of the street.

In the weeks leading up to Leta’s birth I received several gifts from friends, including infant clothing and receiving blankets, breast pads and tiny nail clippers. I remember looking at all the stuff and wondering, “What the hell do you do with a breast pad? Can you eat these things?” because I had NO EARTHLY IDEA what I was getting myself into. I honestly thought that the baby would come with all the clothes she needed. After giving birth to the baby and the placenta, I thought a whole package of cotton onesies would shoot out the birth canal, followed closely by several nightgowns and a six-pack of tiny pink socks. I had gained so much weight that I was certain Leta would arrive with luggage.

I’ve learned a lot in the last five months. I’ve learned that babies don’t necessarily like to be dangled by their toes from the rooftop or to have their mouths clamped shut with clothespins. Duct tape works better at silencing the screaming than swings or strollers or diaper changes. I’m now an expert when it comes to breast pads (no, you cannot eat these things), and I can shoot breast milk at a target thirty feet away.

Jon and I are totally neurotic first-time parents, and we’re learning how to do this whole thing day by day. I will admit that he is a little less neurotic than I am, and he doesn’t throw things or growl or serve as a host body for Satanic demons. But every night we take inventory of what we’ve learned and add it to our notebook of parenting: Leta likes to be outside; Leta does not like the vacuum cleaner or other obnoxiously violent noises; Leta likes the book about the ladybug, does not like the book about the rocking horse; Leta will stop screaming if you sing her that new Morrissey song about forgiving Jesus for all the desire he placed in me when there’s nothing I can do with this desire, and please don’t sing it in your normal voice, you must sing it in your Morrissey voice, because SHE KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE, you stupid parent people.

Last week we were feeling a bit over-confident in our baby skills and made the monumentally insane decision to click the “Book Now” button on two plane tickets to San Francisco (Leta will be traveling for free, on my lap). We made this decision after two screamless days and after a shot or two of whiskey — bourbon is good for the baby as it gives her liver practice for the hard life ahead. In that frame of mind we were thinking that not only could we travel with this baby, but also that she should have eight or nine brothers and sisters! There are actual days when babies don’t scream! How cute is that! Let’s have MORE non-screaming babies! Pour me another shot!

After the screamlessness wore off we were sort of confronted with the fact that shit, we’re going to travel with this baby? What idiot made that decision? [points finger firmly in the direction of She who serves as host body for Satanic demons] HOW THE HELL DO YOU TRAVEL WITH A BABY?

No seriously, I’m asking you, how the hell do you travel with a baby? We have no idea what we’re doing. Keep in mind that Leta rarely sleeps anywhere but in her crib, and she never falls asleep on our shoulder or in the stroller. How the hell will she fall asleep in San Francisco? Are there cribs in San Francisco?

Do you have any tips, other than to shoot myself?

(comments now closed)

  • Kristine

    Travel light. Take only twice what you think you will need, not 10X. Don’t bring ever implement you have, you can cut her toenails when you get home. They sell diapers in San Francisco, too. I always carry the car seat on the plane in the hopes there’s a spare seat and the baby can be strapped in the seat instead of in my lap (safer and saner). If not, they’ll check the thing right at the gate with your stroller, which you will roll to the gate with all your stuff. You get to pre-board, too! Cool! Bring the Bjorn, the D-70 and then just go with the flow. Have fun and remain calm, Leta will be calmer and (hopefully) you will, too. Oh, and breastfeed her on takeoff if you can, it helps keep her little ears from popping.

  • WindyLou

    I have heard that baby tylenol works wonders……..but that might fall into the paper-towel chewing category of no-no’s.

  • Got any Vicodin left over from the birth?

  • Pookins

    I would think that the main thing would be to make sure she is eating when you take off and land. I hate the pressure on my ears and it must be miserable for a baby who can’t clear them. Sucking on a breast or bottle would remove that. It wouldhelp prevent the screaming at least.

  • (For you, not her.)

  • pink

    shoot leta.

  • Valerie

    My sister and I recently traveled to Chicago from Reno with her 7 month old. The hotel did have a play pen for him to sleep in and he slept well. On the plane we just had tons of treats and entertaining things…he didn’t do so great on the plane but we had a 3 1/2 hour flight and you’ll only have about an hour and 1/2 so maybe she’ll make it… 🙂 Good luck, you’ll be fine.

