A newborn, a plane, and food poisoning.

Friday was Max’s first flight and Kate and I were confident he would do well.  He’s 6 weeks old, very calm, and we are both seasoned travelers.  Friends, family, and blog readers sent in tips and advice on my last post (read here), which Kate and I used quite successfully on our trip to Chicago.  We were most worried that he would annoy the entire plane by crapping, crying, and vomiting at 30,000 feet…what we didn’t expect was for me to be doing that.

Our story begins in Wichita, KS on a Wednesday night where Kate, Max, and I joined my parents for dinner at a fine dinning seafood restaurant.  While there I enjoyed oysters on the half shell, ceviche, and Mahi Mahi.  All very good, 2 of the 3 are served raw.  The next day we made our final preparations for flying and tried out all our new gear.  It is (like many chores) hard to pack with a newborn.  You do what you can while he is awake and then when he falls asleep you frantically run to get everything done.  We finished packing around Midnight and crawled into bed.

The next morning was a reminder that you need to leave an extra hour and a half to two hours when traveling with a newborn…it just takes longer.  Showers are delayed by breast-feeding.  One person is holding Max while the other is packing the final items.  Breast milk is being stowed in bottles with ice packs.  Strollers are loaded into the car.  Clock is ticking.  Bam!  Out the door an hour and half before our flight.  We found a parking space right away and rolled into the airport carting:

  1. Travel snap in stroller
  2. Car Seat
  3. Stroller storage bag
  4. Rolling suitcase
  5. Diaper bag backpack
  6. Backpack

After a quick check-in we made our way to security and entered a line I have never been in before…the dreaded “Family or First Time Flying” line.  I always go in the “Advanced” flying line.  I take over 30 flights a year on average.  You have a baby? Yes.  Slow line.  Holy cow I was going crazy with the people in front of us.  First time flyers for sure.  They didn’t understand why they had to take their shoes off, forgot to take ANY metal off their body, and had EVERY bag of theirs run through twice because of laptops and fluids they failed to remove.  Then Kate and I were up.  I turned to her and laid out the plan…of course I have a plan.  My OCD has me constantly searching for a way to create the most efficient way to do anything in life…including the fastest way to get a baby through airport security.  Here’s how:

  1. Car seat detaches from stroller
  2. All fluids out of bags and into tray
  3. All shoes off
  4. Max out of car seat
  5. Ryan places all shoes and fluids into tray
  6. Ryan puts stroller through X-Ray
  7. Ryan puts car seat through X-Ray
  8. Ryan puts fluids and shoes through X-Ray
  9. Ryan puts both backpacks through X-Ray
  10. Ryan goes through metal detector
  11. Kate carries Max through metal detector
  12. Ryan has already assembled stroller/car seat combo for Max to go right back into
  13. Fluids go to extra screening while Kate and Ryan slide shoes on
  14. Fluids handed back to Kate who is ready to place them back into the diaper bag
  15. Ryan is already rolling Max towards the gate

We were faster and more efficient than the couple without a baby in the “Advanced” line.  It’s the small victories in life.  We reached the gate to find they had decided to board early so we missed the window of opportunity that is “pre-board.”  I disassembled the stroller car seat combo and packed it into the storage bag.  I will have a full review of this and other products in a separate post coming soon.  Once on the plane we learned that only certain rows have extra oxygen masks so we had to swap seats and move to the back of the plane, row 16 (small planes in Wichita).  I tucked Kate’s scarf behind her left shoulder, the other end behind the right corner of her tray table in the stowed position, and she had a privacy screen for feeding Max.  Max had slept through the car ride, most of the airport, and the boarding process.  Kate nudged him awake and just before takeoff gave him the breast.  He happily fed and never made a peep through out the entire accent.  He slept on me for most of the flight…as did Kate, and just before descending into Chicago we woke him up again to feed.  Again…not a peep.  Kate and I got off the plane in Chicago and our fellow travelers were surprised to see that a baby had been on board.  He was a perfect angel!

