Sunday, July 22, 2012

getting home

confession: i chuckle just a little now when i hear people complaining about a short-haul domestic flight with their children.

i know very few people who aren't scared to death about the flight home from ethiopia with their newly adopted child(ren). it's a long flight no matter how you split it up (direct flight, layover, etc.), and you spend every minute trying your darndest to occupy a child who literally has no idea who you are.

when we got to the airport the night we left ethiopia, i suddenly remembered i hadn't put a change of clothes for myself in our carry-on luggage in the event of a disaster. this thought occurred to me as we were at the check-in desk, and the ethiopian air lady was waiting for us to weigh our luggage. i decided not to hold up the line by rummaging through my suitcase and continued on through immigration and security and to our gate, hoping the outfit i was wearing could withstand the next 16 hours.

we waited at our gate for about an hour and then were informed that our flight would be delayed another 45 minutes. it was hot, we were all tired (it was already close to 11pm), and all i could think about was how terrible it felt that our already-way-too-long flight was delayed. kal had been saying she needed to go to the bathroom, so i took her and decided to change rebuma's diaper while i was in there. i laid rebuma on the changing table and was in the middle of changing him when someone turned on one of those hand drying machines. it scared the ever-living crap out of him. he screamed and cried and thrashed on the table. another cwa mom, maureen, was thankfully in there with me, and she held him down while i got a new diaper on him. i didn't even bother putting his pajamas back on because i just wanted to get out of there.

the flight ended up boarding quicker than expected, so we were soon in line to board. i was holding rebuma, who had about every ethiopian eye on him because all he had on was a diaper (and ethiopians typically over-dress their children to keep them warm and modest). we got down to the door of the plane, and a couple of ethiopian men were checking out rebuma. "where are his clothes?" one of them asked. i explained what had happened in the bathroom. "well, everyone is staring at him because of his chest." translation: your kid has man boobs.

things went well for the first hour, and then rebuma had a dirty diaper. i got my diaper bag and took him into the teeny tiny airplaine bathroom, where i proceeded to remove the poopy diaper and throw it away. that's when i realized that my diaper bag had no diapers in it. so i wrapped his pajamas, which i had planned to put back on him, around him and trudged back to my seat. as i frantically demanded that jamie get me a diaper as quickly as possible, i felt the warm sensation of pee start to saturate the front of my shirt. and with 15 hours left on that airplane, i regretted not taking five minutes to move a change of clothing from our suitcase to our carry-on bags.

so i, covered in a full baby bladder's worth of pee, went back to bathroom because rebuma still needed a diaper. and as i laid him down on the changing table, i'm pretty sure his little mind went straight back to the hand drying machine trauma of 2 hours ago because he screamed and thrashed. and i'm also pretty sure the people sitting right outside the bathroom thought i was trying to stuff him down the toilet or something equally terrible.

fast forward another few hours, and rebuma needed another new diaper. this time, a flight attendant came in and held him down while i changed him because she heard him screaming as she walked by.

fast forward another few hours, and rebuma needed another new diaper. jamie and i both went in the bathroom this time. i held him up (so we didn't have to lay him down), and jamie removed the poopy diaper and put on the new diaper. it was a pretty good plan, but i think rebuma still cried and jamie managed to get poop on himself.

throughout all of this, rebuma clung to in grasped my shirt in each of his little fists and would not let go. my shirt was one of those shirts made of really stretchy cotton, so you can imagine that a few hours of stretching thanks to rebuma holding on for dear life had me freaking out that i was flashing the entire airplane. at times, i was on the edge of insanity, shoving rebuma in jamie's arms, saying, "i just need you to take him! he won't let go of me!"

somewhere near the end of the flight, we told kal she had to put her seat belt on (we weren't descending yet, but we were trying to obey the rule about keeping it on when seated). she flat-out refused, so we decided to ask a flight attendant to explain it to her in amharic. the flight attendant came over and explained the seat belt to her, but then casually said, "but she doesn't need to wear that now," then she reached over and unbuckled the seat belt. "thanks for undermining our parenting to our child who doesn't know she's our child," we thought. when we did begin our descent, kal still refused to put on her seat belt, so we asked another flight attendant for help. she spoke the magic words in amharic, and kal was immediately compliant. seriously, an airplane is not the place to work through a language barrier.

the rest of the flight was a blur. maureen let me borrow a tank top, which i put over the pee shirt. kal braided my hair. i walked up and down the aisles several times so rebuma wouldn't cry. rebuma was sans clothes for at least half the flight. i drank a lot of coke (but not too much since i didn't want to sit on the potty a million times with rebuma strapped to me in the baby ergo). and some guy a few rows in front of us got up and flipped out on another guy for "making a gross noise."

and that is why, after a 16 hour flight from ethiopia to DC, a 5 hour layover, and another 1.5 hour flight to charlotte with an 18 month old and an almost 4 year old who we just started parenting 3 days previously, we looked like this when we finally landed in north carolina:

so the next time you fly with your child, consider it a success if (a) your clothes are appropriately covering you and not covered in your baby's pee (b) your baby lets you change his diaper without the help of a flight attendant and (c) your child obeys you rather than the flight attendant.


  1. I can't tell you how hard I am laughing right now... in a loving, sympathetic way.

  2. Suddenly, the two-day drive to Florida and this morning's quad-trip antics in first service, where we all vacated the row at least four times because one of the girls had to go potty, so therefore everyone else magically did, don't seem so bad....

    I actually have bigger issues with my mother doing the undermining our parental authority when we're visiting their house than anything else. But that's another story.

  3. oh, this brings back such memories! I remember peeing several times with Violet in the ergo strapped to me in the little airplane bathroom- so tricky. Spencer was a dream and slept literally the ENTIRE flight- no joke. But Violet screamed and cried and would not sleep and I walked the isles over and over bouncing her and wanting to cry myself. It's good to chronicle those crazy first moments with our kiddos! Thanks for sharing! ; ) - Amanda McAlpine