  • Val

    Find as many implements on the SF end as you can to borrow — a car seat specifically. Yes to the breast feeding on take off and landing. Especially landing. ESPECIALLY. Flight attendants love to hold babies.

  • I too am faced with this conundrum. Fi is heading out to basic only a month before baby is born, so we will attempt to venture down to good ole Fort Benning, GA where daddy will be sweating his but off and we will be crying.

    anywho, I have heard that the bjorn carriers are fabulous, and ia gree with the above poster about her ears, make sure she has a bottle or, pacifier-oh scratch that as I just remembered the drama from just a few weeks ago.

    good luck
    -Courtney

  • LOL — No idea how you travel with a baby — guess I refrained from the necessary alcohol intake to make that decision! But I promise to laugh lots at watching you try it! 🙂
    Seriously, we did do a long weekend once — my car recorded temperatures of over 100 degrees. Point #1: Keep everyone cool.
    Point #2: Evaluate everything you’re bringing and decide if you really need it — ’cause it turned out that we never used the bouncy seat. Preserve your lugging energy for the things you really can’t live without — like the favorite stuffed bunny/dog/duck. Otherwise, as long as you have face wipe diapers, drool bibs, and baby butt wipes, you can handle anything — you can buy whatever you forget.
    Good luck!

  • Do they make baby nyquil? Or baby benedryl?

  • Laura J.

    Oh my gosh — an opportunity to post a comment! You are so funny and it is so obvious how much you love that kid — in spite of some of the things you write that completely and totally shock me senseless!

    Most hotels have cribs available — just ask the front desk. Bring blankies from home that smell like home — if it works for a puppy, maybe it will work for Leta. But no matter how difficult it may get, resist the temptation to buy a binkie. It’s a high price to pay after all your hard work in detox.

    Enjoy your trip!

  • Whatever you do, DON’T try to change the baby in the airplaine bathroom. And be prepared to sing in public!

  • Well, after more long trips in the car than I can count in the last months (a 11 hour drive coming up this weekend!) with the now 7 month old Coleman, I can offer the following advice: if you do not have a pack n play it makes a great temporary crib, but hotels also have cribs if you give them warning (check for safety- some are OLD). Also, it is Benadryl that you want to drug her with- check with the nurse at her pediatrican’s office for dosage and you need to try it at home first because it may make her hyper instead of out cold (as said by nurse at OUR pediatricians office who happily supplied us with benadryl, syringe and dosage info). I agree with buying diapers there instead of travelling with a ton of them, and you can also wash clothes at a laundromat if you need to instead of packing all 25 pair of pink pajamas. Do take along medecines and sunblock so you don’t have to hunt for them when you need them most. AND take lots of compact flash cards for the d-70 or a laptop to dump the images on… you’ll need the space. Enjoy!

  • Reader

    I will agree with the taking just twice what you would normally and not 10 times, and DEFINATELY breast feed her on take off and landing. If you don’t have any moral objection, which after reading your blog for a while, I realize you don’t, give her some baby tylenol before the flight. And if she screams, so what. Every flight I’ve been on there’s been a fussy baby. At least it’s a short one. And you’re going to San Fran, not East India. There will be drugstores on every corner with all the stuff you’ll forget. Just bring the portable crib if you have one or can borrow one. Bring a slew of onesies. Sure as hell, if you bring the whole “cute” wardrobe, she’ll throw up all over it. DON’T PANIC. She’ll probably do much better than you. Oh, be sure her blankie hasn’t been washed so it smells like her.

  • Meg

    If you are staying at a hotel, most ~DO~ have cribs, or at least Pack-n-Plays. (Call ahead to ask/reserve one. Most hotels don’t charge for their use.)

    Also, don’t forget, a roll of quarters takes up a lot less space than extra clothes. I’m sure that they have a laundromat SOMEWHERE in San Francisco.

    Since you’re nursing, don’t forget to take a snack for yourself for travel time – you never know about delays!

  • Jen

    Forget the Bjorn and the nail clippers. Bring the bourbon for you AND her.

