Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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)

  • trace

    uhh yeah, they do make baby benadryl and it does put the little nuggets right into sleepytimeland. that and paper towels.

    i suggest: prepare yourself, at least mentally, for the worst. that way when things turn out to be not so bad, you’ll be relieved. nurse on demand, as often as necessary. try wearing her (baby bjorn stylee); tends to make em’ doze. accept that it will not be a fabulously carefree vacation, ala your baby-free days, but will have its own joys.

    relax. breathe deeply. bring along something to read by ayun halliday for reinforcement. good luck! xo

  • psquared

    Have fun..remember..if Leta screams on the airplane, take solice in the fact you’ve PAID for her right to SCREAM the entire way.

    Short of that, feed her on takeoff and landing if possible, take lots of pictures to document her first flight and have fun.

    good luck.

  • Jen

    Unfortunately I don’t have any baby-travel suggestions (but it looks like others have it covered), but I just wanted to say that I love your sarcasm as a comeback to all those who email you nasty insults at your motherhood. #1, it’s not their right to do so, and also, who doesn’t realize you’re being sarcastic?

    I appreciated that. 🙂

  • In keeping with the “good” parent theme, leave Leta at home and let Chuck babysit. Then you can party it up in San Francisco without having to worry about anything!

  • I always buy a big box of earplugs and offer them to everyone sitting around me on the plane. Most people don’t accept them, but they appreciate the offer. It usually wins us a bunch of friends in the area right around our seats. Good Luck!

  • Marged

    Babies are basic creatures, of course. When she’s tired, she’ll sleep (or scream). When she’s hungry she’ll eat (or scream). What’s there to worry about?
    I’m JUST KIDDING. Have as much fun as you can, and if she screams, think of how great her lungs will be when she’s older. Maybe she’ll be a singer, who knows? And finally, never, ever forget the oxygen masks in the ceiling. They’re there for a reason.

  • Gretchen

    The BEST advice I can give you besides drinking shots of tequila is to request the bulkhead seats. There is more leg room and you don’t have to look at anyone if Leta decides to be true to form!

    You have a great sense of humor!

  • Bob in SF

    Heather:

    Thanks for the opportunity to tell you directly how much I enjoy your site.

    My advice (from experiences with my niece:)

    Anyone who is nasty to you about any crying (if Leta even cries – my sister’s experience was that it was easier when my niece was under a year old) can and should be told that if they don’t want any screaming babies on their flight that they should by a first class ticket next time. You have as much right to travel as they do. Plus if that does happen we might get a funny entry out of it…

    2) I second (or third…) keeping your hands as free as possible on the plane. Check whatever you can, but have the essentials with you.

    3) My sister’s experience is that car rental companies charge too much (on a long trip) to justify renting a car seat. Plus, Leta’s will be familiar to her.

    4) I also second keeping Leta on schedule. THe worst bout of screaming my niece did while visiting was on a day when naps and feedings were off kilter. She was not happy and everyone in that ice cream parlor knew it.

    If only I’d had scotch tape or a paper towel.

  • veg4me

    Sit in the back of the plane.

    It’s noisier back there and everyone on the plane knows those are the crappiest seats. People are less prone to get annoyed when they realize you are sitting as near to the outside of the plane as possible.

    Leta’s screams will be muffled by the engines and you are in close proximity to the bathroom for messy diapers,close to the flight attendants for napkins, water, alcoho and whatnot.

    Best of luck to you. I’ve done numerous flights with my kids-the planning is more stressful than the actuality of it all.

    If all else fails, it will make for good blogging.

  • For some reason I was always eerily quite as a child…my mom would take me to her politcal meetings and I would never make a sound..hmmmmmm

  • robyn

    Lots of advice already given, so I will give a few FYI’s..and what I do’s
    1) Strollers can be taken right up to the door of the airplane and do not count towards luggage limits.
    2) The bulk head seats are usually saved for broken people and babies…get there early if you want to secure one.
    3) Infant dimatap drops will keep ears open and will not cause hyperactivity
    4) Bring your laptop on the plane (hopefully it plays dvd’s) and bring Leta’s favorite show
    5) Most airlines allow baggage for the child even when a seat has not been purchased.
    Good Luck. The worst thing that can happen is that she screams the whole time, and really, you should be used to that by now.

