Stay-at-home-sometimes-solo Mom · Travel

My Transatlantic Breakdown

Let me start by saying: we made it! Let me follow up by saying: and when we did, my dad sent a text to my mom saying “Lynn’s toast.” Here’s the story.

We hired a taxi for a ride to Heathrow because my husband was in no condition to make the 4+ hour journey. I can vouch for the validity of the scenario, as I nearly passed out at the grocery store in the same phase of the bug he was in. Our red Passat showed up on time, baby napped on the way, we arrived a little ahead of schedule.

And that was as good as it got.

I hadn’t tested my car seat-suitcase strap arrangement with the kid IN the car seat. It took a few tries to get the hang of it, but with some twisting of straps we managed.

We had to get in line at the assistance desk because the kiosk wouldn’t let us check in. There was some confusion about the potential for there being an extra infant, but it was easily resolved with enough time.

Then…the checked bag was overweight. Luckily I had anticipated this and knew exactly which items to transfer to our carry-ons, including the one that was strapped under the car seat, which my child was already beginning to tire of.

I forgot that my cell phone was in my pocket. Unlike the cute little Omaha airport security team, the Heathrow folks don’t put the phone on the belt and have you walk back through the metal detector. They do the pat down. Of you and your baby, whether or not he’s screaming and you’re sweating.

For a moment I believed I left our boarding passes and passports at security, but they were in my back pocket. I didn’t realize it until after someone had returned the milk and water I was going to buy to their remote, difficult-to-navigate corner of the newsstand.

You know how the airports don’t display your gate info until just before boarding? Oh, wait, you don’t? Yeah. The London airports I’ve been to don’t let you know what gate you will depart from until about 20 minutes before boarding. Also, it takes 20 minutes to get to the gate from the waiting area, as you’ll have to take an elevator with a bunch of people and a train with a bunch of people to get there. My car seat arrangement was wildly unpopular with my fellow travelers, and I had to carry the kid through it all so he wouldn’t get kicked. Did I mention I was also carrying a backpack?

This whole process seriously minimized the amount of running around I had expected for my toddler. If we could bottle up pent-up toddler energy, we could solve the world’s fuel crisis. Fortunately, I thought, his nap was cut short and he had woken up early, so we were probably breaking even.


We were able to pre-board ahead of the crowd. An Indian mother with her 18 month old boy were in the seat next to the one with our car seat. Together. The kid kept snatching my boy’s toys out of his hands and complaining when my kid got Cheerios or a drink. But only while they were awake, which was for just (maybe) an hour of the whole thing.

We, on the other hand… were not sleeping.

At 10:45pm London time I seriously considered drugging my child for my convenience. The plane to Chicago had departed Heathrow at 4:15. He was still awake.

This was uncharted territory. The 6.5 hour stretch since departure was close to if not a record for wakefulness on its own. But I am certain that the cumulative 9.5 hours since the taxi dropped us off at terminal 5 is by a landslide.

There were tears. His and mine. A plane full of passengers around us was sleeping, except for the assholes who had their window shades open, which I believe confused my little one’s circadian rhythms. And my baby who was so inconvenienced by the barbaric “sleeping in the car seat” thing to give it a shot. Until 10:47 pm.

I thought I might doze off. I packed away the toys and snacks I had strewn about in our battle, banged out the previous 3 paragraphs of this post, turned on Balance by Sara Tavares and… we began the descent into Chicago. Wally woke up screaming, a mere 50 minutes after falling asleep, and cried the whole way down. Thirty minutes into it, a fellow passenger said “SHHHHHHHHHH!,” as if it hadn’t dawned on me to try to get my baby to stop crying. As if they were more bothered by the crying than me. He had finished his milk and wouldn’t take a drink from his other cup. The lady next to us kept trying to distract him with the well-behaved toddler in her lap. My child was yelling “Daa-aa-aaa-aa” which made me cry because daddy wasn’t there (and I was exhausted). I had never felt like more of a failure.

When we pulled up to the gate I took him out of his seat. He yelled “Daa-aa-aa-aa” and pointed at the cup his milk had been in, in the same fashion as the evil monkey in Chris’s closet on Family Guy. He didn’t want dad. He wanted more milk. From a very specific cup.

We trudged off the plane after everyone else got off, moved fairly quickly through immigration, waited forever for our checked bag, got to skip customs and finally – FINALLY – 13 hours after leaving our UK home, threw ourselves at my dad.

There was a point in the car ride to my hometown when the GPS said there was still one hour and 33 minutes to go. I was starving, because I hadn’t really been into the okra and beans I got for a vegetarian meal. Arby’s was a strange beacon of American dream, but it had to be and it was good.

Despite being swaddled in the deep throes of exhaustion, Prince Walls felt compelled to run around grandma’s house like a crazy little person for about a half hour. He went down screaming, then he woke up 2 hours later and demanded milk. Then he woke up 2 hours later and demanded milk. He woke up less than 2 hours later and it was time to start the day.

I was optimistic that he might be on track to settle into a schedule appropriate for this time zone. He napped for but 50 minutes at nap time. I was too tired to realize I was on the verge of being committed.

But after that… he went to bed at a normal time, and has been on a fairly normal track since. He has woken up at least once a night since we got here, always demanding “da-aa-aa-aa.” I’ve asked him nicely for a 6 hour stretch before wakeup time so I could feel rested. I suppose we’ll see if he listened. Hopefully having finally eaten a giant dinner will keep him full through the night.

I was wound up before I left, and the journey didn’t help. But I’m starting to relax. Stepping out of the car at my dad’s place the morning after we arrived was beyond refreshing. The air was cool and it sounded as if all the birds in the world were in the woods singing songs. There were woodpeckers and ducks and all the rest. The claustrophobia of a winter in our narrow English house is finally starting to fade.

Of course I’ve already been to Super Target. (You know, for essentials, which may or may not include ridiculously cute shoes.) And Super Target was extra super-awesome. There was SO much space, there was everything, and the cashier bagged all of our stuff for us. Ahhh, America. Where your cashier won’t be seated and the roads have more than just the space need.

As I was waiting to leave the plane, I concluded that it would only be fair to receive 4 hours of free babysitting for each hour the child was awake on the flight. But now that it’s a few days behind us, I really just want to spend as much time as I can sharing him with family, whether I’m there or out getting a pedicure. But 28 free hours of babysitting wouldn’t be so bad, either.

In the coming days, off and on, I hope to have the time and energy to make some timely posts about the apps we liked best, the things I like about America that I never knew I liked, the things I miss about England, and family sappiness. However, now: I’m just shooting for sleep.


8 thoughts on “My Transatlantic Breakdown

  1. Oh my, Lynn. Wow. You poor thing. And I thought my 1.5 hour flight from Denver was bad. I won’t complain again!! Glad you are with family for a while. enjoy!

  2. I was cringing during your flight story!! Oh man I’m sorry it all went down that way. And how dare that crazy person shush your son!?!?!?!?! CLEARLY not a parent.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your time home in the states and I hope you get lots of REST and soak up your family!!! :)

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