Let me start by apologizing to any parent on past flights who I glared at or resented for their crying baby. Before I had a child, I did not understand. I could, however, put on headphones and chill. Now that I’m the one with the crying kid, I’m in it. I’m at they mercy of a wailing tyrant. Flying with an infant is hell, but less convenient.
Recently, I was flying cross-country to California. It was my son Owen’s first flight and it was a long one. Go big or go home. A few weeks prior we took him on his first road trip. He was a champ and slept most of the way. I was feeling confident. Borderline cocky. He’s a natural-born traveler! We tell our stories in order to live. Babies have pacifiers; parents have lies. Same nevermind.
Owen slept the entire Uber ride to the airport. I. Was. Feeling. Really. Confident. And we got through security with ease. He smelled like poop (he always smelled like poop because he’s always pooping), but he didn’t have a knife on him so it was fine.
Then my wife, Esther, went to the bathroom to pump milk. I fed him. Halfway through feeding it felt like he was sweating. He runs hot. So I wasn’t worried until I moved him and realized that there’d been a blow out. I had Diarrhea on my favorite shirt. Such a gift.
Esther returnd. She was tired. I was tired and covered in poop. Owen was ready to party. So I took him to the men’s room to change his diaper. Now, let’s pause. This is my first time changing him in a public bathroom. It’s a moment. I’m scared but confident. Look at me, I’m a cool dad wearing skinny jeans, a hoodie, and a slightly brown t-shirt. I got this.
I did not “got this.”
The second I lay him down on the cold, plastic changing table Owen starts wailing. Wailing. Huge tears streaming down his face. He’s crying harder than when he got his shots. I’m in a panic. Someone wiggles the door handle to the bathroom. Do you not hear the banshee screaming inside, sir?
The harder he cries, the more I panic. There’s so much poop. I must push onward. I wipe. I cuss out loud. It’s okay, he’s a baby, he doesn’t understand, Lord please forgive me. I cuss a lot more but quieter (sort of). I successfully change his diaper. I change his poop-decorated onesie with a new one. That really pisses him off. I gather him up and leave the bathroom. I’m sweating profusely. Owen hates me. I pass him off to Esther. Zip up my hoodie to cover the poop juice on my shirt.
If it’s this brutal before we even get on the plane, what hell awaits us in 26 D and E? I pray a sympathetic mother or grandma is our seatmate. No dice. Big middle-aged guy. There are four other babies on the plane. I silently vow to earn trillions of dollars so we can take private jets everywhere in the future. We’re terrified for the six-hour flight ahead of us. No food, no headphones for movies, no books. Just holding a ticking-time-bomb-baby for six hours.
Miraculously, Owen is pretty chill. We feed him. He poops. It smells. Our seatmate is sleeping. Did the diaper fumes knock him unconscious? Maybe. We hold our stinky, poopie-diaper-filled boy for three hours. No movement. I can’t feel my shoulder or either leg. The pain is worth not stirring the baby. Finally, we decide we need to change his diaper. There’s a lot of turbulence. Seatbelt sign is on. Screw it, we gotta go for the bathroom. The flight attendant saw us coming.
“Excuse me, you two really need to be seated. There’s a lot of turbulence right now.”
Oh, really, I didn’t notice the plane jolting up and down, should we wipe baby poop on the seats instead, you monster?
But instead I confidently say, “Sorry.”
Esther changes the diaper. I return to the seat cursing scientists for not already creating teleportation or using one of Harry Potter’s spare portkeys.
Mother and son return. He’s calm. The four other babies on the flight are flipping their shit. Our baby is calm. I feel so smug. Even as I hold my baby, I roll my eyes at the other parents with their crying babies. Owen sleeps the rest of the flight. We survived. The six-hour flight felt like 18 hours, but we survived.
I’m so relieved. So elated. This must be what it feels like to win an Olympic medal or climb Mount Everest and live. Life is all about celebrating the little victories. So like, loving, selfless parents, we celebrate by getting In-N-Out burgers before changing our boy’s diaper.
Paul Schissler is a stand-up comedian in New York City whose two best friends are his wife and son. He’s also a self-published author and co-founder of Comedywire.com.