Max's Fisrt Plane Ride
The Vibrations Of The Plane Lulled Max To Sleep

Stroller/car seat reattached, diaper bag underneath, and our rolling suitcase recovered from baggage claim we made our way to the CTA Blue Line…the dirtiest of all Chicago city trains.  Half way to the train Max exploded into fits of tears.  I freaked…Kate calmly took him into the bathroom and attached him to her breast and re-emerged with him hidden under her scarf happily feeding.  Bought CTA card, swiped twice, went through the handicapped entrance, and out to the train.  It had been years since I rode a city train with a stroller and forgot how quickly one can get away from you.  I remembered my old trick and executed it well all weekend; lock one wheel on the platform and drag it when getting on the train.  Use your foot to hold the other wheel when the train starts moving.  Once the train is up to speed, lock the other wheel.  Kate and Max sat in front of me feeding, the stroller sat next to them, and the suitcase rode with me.  Occasionally Kate would pass Max back for burping while the train was stopped, and we made it to Wrigleyville with no problems.

That night Kate, Max, and I dined with her parents and her brother Todd and his wife Jenn.  It was an awesome meal that was by far the highlight of the trip for me.  The next day is amazing but sometimes overwhelming…this was an intimate dinner with immediate family and much wine.  I had grilled calamari, mussels, pasta, and chicken parmesan.  This was the beginning of the end for me I think.  I have had the occasional adverse reaction to mussels…a dish I have eaten my entire life with no problems up till my 20’s.  Theories include that mussels plus alcohol may be the culprit, mussels with other raw shellfish, or that I am fine eating clams and not eating mussels.  Either way, Friday night was the last night I am ever eating mussels ever again in my life.

That night I felt stuffed to the point of nausea.  We took a cab back to downtown instead of the train for rapid transport.  I had a restless night with a stomach ache which I chalked up to eating rich food and my ongoing battle with IBS, Hiatal Hernia, Acid Reflux, and Ulcerative Colitis.  Yeah…my digestive tract is awesome.  Enjoy Max, it’s probably yours too.  The next morning I felt okay but not 100%.  Buck up little gipper, today’s the big day!  The “St. Patrick’s Day WeLUSH Pub Crawl 2011!”

Every year, friends and family of the Welsh clan (Kate’s mother’s family) gather in Chicago for a massive pub crawl.  What started as a group of a few brave drinkers over a decade ago has evolved into something bigger than any of us can fully grasp.  In 2008 I created the “WeLUSH” logo and we adopted the old family saying, “It’s a marathon…not a sprint.”  There were over 30 crawlers that year.  This year we had over 70!  The youngest crawler was recently turned 21 and the oldest was in their 60’s.  It’s awesome.  However, with Max in tow and the impending flight the next day I conceded to not drink much this year and focus on my newest family member instead.  Plus…I was still feeling a bit nauseous from the night before.  I drank 8 glasses of water pre-crawl.

Max and Dad ready to hit the town!
One of the bars along the crawl

The first bar was way too packed and I immediately had regrets about bringing Max on the crawl.  I had my hands out in front of me to keep enough space that he wouldn’t get bumped in to.  It was loud.  People were already canned.  I looked down at Max who was sleeping soundly in his sling pressed against my chest, he didn’t seem to mind…but I felt guilty.  Then some Tara Reid looking drunk girl with smeared mascara came over and asked me over and over if it was a real baby.  When she realized it was, she got all sweet and started touching his hand.  I chugged my beer, zipped up my coat around him, and exited promptly.  Don’t touch the baby.  If you want to touch a stranger’s baby, touch the foot where the sock or shoe is…not their bare hand.  I was ready to ditch the crawl right then and there but we decided to check out the next bar first to see how it was in there.  It was perfect.  Much less crowded, we got a seating area to ourselves up front where it was quiet, and Max was an angel.  We stayed there for a majority of the crawl and Dad had 1 more beer.

Aunt Ann and Mom
Uncle Todd

The next stop was even more packed than the first place so we bailed and went to a corner restaurant across the street for calzones.  Immediately after eating I knew something was wrong with my stomach.  Was it the calzone?  Stress?  IBS?  Don’t know, but Kate was having fun, Max was doing well, and we were having a lovely day with Kate’s parents so we kept on.  We moved to the next bar where I then had my third beer of the day and enjoyed the calm of a less crowded bar yet again.  Kate’s brother Todd wins the prize for Sweetest Relative With Max award.  Every time Todd would get near Max he would suddenly transform into the softest person in the bar with these gentle hand movements, kisses on Max’s head, and soothing voice.  Calmed both Max and me.

