Flying by the Seat of My Pants


My husband and I are not really Disney people.  But, our son was in kindergarten, and so, like many other parents before us, we felt somewhat obligated to make a pilgrimage to the happiest place on earth.  The morning of our trip, we needed to leave the house to drive to San Francisco Airport, fly to Chicago, change planes, and then fly to Orlando.  Yes, I realize there is a Disneyland in Southern California, but we had family to visit in Florida later on this trip, and that is how the East Coast became our Disney destination.  

That morning as I was preparing to head to the car, my husband looked across the room at me holding my purse, diaper bag and carry on snack bags all criss-crossed like combat gear.  “Listen” he said.  “Let’s get out the BIG backpack and just take one carry on bag for the whole family.”  It sounded reasonable but I had just mentally switched over into the “I am all done” zone and now I didn’t want to unpack.  But, when he returned with his great idea I put all my bags down, items were scattered, and I re-stuffed them into the BIG backpack.  

Soon we were seated on the flight and anticipating Disneyworld with Jack, our five year old and Zachary, six months.  As the plane taxied away I became aromatically aware that my lap child was in need of a clean diaper.  But when I looked around for my diaper bag stuff, I knew in an instant that back home, laying on the floor under my first collection of carry on bags, were his diapers.  Then my second thought was that our flight to Chicago is four hours long.

Trying to stay calm I pushed the overhead service button and summoned a sweetly soft-spoken flight attendant. I explained how I was in need of a size 3 baby diaper and would they have one. She said, “No problem dear, there are always lots of families on board. I will go through the cabin and see if I can borrow one for you.”  I exhaled with relief.  After all the flight announcement said “if there is anything we can do to make your flight better just ask,” and I did, and now she is fixing it.  Awesome.  

The flight took off and they start serving drinks. My wonderful flight attendant approached again with her same calm reassuring smile and a little white plastic bag.  Her smile never broke as she informed me that surprisingly there were actually no other children on our flight today and that they don’t keep diapers on board.  However, she did retrieve a couple of women’s sanitary maxi-pads from the bathroom for me.  Her parting words were, “Maybe you can get creative dear.”  

Panic set in. I wanted to shout out loud, “What am I, MacGyver??”  At least MacGyver had access to duct tape.  I checked out Zachary and his problem diaper had leaked into a problem outfit. It was time to act now.  Balancing my child on my lap like a cirque-de-solei performer, I cleaned him up. Then like a surgeon I laid out all my diaper change gear in my tiny space, and draped his clean onesie, cloth pants and baby socks on the arm-rest between me and Jack.  

With a “ding” the sign says you can now move about the flight cabin if you wish.  Flight attendants are delivering drinks in our row.  None for me thanks, I am all out of space.  Jack receives his cup of apple juice from the flight attendant and then pops up and down from his seat to get a better view of what I am doing with Zachary and to relieve his boredom.

I put a new onesie over Zachary’s head and carefully placed one of the pads inside the open outfit about where his rear-end will sit.  Zachary’s baby toes catch the maxi-pad peel away strips, and he begins to kick up and down so the pretty ribbons make a whacking sound.  There is no privacy on an airplane, and I could feel the stares from other passengers.  I am sure they were thinking, “What is wrong with this mother, what in the world is she doing?”

I put the last pad in the onesie, generally where it will sit between his legs, snapped the outfit up, and hope it does stays absorbent… for like the next 4 hours. I go to put on the little cotton pants and socks.  But they are not there.  I look around to see if they slipped down in my seat. Nope. Then Jack says, “Oooops! I spilled the rest of my apple juice on the floor mom.”

Surprised?  No I am not.    

I reach down to pick up his upside down plastic cup and there are the baby pants and socks.  Soaked, iced, and with a sneaker footprint Jack’s size across them.  All of his up and down and out of the seat, I suppose, had knocked them to the floor.  

I am truly, officially, having a rookie mom day.  No diapers, no extra clothes.  My sweet baby has but a onesie on his body with 2 cheap airplane maxi pads affixed inside.  I swaddled him loosely with the baby blanket to cover his lower body (and my shame!).  

Time passed and four whole hours had ticked away.  The good news is, I must have secret MacGyver skills because my careful placement of the maxi-pads worked 100 percent for the whole flight—no leaking.  The announcement boomed about the imminent  landing in Chicago.  We needed to rush to our connection to Florida, but before we did all I could think of was that we must find diapers in that airport.  

Fortunately the Chicago airport has one store that sells diapers, even size 3.  Victory!  I was never so happy in all my life to pay $15 for 6 little diapers.  With that I had the peace of mind needed for the next flight and could turn my attention to thinking about Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell and taking Jack to his first-time visit to “the happiest place on earth.”

And you may be wondering, “well, did he love it?”  Truthfully he liked Disneyworld… almost as much as the swimming pool at our hotel.

Charissa Kolar is co-author of  Your Newborn Promise Project: A Pre-Parenting Primer for Husband and Wife, co-producer of the Newborn Promise Podcast, and Graham Blanchard Inc. project director.

Photo and Text Copyright © 2018 Charissa Kolar
Airplane photo: Yu-kato