  • ar

    Speaking for all of us who don’t have children, burn the tickets. I have a friend who had a baby over a year and a half ago and they’re yet to fly anywhere. He said they’re not going to travel until their child is old enough to do it without making it a living hell. If only more people had this attitude.

  • Here’s my advice being that I have no children (YET – 1st baby due in 11 weeks) and that I’ve traveled A LOT:

    Sit in the back (unless you’re tall then it’s uncomfortable).

    People will be rude, but why should you care? You purchased a ticket too and people should know that it’s summer/vacation time and that people travel with babies.

    Practice your dirty look so you can give it to people who give you the evil eye.

    Babies cry and they make messy diapers. God people – get over it. Just because you’ve got a little one doesn’t mean that you should never leave your house!

  • Meg

    Ok, so this isn’t a comment for Dooce, but for Jenn, a commenter somewhere up there.

    Skip the cheerios and pretzles because she’s only 5 months?! My son was eating WHOLE slices of PIZZA at that age! I think that the wonderful and talented Miss Leta can handle a couple of pretzles. ;o)

  • Mickey

    On my first flight at the tender age of 6 months, I threw up Gerber green beans all over my dad’s shirt. I’m 32 now, and he still won’t let me forget it.

  • Lori

    If Leta watches TV, definitely the DVD thing. My insanely energetic nephew can be calmed with the DVD. It’s only an hour and a half and really, the vast majority of the world understands a screaming child. Having travelled a LOT, the only thing that really freaks me out is when there are 10+ infants on board. very. scary.

  • As a non-parent this goes out to all the other non-parents:
    1. Get yourself some good noise-canceling headphones.
    2. Get an MP3 player with some relaxing tunes (Nomad Zen with Boards of Canada’s Music Has The Right To Children is a solid winner).
    3. Bring something to do (James Traub’s Devil’s Playground to read and a GBA SP with Mario and Luigi’s Superstar Saga loaded is a good start).

    No need to suffer with the parents!

  • #1 Relax.

    #2 Remind Leta that you’ll tell embarassing stories about her and this trip at some point in the future, so she better co-operate!

    #3 Realize before you start that there’s going to be at least one thing that you forgot, should have tried, or didn’t do. And forgive yourself for it in advance – you’ll know better next time!

    #4 Have a great trip!

  • Håkan

    There seem to be some really shitty advice above from people that has rarely travelled, with or without a baby. We have a baby born on the same days as yours and believe me, there is no problem bringing a baby with you. Stop thinking you have to stop living just because you got a baby. We actually forced ourselves to wait for a while with travel so there was no risk for broken eardrums etc. Flew from Stockholm-NYC in week 10 — No problems whatsoever. That’s a 8-9 hour flight for those of you who haven’t left home lately, don’t have a passport, and think there is nothing outside US. Also did Stockholm-Frankfurt-Mexico with the longest flight being 12 hours. No problems at all. Our little one slept 80 percent of the way. They really seem to like the noise, it works like a sleeping pill.

    -Buy a “Pack-n’-Play portable bed. It’s the size of a bag and contains a very sturdy foldable bed with a changing table. Takes 2 minutes to unpack and then you have a perfectly comforable baby bed. You can get the baby used to the bed by having him/her take naps in it at home if you want to.

    -A portable stroller with a clip on baby seat is crucial on a trip. That means you can bring a great stroller, like the Graco Metro Lite with its compatible baby car seat. The stroller and the baby seat gets checked as special luggage (and no, you don’t have to pay extra for it. ) When you arrive you simply pick up your rental car/friends car, clip in your baby seat and you’re done. I would not recommend you renting a seat from Avis etc. Who knows what a seat like that has been through.