  • Actually, I think you are going to have a great time and Leta will just love it..giving you a false sense that you can take her anywhere, but that will change after 8 months when all she will want to do is crawl (or try to walk) everywhere. This is an incredible age to travel. Enjoy!

  • decide how much your sanity is worth and invest in a nanny and a third plane ticket in the back of the plane. 🙂 kidding, obviously. i’m sure you’ll be fine.

  • Jae

    Dear Dooce and Lady Leta,

    We had a screamer too. And I traveled with him. The flight out of SLC wasn’t bad. I nursed him at take off and he fell asleep. The flight home was worse… much worse. But I won’t tell you that story. Even if Leta screams the whole way home you’ll have an interesting story to post here about the angry man who asked you to sit in the bathroom with your screaming baby.

    They do make children’s Benadryl and I know how to figure out how much to give a tiny baby. Baby doses of Benadryl can either knock them out for a long winter’s nap or wire them up so that they look like they’re on speed. So it’s a gamble.

    They do have cribs in hotels, but I ended up sleeping with my screamer because the unfamiliar crib was a scary thing for him. But at least you’ll have options.

    Now, because I’m taking up way too much room already – leave most of the baby gear home. Take a stroller and the Bjorn, oh and some booze for the both of you should Leta find out that SF is really hell on wheels. And protest audibly the entire time.

  • Sefeffa

    Well, as a non-married, non-parent kinda girl, I can offer no advice on luggage and things of that nature. However, as a frequent flyer, I can say that I agree with Kristine and go with the breastfeeding advice or bring something for the little Leta to suck on (and to think, after the fact of The Weaning of the Dreaded Pacifier). I always feel so horrible for the parents and especially the little babes on takeoff when they’re screaming their fool heads off because of the air pressure. So, as being one of those parents that could really do without said screaming, as enough of that occurs in regular air pressure, be sure to take that advice and good luck – I’m sure it’s MUCH less stress than you imagine.

  • amylee

    The best advice I read about travelling with babies came out of a book someone got me: If the baby freaks out and howls for the entire flight, do what you can to *look* like you are trying to calm her and keep reminding yourself that you will *never* see these people again.

    I had the same sort of thoughts going through my head before I got on a plane (by myself – a 2-hour flight) with my 4-month-old daughter. She cooed to everyone in the airport, fell asleep promptly upon takeoff and woke up cooing again at landing. I don’t know who swapped *my* baby for that peaceful, quiet creature (and swapped them back as soon as we were in the airport) but I was grateful.

    She’s been on 4 flights since and has acted the same way each time. A couple of times she woke up fussy, but I stuck my boob in her mouth and she went back to sleep.

    The added benefit was that if there was ANY open seats on the airplane, both passengers and airline staff worked out a way for me to have a row all to myself. *That* was cool.

    Good luck.

  • lorrie

    Baby Benadryl. Get the clear stuff in case she is allergic to the red dye. Try it in advance to make sure that it doesn’t make her more hyper, seems to do so in about 1 out of 20 kids. Dose liberally. It won’t hurt her a bit.

  • Kate

    As someone with no baby, I am, of course, an expert. I don’t know whether you bottle feed her yet (your milk) but that is often better than breast feeding on a plane. Also bring lots of entertaining things to do…books and toys (none that beep). For an hour and a half you should be fine. Even if she screams like a MF it’s not for that long. It’s a good practice run for the future.

    In future I would buy a seet for the baby and strap her into the car seat.

    As a childless person I never mind the screaming 5-6 month old, I mind the whiney 2 year olds. A 2 year-old knows the score and you can bring things for them to do. They’re eating solids and cookies and you can bring them lots of snacks. There is no excuse for them to whine. A 6 month old, well, we all know there’s very little the parents can do. Don’t sweat it.

  • If you plan to rent a car, ask for a baby seat…if you don’t rent one, go to Toys R Us and buy one, then either leave it with the folks you visit or donate it. Don’t give Leta a bottle or a boob (so she’s hungry) until the plane is taking off…that way her ears will pop as she sucks saving lots of grief on the plane. Travel light…but interesting….new chewies/toys for Leta. She’ll like looking at the people around her, so hoist her up to look…but make sure she’s not too full because she’ll hurl on the neighboring passengers. If you think you’ll need two diapers on the plane, take four. Record her favorite songs and play them for her…quietly. Get a blow horn to blast at all the nasty comments and looks you’ll get on the plane. Have fun. It’s really not so bad…really.