The last stop was Cody’s (as always) and this bar feels as good as home.  While here I felt the change from upset stomach to ticked off stomach start to take shape.  I had a water and a half a beer.  Max started crying…it was a frustrated tired cry so we called it a night.  Kate, Max, Frank, Kathy, and I walked back to the house and Max screamed the entire way.  Again, regret poured over my body.  I’m a terrible dad.  What was I thinking?  Max was fine, I just got freaked out and suddenly just wanted to be home.  At the house we packed up for the cab ride home and my nausea was becoming stronger.  I assumed it was stress related and ignored it…though I did hang my head out the window for air on the ride home.  “Too much beer?”  Kate asked.  “No,” I replied, “I only had 4 beers throughout the entire day…I just feel overwhelmed.”  Back at the hotel we crawled into bed, fed a very calm and happy Max, and discussed our plans to go to museums the next day before the flight home.

At 4 AM I knew something was very wrong.  I will spare all details but lets say that there was a fire drill in my digestive tract and everyone was evacuated via both the front and back doors.  It was not a leisurely evacuation but rather a chaotic stampede.  By 10 AM I was unable to move my dehydration headache was so intense.  I was married to the bathroom.  I conceded that we would need to reschedule our flight and stay another night in Chicago.  Kate was determined to get us home.  I mustered the strength to get some Gatorade and Saltines down…50% of it stayed down.  Kate packed us.  I huffed and puffed around the room getting ready and occasionally sprinted to the bathroom.  “I can’t do this,”  I told Kate.  “Baby steps,” she replied.  “Just focus on getting downstairs to the lobby,” she said.  “This isn’t What About Bob,” I replied though painful tears.  “Baby steps,” she repeated.

Full Body X-Ray

I made it downstairs.  Checked us out.  Ran to the lobby bathroom.  Baby steps.  Made it into the cab.  Freaked the whole way there (traffic).  Got to O’Hare.  Ran to bathroom.  Baby steps.  Made it through check-in and almost died in security.  Half way through waiting in line for security I got the call to the bathroom…but you can’t suddenly bolt out of airport security in Chicago…you’d get arrested!  I started having crazy thoughts like “maybe no one would notice if I just went in the corner,” or “I could puke into one of the security trays.”  I grasped the plastic bag in my pocket I had brought with me for an emergency and breathed myself back to calm.  Of the 3 lines to choose from we picked the slowest…the one with the full body screening machine.  I almost lost it when I had to hold my hands above my head for 10 seconds.  However, I made it through.  We executed the same practice as before in Wichita and made it through just fine.  I ran to a bathroom.  We made our flight with 3 minutes to spare.  Thank goodness Max is a great traveler because I was useless.  I cowered into a ball and meditated on the thought of my bed the entire flight.  Everything else was a blur.  My memories are only of:

  • Max fed during takeoff
  • I went to the bathroom 3 times
  • Kate ordered tomato juice and I almost puked smelling it
  • I swallowed 3 times every 5 minutes to keep the nausea down
  • Max slept
  • The Songify Charlie Sheen song “Winning” played on repeat in my brain like a broken record digging into my soul
  • Max fed during landing
  • Turbulence was terrible coming into Wichita
  • Kate struggled to keep Max on boob with the bouncy plane
  • We made it home

The moment we were standing on ground I knew I was home free.  Stress was gone…now it was just feeling ill.  United lost our bag…on a one way flight.  Awesome.  I didn’t care, I was a 15 minute car ride from home.  Keys.  Car.  Drive.  Driveway.  Keys.  Door.  Bags on floor.  Bed.  Sleep.  20 hours later I felt human again and began recovering from this.  What was this?  It was either a stomach bug, food poisoning, or a reaction to mussels.  There is a stomach bug going around but Max and Kate are both fine.  I am still not sure.

The moral(s) of the story is:  Flying with a newborn is super easy.  Taking a newborn on a pub crawl is doable…but stick to the less crowded places.  Being sick with a newborn is awful!

I couldn’t do anything to help Kate with Max on the way home.  I was so sick I couldn’t even look at Max or Kate.  Terrible.  Never travel without immodium, anti-nausea pills, etc.  I am a seasoned traveler and I collapsed on this one.  Baby steps got me home.  I’m sorry for the longest rambling post to date but it was written over a period of 3 days, with a fever, and multiple bathroom breaks.  I will break elements of this down into more chewable pieces in the future but for now…there is the whole messy story.  And now…the most homosexual sentence I have ever written in my life:  My knees have been on more public bathroom floors in the past day than a janitor’s mop!

Sick Day
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