    -The BabyBjörn is excellent on a trip. When you get to the airport, put the baby in the Björn and check your carriage. You have your hands free, will have less problems with security, and keep the baby calmer

    -When you book your ticket you ask for a “baby seat”. Not for the baby, for yourself. There are special seats in the plane, near the bulkhead, where they can mount a baby bed. Not a baby seat, an actual bed.It’s mounted into the wall right in front of your legs, On longer flights the baby can sleep/hang out there while you relax. The seats have extra room and the cabin crew will treat you like a star anytime you bring a baby. If these seats are busy I recommend a seat in the very back. NO, not becasue it’s noisy. Because you have extra room to walk around in the back which tend to keep babies a bit happier.

    -VERY CRUCIAL. Make sure you feed the baby during takeoff and landing! You can even do this while the baby is fastened in the seat belt. A tiny baby does not know how to get rid of the pressure in the ears but when they breastfeed/bottlefeed it’s done automatically. If you are unlucky or don’t do this you can cause some serious ear problems. And then you will find out what sleepless nights mean……

    I’m a beginner when it comes to parenting but when you go around the world you pick up a thing or two. Go on your holiday, enjoy it, bring your baby and be proud you did so. You will have a nice time and be very glad you brought your little angel.

    Drop me a note if you want some more travel advice.

    Håkan

  • Sara

    Definitely have water or milk with you, easily accessible, on the plane. The swallowing will help Leta’s ears pop (yes, pop) and she won’t cry if her ears are popping.

    Likewise, Mom & Dad, take gum (or milk or water) to help your ears pop.

  • I don’t have much to add, but have traveled with my son at 3, 6, and 9 months with few horror stories, once to Madrid. My advice? Earplugs. Not for the screaming. For the advice and snide comments from other passengers/flight attendants. I’ve heard of people handing out earplugs to passengers around them, or other silly things like that.

    My favorite stupid advice: “he should wear shoes when he crawls around, the floor is REALLY DIRTY” (what about his hands? those are fine then? do you have any airline-issued rubber suits to protect him from GERMS?)

    My favorite breast-feeding moment: while waiting for the plane to open and let everyone out, my husband caught the teenager standing in the aisle oogling my breasts as Everett ate.

    Other advice: check-in early, so you can make sure to get seats together. The only time I really wanted to cry was when my husband and I got seated several rows apart, in middle seats, and no one wanted to switch with us. (that’s when you WANT your baby to start screaming)

  • brooke

    1. Befriend all airline personnel.
    2. Beg them to let one of you board first to get your area set up before the other boards with Leta.
    3. Whichever one of you has Leta should board at the last possible second.
    4. Feed Leta during take off and landing.
    5. Take a Neat Sheet (plastic sheet you can fold into diaper bag) with you, so that if you have to change Leta, you can put her on the floor without catching Lord Knows What Grows on the Floors of Airplane Bathrooms.
    6. Make sure you do 2 shots before attempting steps 1-3.
    7. Relax, and remember no matter how many hateful stares you may get, you’ll never see these people again.

  • Amy

    The only things I haven’t seen so far are to (a) bring an extra *adult* shirt in the diaper bag on the plane, and (b) make sure, if you’re going to try to take the car seat on the plance in case of a free seat, that the car seat still has the little FAA sticker on it. Our came off and it took several flight attendants to decide that it was OK for us to use it on the plane, even though it looked exactly like the seat that was 2 rows behind us.

    As far as the rest of the trip, flexible plans are the key. I try not to schedule more than one ‘gotta be there at x time’ activity per day, unless they’re closely related–it’s just tempting fate.

    Oh–and I always travel with a 3 or 4 clean gallon ziploc bags. They come in handy for half a dozen things, and it’s easier on my little brain to pack them than trying to anticipate what those things might be.

  • Keep a boob in her mouth the entire time you are up in the air. I’m not kidding. It will help her ears to pop, plus it’s difficult to scream with a boobie in your mouth. I flew cross-country with my oldest when she was 6 weeks old, and in this manner managed to make the trip with a minimum of misery for myself and my fellow travelers, except guess what? She didn’t poop for an entire week before the trip, and then in the space of the six-hour flight, pooped FIVE TIMES. I hope Leta spares you that.

