I’ve been privileged to be able to travel overseas with our daughter. The first time was when she was eight months old—it was a long haul flight to Philadelphia, with a layover in Narita and Detroit. I read all the testimonies I could about flying with your kid but nothing could prepare me for the physical endurance traveling required from you.
I remember getting my daughter ready for the flight while she was still asleep on our bed. I was careful not to wake her while I slipped leggings over her onesie and gingerly inserted her arms into a cardigan.
You also enter into a covenant with your partner when you decide to fly together as a family. Covenants are crucial in any relationship, but the one you make when you travel echoes the one that you had when you embarked on childbirth and infant care together. Taking care of a baby in a small, compressed area is a throwback to the newborn days. Expect no rest, to only sleep when the baby sleeps, and to take turns eating.
This is the time you worry about the people in the plane. No matter how many times friends tell you not to care, you end up still caring. On the plane, my husband and I learned how to carefully lower our daughter into a bassinet without waking her up, how to mourn the end of watching as many in-flight movies as we can, and how to change a dirty nappy in a cramped airplane bathroom.
We mastered retrieving our stroller at the arrival area and passing through security with twice the amount of gear we usually carry. We got familiar with feeding our daughter out of food pouches. We discovered the joy of foldable rubber bibs. We embraced the kindness of strangers who gave our daughter plastic cups to play with and flight attendants who made sure we had enough leg room and pillows.
Once we landed, we had to deal with our jet lag, plus that of the baby’s. We were too wiped out to hold our daughter’s hand through her jet lag, so my husband and I passed out on the bed while she ran around the room until she got tired. She eventually crawled up in between us when she was good and ready.
My husband is not good transitioning from the Philippine time zone to the US one. While he slept, I’d dress my daughter up and take her out on her stroller, even when she didn’t feel like it, to get sunshine and fix her circadian rhythm.
It was grueling work getting the three of us set up for exploring and walking. We packed for road trips to Washington, D.C. and Ocean City, New Jersey. I got comfortable breastfeeding in museums and on park benches and stopping at truck stops for endless diaper changes.
Our daughter expressed both fear and delight when we dipped her toes in the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean. She grimaced when we let her have her first water ice on the Main Line. She waved and smiled at the drag queens when we brought her to Philly Pride. She was patient with us when her father gawked at planes at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. We were mortified when she let out big, happy, echoing giggles at the US Holocaust Museum.
We never go out of town without her. The other covenant we entered when we had our daughter is that we do everything together. There will come a time when my husband and I will start traveling on our own again, but for now, we travel not because we want her to have memories, we don’t know if she’ll remember any of it—we do it so we remember her, so we remember us. Every single moment of it.
I remember all these stories like it was yesterday. I will also hold on to those times when I would lock eyes with my husband as we scramble to placate a fussy child. It’s in this chaos of the unfamiliar that we remember all the promises we made to each other. It’s how we become a family.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Dorothy Guya
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