  • Elisa

    Okay, every natural wholesome mother, please close your eyes now.

    The tip: babies will not nurse when you want them to or you’ll nurse them to keep her quiet as everyone is boarding the plane and hating you for having brought a baby, so she’s too stuffed to eat at the appropriate time (for ear popping). So, bring a lollipop and give her a couple of tastes at landing and take off. She’ll love the flavor and will swallow, hungry or not, all the sweet drool that she produces.

    Go to a dollar store and stock up on throwaway stuff. Think mini-flashlights, every plastic toy you can score i.e. dinasour, shark, whatever, that you can buy 2 minutes of occupied time with. And in the future, make those red-eye flights since she’ll be more apt to sleep then.

    Do NOT give her benadryl to make her sleepy without firsthand knowledge that she reacts like that. In some infants, it wires them and you hate to find that out on the plane.

    And relax yourself. Babies pick up on your feelings – so she’ll pick up your stress. Its okay if you have a drink (read – one or have a designated parent!)if you can’t get over the stress of this first time adventure.

    It’ll be fine! I’ve traveled many times with my 3 and have never been banned or chased by a mob yet.

  • Jen

    I’ve found that traveling with my son is NEVER as bad as I expected. The first time we flew with him he was 7 months old – we flew from CA to Florida — WITH layovers. All told, two takeoffs, two landings, about 6 hours total travel time. I fully expected to have to be “that mom” — the one with the screaming infant that the other passengers throw evil darts at with their eyes. But we were so pleasantly surprised. He slept almost the entire way — took a bottle on the way up and the way down and in general totally surprised the hell out of us. And Heather, I think you and Jon know a helluva lot more than you give yourselves credit for. You’re gonna be fine. Best of luck!

  • Amber

    I’ve found that the things I dreaded the most with my daughter, such as travelling, always turned out just fine and if she screams oh well. Chalk it up to one more day as being a parent. Just be thankful you do breastfeed…no having to warm bottles up on the plane!

  • It sounds horrible, but it doesn’t hurt the kid… give her some baby benadryl about 20 minutes before you board and she should sleep through the flight. She should have something spongy she can chew on during takeoff and landing (for the ear-popping). Also, bring lots of little snacks like cheerios and pretzels. And when all else fails, just remember that the flight from SLC to SF isn’t that long, and screaming is good exercise.

  • elyse

    i have absolutely no baby experience (yay, college!), but since i adore you and your family i thought i’d try a suggestion: maybe organize some pretend trips over the weekend? i know a car’s no airplane, but it’s kind of got the motion and lack of space for maneuvering. if she can sit in your lap for a good hour and half and be good, or bad (oh teh nos!), maybe you’ll get a better feel for the trip. it’s like training for a marathon, haha.
    best of luck!
    all my wellwishing is to you guys.
    <- elyse

  • YOU ROCK as a mom. With all the other things you have figured out, I know this will just come to you. Best advice this motherless girl has ever heard? A baby senses it’s mother’s emotions. As long as you stay calm, Leta should follow suit. If you are anxious, she will feel that anxiety and start screaming her little heart out. And if you get drunk…well, back to strengthening her liver – go lady friend go

  • Don’t medicate your baby unless she’s sick…that’s abuse. There’s this stuff I used with my daughter…Lavender Massage Oil…you gently massage it into the baby’s feet and it has natural calming properties for both you and Leta. I don’t know if it’s the oil or massage that does the trick but it works, smells nice and is legal.

  • Andrea

    I took my daughter to *China* (once with husband when she was 9 months, once alone when she was 3), so if I can survive that, you can survive this. We took the carseat and lucked out an an empty seat on every leg of the flight, but your trip will not be quite so long, so you might be able to survive without (but remember you will at least need to borrow or rent a carseat when you arrive). Pack a couple of new toys that she’s never seen to play with on the plane. Or even something ordinary like scotch tape. Best to supervise, but babies will play with scotch tape forever 🙂 A baby carrier (Baby Bjorn, sling, etc.) is good for going through the airport so you have another hand free. Don’t try to carry her in the carseat through the airport, too inconvenient. Check the stroller, but put it on the luggage cart, because again, if you can just use a carrier, you’ll have more hands for other things. If you nurse her or give her a bottle at takeoff and landing, it will help her ears not to hurt. This is probably the most likely reason she might scream on an airplane. You will be fine!!!

