It had been a long week of meetings in San Francisco and I was relieved to finally be on board for the non-stop evening flight back home to Oklahoma City. I missed my kids, my husband, and my bed. My seat mate, Roman arrived, a friendly gentleman from South OKC and we chatted with the lady across the aisle from us who was coming to OKC for a conference. Roman and I ran down our lists of favorite Bricktown area restaurants for the conference lady as we waited for the other passengers to board.
It was hard to miss the frazzled young mom when she boarded the plane. She was wearing her 5 month old daughter in a face-front harness that reminded me of a scene from The Hangover. She was also carrying a giant Minnie Mouse, a smaller Minnie Mouse, a Minnie Mouse rattle, a baby bottle, a Frappuccino, a diaper bag and two baby blankets with a purse strapped around her middle. They were traveling alone. They sat one row up from me.
The flight attendant came over to tell her that because of something to do with the oxygen masks, she had to switch sides of the plane. So after moving seats with another passenger, she attempted to fasten her seat belt. Then the flight attendant mentioned that the perfectly content baby couldn’t be strapped into a harness during take-off. So, the mom had to remove the baby from her kangaroo pouch. Immediately, the baby started crying. Then, the flight attendant told her that her plethora of Minnie Mice and baby gear would have to be stowed before we could take off. So, the poor young mom was left to do something with all of the stuff while the baby was crying.
Instantly, surrounding passengers (complete strangers) jumped into action. One held the mom’s Frappuccino. Another checked the overhead bins to find room for all of the Minnies, diaper bags, and blankets. The mom was working as hard as she could to soothe the baby. Finally, she got settled and we took off. The baby stopped crying and we nestled in for a 3 ½ hour flight that was to arrive just before midnight.
I was hoping for a relaxing flight home but the baby had other plans. She cried much of the way home. When it all began, I could hear her mom whispering to her, “Oh, please stop! Please don’t do this to me!” She was doing everything she could to calm her. When the “fasten seat belt” sign was off, she would walk the aisles and bounce the little girl, which seemed to help. But, as soon as she would sit back down, the crying would start again soon after. She tried a bottle, which worked for a while but the baby soon lost interest. The pacifier worked for a bit but that, too, didn’t do the trick for very long.
I could tell that the mom was very stressed out by her daughter’s crying because she didn’t want to disturb the other passengers. But, she was doing everything that she could and babies that age have a mind all their own. She even turned to face most of the passengers at one point in exasperation and said, “She never cries like this! I don’t know what is wrong with her.” She sat back down. I placed my hand on her shoulder and whispered, “It’s OK. Many of us are parents and we have been there. You’re fine.” Because she seemed like she needed it in that moment.
As we barreled through the air that night, a captive audience to an unhappy child, something amazing happened on that flight. I didn’t notice one person seeming annoyed. No one was complaining or grumbling at all. Instead, people were knowingly smiling at the mom when she’d walk by with the crying baby. One passenger in front of me said, “Is she teething? It always helped my daughter when I’d rub her gums when she was teething.” So the mom tried that.
The young woman in front of the young mom struck up a conversation, “So, is she your first child?” I heard the young mom say, “Yes, she is. I’m only 19. She was with me in my tummy at my high school prom and my high school graduation. We are on our way to see her daddy now.”
The grandmother in front of me offered to give it a try with the crying baby, “I have 5 grandchildren of my own. I’d love to give it a whirl.” So she took the baby, bounced and patted for a while. Roman and I offered to take a turn if she needed a break, too.
The baby needed a diaper change and another man rang the flight attendant to see if there was a changing table on board. It was like we all had a stake in helping this young mother and her baby.
As we began our descent into Oklahoma City, they turned off the cabin lights so we could see the beautiful city as we flew in. We noticed a hush fall over the cabin as we busied ourselves with looking out the windows.
I’m sure many factors came into play that night. But, I like to think that the biggest one is that most of the people on that plane were probably Oklahomans. Our nature is to care for and help others. That’s what happened on that plane that night. Everyone was just trying to help.
As we taxied to the gate, I had to chuckle as I looked across the aisle. The baby was sleeping peacefully in her mother’s arms.