06 December 2011

Flight log

Well, friends, we made it across the wide ocean, me, my toddler, and the stowaway in my stomach. We flew Aer Lingus for the first time, and I had a great experience going through mellow Dublin airport, where we waited in exactly zero lines, chatted with friendly officials, and found abundant places for Gabriel to expend some energy. When you fly to the US from Dublin, you go through customs before you even get on the plane, a genius concept, so that upon arrival you simply grab your bag and walk out the door. At the tail end of an epic flight with a jet-lagged child, I appreciated not standing in a neverending customs line more than I can say.

Facing a 7.5 hour flight, after having woken up at 6am and already endured a flight and two airports and a child who does not want to be in a stroller, I quailed. That's...a whole DAY, I thought. HOW on earth will we make it? So I only considered the half hour in front of us. Half hour at a time, we conquered that flight. A few things worked in our favor: the plane was far from full, which gave us room to breathe and ultimately a whole middle row of four to ourselves (the smart guy who was initially seated at the other end of the row took one look at us and moved). The one advantage of a very long flight is that there are long stretches where the aisles are free of service carts or people, and we could run loops around the airplane or sneak into other, empty seats for the exciting new perspective of another identical seat back. Another little girl the same age as Gabriel shared her toys, and I could even prevail upon her nice German parents to keep an eye on him while I ran to the bathroom, etc. Dirty diapers did not appear at inopportune times (usually he times them for turbulence or takeoff/landing), and we did not recapitulate the morning scene in the Brussels airport during which he so resisted laying still on the changing table that we ripped the entire diaper in half (I learned my lesson and brought a new toy for each diaper change).

The kid did not sleep a wink the entire day, despite one tantalizing moment in which his eyes drifted shut and I made the excruciating mistake of trying to shift him off my belly and he woke up never to return to dreamland. But the lack of sleep did not translate into utter breakdown. I had enough of a supply of novel dollar-store doodads and gift-wrapped toys and sticker books to pull him out of his few tearful episodes, and didn't even need to resort to the iPad until four hours into the flight. I was most dreading landing, when you have to pull a tired toddler who does not understand why one must be in a seatbelt onto your lap, and the iPad is off limits just when you most need it, but some songs, a 68-cent lion puzzle, and the promise of finding grandpa and grandma at the airport saved the day. Then, oh blessed relief, we were landed, both overjoyed to see my parents, and minutes later he was asleep in the guest room and I was relaxing on the couch.

In some ways, the long aftermath of overseas flights is more exhausting than just getting through the hours of the flight itself. Jetlag has never hit us so hard: I'm adjusted but the child keeps waking up at 4am, which makes me want to cry. This morning I fell asleep on the couch at 8am while he puttered around with tinker toys, a tiny portion of my tired brain dedicated to noticing whether he was safe and the rest in an utter crush of exhaustion. I slept until 11, my mom taking over once she woke up. I had hoped to get him adjusted to East Coast time before leaving myself, but it looks like she'll have some early mornings.

Because tomorrow comes the next step: I fly to Indiana for my dissertation defense. This will be the first time since Gabriel was born that we spend the night apart, the first time that I travel solo, so I will simultaneously be sad to say goodbye (I don't think he'll be sad, though, because he gets to stay with GRANDMA and hang with his beloved cousins and aunties and uncles) and kind of giddy at the prospect of reading on the plane like a grown-up person, traveling without a diaper bag, and sleeping in a bed by myself without being woken up during the night or at the crack of dawn.

I am anxious about the defense only insofar as getting everyone in the room together to make sure it really is happening! Then, they can say what they will but I'm pretty sure my supportive committee wants to give me my degree as much as I want to get it. After that, and the submission of the document and sundry paperwork, you can just call me Doctor Cantdocell.

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