  • April

    1. Teach Leta the “we’re going on vacation!” dance.
    2. Decide on something really fabulous you are going to do in SF so you can day dream about it if the plane trip gets bad.
    3. Improvise. You’ve learned a lot about Leta in 5 months. It’ll work out.

  • Samantha

    It has never failed me to calm screaming babies with their own reflections. Whether it’s your compact or the airplane bathroom mirror, little faces are mesmerizing.

  • Morissey rocks. I sing songs from The Cure to my kid. Anywho, I don’t go anywhere yet with mine so I wouldn’t know. I’ll learn it from you if you blog about it. LOL good luck

  • I don’t really have any advice on traveling with a baby. I just thought I should comment because everyone else in the world did. Sheesh, Dooce! You’re famous.

  • CK

    Skrew everyone else on the plane- it’s your vacation!

    Call ahead and reserve a crib for Leta and remember BRIBERY works wonders ; )

  • Megan

    Coming to SF, eh? Fab! Remember to bring a carseat for the taxi and earplugs for all of the other plane passengers….they do not, I repeat, do NOT think your baby is cute enough to listen to her scream during take-offs and landings. When you get here, go to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Sat/Sun mornings…Leta will be amazed by all the colors and smells of the organic wonderland. Eat at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher and have a beer in the sun. Go up to Marin and eat lunch at Fish, a brand new place right on the waterfront in Sausalito. Leta will love the friendly dogs roaming around and you will heart the great selection of Napa wines and yummy beers. OOh! And then go have dinner in the Haight at Magnolia Pub and have a beer. Tell them that Jo or Dave sent you and ask to see photos of their new little girl, Lily. She was born a day after Leta was, but Lily is a hippy Haight district baby. A nice one, nonetheless. Have fun in SF!!

  • Steph

    Ditto everything Kristine (post No. 1) wrote. And just one more thing. Be prepared – just be prepared – that all and any routines you have already established might be kind of rocked off the rails.

  • Ha ha ha! I’ll add this dilema to my stack of reasons why not to reproduce. I’ll live the experience through you… Revert to the old standby and make sure she has lots of paper towels to chew on.

    Just kidding, don’t let her nap until your on the plane and b-feed her as you take off & land. Hopefully she’ll sleep most the time. Good luck.

  • ken

    Yeah, I’ve also found that sucking on a breast usually keeps my ears from popping during takeoff and landing. (I’m so so sorry, but somebody had to drop that joke.)

  • Jenny

    Since I’m #133 to get here, someone may have mentioned it before, but they make baby eardrops so there will be no screaming when the plane takes off and lands – they worked like a charm on my niece. Also, speaking from an experience my Mom apparently had with me, put those plastic underpants on over the nappy, disposable or not. Kids will always choose the most inconvenient time to get sick and have the runs.

    On another subject, after looking at your posting I almost got the Nikon D70 this weekend, but since it was being purchased as a gift for me and I wasn’t sure I needed that much camera I went with the coolpix 4200. But thanks for the camera info.

    😎 Jenny

  • Christi

    I have absolutely no answer to your question, but when you get back and have it all figured out would you please let me know, my baby monkey (uh, I mean baby girl) is due in 23 days!

  • carrie

    I’ve travelled a few times now with my almost 8 month old little one, who HATES car seats, and we haven’t had a problem (yet). In addition to the advice you’ve already gotten about nursing and hotel cribs, bring bedding that is familiar to Leta for wherever she sleeps. And we borrowed an inflatable bath tub and a very portable foldable booster seat (both fit into a duffel bag and were checked) for our last trip, and they were life-savers. I tend to freak out about everything and anticipate the worst, but it really was okay. (And on the last trip, my baby got sick and started teething and pulled an all-nighter in the hotel room.) And yes, routines get all weird, but for us, they always went back to normal within a few days.

  • Jill

    I’m an extremely impatient person, with a six month old of my own, so I really have no idea what was said after the 3rd comment – however, to get you through the week in San Fran, check out babiesaway.com They do rental services for ANYTHING Miss Leta may decide she *needs* while away from the comforts (and confines) of home!! Good Luck – Carter and I have traveled lots, babies are resilient and he is as relaxed as I allow myself to be 😉

  • heyhon

    You’ve got loads of great advice here so I won’t add more. I will say that you should be doing this! If you can Jon like to travel, you want Leta to travel too. The sooner she gets used to it, the better. The first trip may be rough (and may not). Whichever it is, it will be an adventure! Good luck!