  • anna

    children’s gravol is the way to go. it will knock her on her ass safely – unlike medicating her with benedryl and tylenol. are those other people fucking nuts? also, make sure she is toasty warm. planes tend to be freezers which makes it really uncomfortable for an underdressed baby. you too – it really bites nursing a baby when your nipples are icicles.

    children are perfect little travellers – especially babies – they are portable and don’t give a shit if they have clean clothes or a crib to sleep in. it is the parents that will make the trip enjoyable – not the baby that will ruin it. just chill and leta will chill. all will be fine.

    oh, and a shot of bourbon never hurt anyone – or two or three for that matter!

  • baby

    we took our 2.5 mnth old on a 10 day road trip from seattle to monterey then over to las vegas. the pac n play is what saved us. ask for one at your hotel or borrow one. bring your own baby sheets. we got to know our baby much better on the trip since we were always playing with her instead of always doing laundry, cleaning or cooking. unfortunately the baby did discover tv while on the trip… and it wasn’t just normal tv, it was cable tv – a definite luxury for the whole family.

  • Kimarino con Bambino

    Don’t give her Benadryl. Even if every damn person in your family swears “Benadryl works wonders on flying babies! It unclogs their ears! It knocks them out!”. Don’t do it- sometimes Benadryl has the opposite effect and makes the kid wired and crabby. My son smacked the flight attendant. Seriously. But, I learned if your baby smacks a flight attendant and she is a bitch about it-you can write the company and will be granted 20,000 free frequent flier miles. Score!

  • anna jr.

    one thing i can think of is to make sure you book the side of the plane w/ only 2 seats.

    that way it’s just you 3 in the row and is she decides to flail about you won’t have some guy siting next to you that is trying to play solitaire on his laptop (for godsakes – and what is WRONG with that baby????).

    also – dress her up in the cutest outfit you have so that if she’s freaking out she will at least look good doing it.

    oh – and make sure you announce LOUDLY to everyone in earshot that it is HER FIRST TIME ON A PLANE AND THE POOR THING IS SCARED OF ALL THE PEOPLE AND LOUD NOISES AND DOES ANYONE HAVE SOME BOURBON????!!!!

    you can do this on the way back too, actually, as long as you are not on the plane with the same people.

    and i don’t even have kids.
    man, i’m gonna be such a good mom……

  • I’m all for natural, but using lavender oil on a small plane with limited air ventilation? Are you serious? That stuff is STRONG, not to mention very oily. What a nightmare waiting to happen. Yeah, use lavender oil and then you’ll have a screaming baby, a messy lap, AND a plane full of people with migranes.

    If the pediatrician-approved Benadryl solution scares you and you want to try something more granola, try massaging her feet with some baby lotion with lavender in it.

  • rob

    my parents would pin a twenty to my collar, put me on a plane and wish me the best of luck.

    i’m going to use duct tape.

  • beth

    From a Fragmented Mom; I should tell you this in person, but its a mouthful and when do you have time for a mouthful… We are watching PBS kids (Reading rainbow with Lavarre Burton. You may know him as Jordy from Star Trek), and well you know Eli wants to watch something else and they are both screaming and Ok, we will put The Little Bear Movie On…

    Back on Topic: When Kyle was thirteen months old we counted and realized that he had flown twenty-three times. Are we crazy? Yes.

    His first flight was pure hell (if you read my father’s day post, you will see why. I was misinformed on giving the little guy drugs. HE WAS TOO YOUNG for cold medicine!) Note, Kyle was only three months old on his first flight. As you know, that is a big difference between five or six months old. (A six month old can handle the other drugs better than just having Tylenol.) I always went fort he Benydryl. Also we always arrived at the airport a little early and went and talked to the gate attendant in our most friendly voice to see if we could have an aisle and a window seat. If you can finagle this seating arrangement then Leta can come on board in her car seat where you can strap it into the window seat (All airlines will only let you strap car seats into the window seat.) Sure you can pick her up, but if there is turbulence, well, you know… When we thought enough ahead of time we would just reserve an aisle and a window seat.