  • Kim

    As the mother of a 4 year old boy and a 17 month old girl? I can say honestly – TRAVEL NOW. There are windows of opportunity… before they walk? and after age 21.

  • Sue

    BOOZE–LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOZE (for you, Jon, AND LETA!)

  • You’ll be fine. I agree with all the rest, travel light, breastfeed whenever you can, and stay calm. I think the breastfeeding part is really important, because that is here security. I have survived many trips with 4 kids, a plane ride to England with two toddlers and 4 months pregnant, I breastfed my daughter all the way up Pike’s Peak and all the way down…I like what someone said, just go with the flow. It’s taken me many years to learn that. Life doesn’t stop when you have more children. It just gets a little more harried, but you guys can do it. Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed!! 😀

  • Listen to Kristine (post #1). She sounds like she’s done some travelling. Pack light & remember to keep up posted.

    BTW, if people think you’re being serious about hanging Leta from the roof by her toes, then they deserve the smartass comments you hand back!

    Good luck!

  • Listen to Kristine (post #1). She sounds like she’s done some travelling. Pack light & remember to keep up posted.

    BTW, if people think you’re being serious about hanging Leta from the roof by her toes, then they deserve the smartass comments you hand back!

    Good luck!

  • Expect it to go terribly. Expect her to violently shit her diaper and it get all over you on the plane. Expect her to vomit, scream and annoy the hell outta the other passengers. Expect her to spew pea-green soup (even if you didn’t feed it to her) all over the airplane seats. THEN…when it doesn’t go AS BAD as you thought, you’ll be relieved. I’d say, Pray, Benedryl (fuck the paper towel nay sayers) and have yourself a shot or two of Benadryl….or make husband sit with her while you go to the back and chat it up with flight attendants. You’ll do fine. I love your BLOG. LOVE IT DAMNIT!

  • OMG!! I can comment!! I have to agree with the earlier comment about baby tylenol. As a mother of an 11 year old I’ll tell you that any kind of children’s medicine, the night time formula, is a life saver!! There have been times when my hubby and I follow our child around looking for anything that resembles a cough so we can shove the stuff down his throat. Pack everything you think you’ll need for her then double it. Babies have a way of needing the one single thing you don’t have, and that doesn’t end when they turn 11. Have fun. Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  • You know, you did manage to house that thing for 9 months. Assuming the episiotomy hasn’t healed over completely yet, any chance you’d consider a re-insertion for the duration of the trip? Snake in a discreet breathing/feeding tube, and away you go! Sure the kicks will be a little harder now, but that adipose container will also cut down the scream volume about as well as duct tape…and without tearing out her nascent upper lip hair later!

  • coog

    Pedia-lite… that’s my advice. baby’s get dehydrated on planes, as do we and while she’s sucking that down she’s unplugging her ears. lucky for you it’s nice and breezey here in san fran in august – she’ll be raving about that nice cool month in san fran for weeks (that part might get obnoxious).

  • tex

    On Benadryl overdoses and babies:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/
    09/02/earlyshow/health/health_news/
    main571181.shtml

  • The Former Inmate

    You know airliner cabins are pressurized, right?

    Remember how that feels not-so-great on your ears, even when you swallow a lot and chew gum and blow your nose?

    OK. Now imagine Leta going through that.

    I suspect you will be adding “Leta does not like inner ear pressure differentials” to that list….

  • Blair

    Lady I wish you luck.
    One thing to keep in mind when you fly with infants. You know that fuuny thing that hapens to your ears when you fly. We know that adult protical entitles us to chew gum. when our ears have poped then we are fine. Infants on the other hand dont know how to do this and you might encure large amounts of screaming. Tip hold off from giving them a bottle or feeding them till after about 10 min into the filght. The swallowing should help there ears.
    Goood luck and have a crab sandwich for me.