    We still had to worry about someone taking the middle seat and that is why we still arrived early. We could usually talk the gate attendant into kicking the person out of the middle seat by saying something like, “Boy you look great in that Blue Delta Uniform. You are the nicest Delta Employee ever.”

    On board I always had a Manic/Neurotic amount of items to occupy the kid. On flights when Kyle would not cooperate we made sure to look at everyone around us and assure them with our words and knowing glances that we were just firs-time parent and we sure did appreciate their understanding. It’s all about P.R.

    Finally, best tip ever given to me. Nurse Leta on the way up and the way down. It helps pressurize her ears. There is nothing, I mean nothing worse than a baby with a bad Earache.

    You guys will do great. Thank God San Francisco is a short flight. You can borrow our port-a-crib if you need too. Most hotels have them, but as a Neurotic parent we always took ours along.

    I am sure there is more, but I should leave space for the others and pay attention to my own children.

  • Hopefully – you’ll be suprised as I was that my son LOVES traveling, in any form. But just in case…

    I would say – bring many things she’s familiar with and try, getting her used to sleeping other places (couch, floor, etc) before yo leave, but you sleep NEXT to her, for comfort.

    I wish you luck though. Hang in there. And expect the worse, so if its NOT the worst? You’ll be able to pat yourself on the back.

  • Kate

    be careful with the baby drugs; my sister took her son on a trip to florida last summer and decided to try the baby benedryl. instead of having the calming, drowsy effect, my nephew was wide awake and moody the whole miserable flight. maybe baby valium or xanax would work better. oh and don’t forget the duct tape!

    have a great time!

  • Jae

    OMG, I forgot – WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT BOARD EARLY. You know, they let anyone with kids or anyone missing limbs or whatever, board the plane early. While this seems like a nice idea, don’t do it. Send Jon in first to get your seats and take all of your gear. Then wait with Leta in the airport. Delay the whole plane scene for as long as you can, then board last. If you get on first, you’ll end up sitting there in the plane, in that confined place while you wait for all of the slow people to HURRY UP AND SIT DOWN ALREADY!

  • I have no advice that hasn’t been covered already. I do remember travelling with my Mum at a young age – as long as I got enough sleep, life was good, even a little exciting! Best of luck to you both.

  • ani

    Ask the hotel if they have any travel cribs for babies. Most due. Try to bring a few items you can carry on to keep her occupied on the plane. Maybe bring a small stroller so you don’t carry her all the time off the plane. Consult your doctor about what to do with the ear popping thing.Good luck.

  • ac

    i say just check the baby and let the baggage people worry about all this. what are we paying these people for, anyway?

  • Things To Pack…

    1.) Earplugs
    2.) Scotch
    3.) Duct Tape
    4.) Vodka
    5.) Rope/Bungee Cords
    6.) Gin
    7.) Sedatives
    8.) Whiskey
    9.) MAOI Inhibitor (IV form)
    10.) More Liquor

  • Christina

    Okay so I second (or third, or fourth, whatever) the nursing duing landing and take-off. Also, tylenol or benedryl are good choices too. Make sure you try to benedryl at home prior to travel, because like someone already mentioned, it can make babies hyper. If the hotel doesn’t have cribs, just request a room with a king size bed and have her sleep with you. It doesn’t mess a babies sleep patterns up too much, and there should be no trouble with her going back to her crib once your home.
    Since I live in SF (or close to), let me tell you, bring lightweight clothes for the day and warm clothes for evenings. I’m sure you’ve been here before, so you know how the weather is. Tata! Have a great trip!!!

  • Dave Thomas

    You want to talk neurotic? The only thing any of our (4) babies have ever slept in is a PortaCrib, because although it brings a little slice of white trash into our home, it also brings a little slice of home wherever we wish the brats to sleep.

    If I don’t get the Nobel Parenting Prize for that one, I’m giving Sweden the silent treatment.

  • Put her in the overhead compartment storage, seems like the perfect size. Just be careful when you open the door after landing. Items may have shifted during the flight.. haha. maybe freeze some bourbon, I mean ice cubes for her to suck on. yall have fun!