The Lipstick Letters: No Way Out but Through

I decided to revive The Lipstick Letters on Christmas morning two years ago and since the moment I opened that beautiful box of possibilities, I’ve failed more times than I can count at seeing my vision for it come to life. I’ve told myself its because I’m always so tired. It’s because my thyroid meds were significantly off for nearly a year. It’s because I don’t have time. But these days, though I am still always tired, I do get a day off from my usual responsibilities every week, and I’ve started getting up at four a.m. so I have quiet time to write each day, and my thyroid meds have been back on track since June . . . so what is it?

To find the first piece of the puzzle, I had to stop looking at the lipstick and start looking at my home and my life. Something I did completely by accident, and if I’m being honest, I wish I could undo and push off for just a little longer.

I was getting Wilbur his breakfast from the little closet under the stairs where we keep his food. And for some reason that morning, I noticed Morris’ carrier on it’s side in the way back. (Morris was our sweet and salty cat who passed away in September.) Then, as my eyes traveled the floor of the little room back toward my own feet I saw that his remaining cat food is still in there along with Orion’s collar and leash. (Orion was our precious dog who passed away of old age in March.) Finally, I looked up to the shelf and, though my eyes have passed over them without seeing for years now, they were still just where I left them–tufts of my 17 year old, Why?lee dog’s undercoat I brushed the day we put him down and lengths of my beautiful horse–Tristan’s tail I cut moments after he died of colic. My mind took me straight from there to the deaths of my friends, Tammy, Brent, and Kerry, my beautiful cousin-Gena, then on to the baby Carl and I never got to meet. All these losses having occurred over just the past four years. I closed my eyes. I took a shallow breath . . .

Then, I poured Wilbur’s kibble into his bowl and did what I’ve been doing. I took my twins outside to play and when we got home, I made them lunch, cleaned up, put them down for a nap, and spent their nap time prepping dinner and cleaning. When they woke up, we got my Sunshine off the bus from school, had a snack, played, ate dinner, brushed teeth, read stories, and then I put them to bed. Once they were in bed, I cleaned some more, took stock of what was in the fridge for meals the next day, prepped the coffee, folded the towels, walked Wilbur again, fed him, brought in the horses, fed them, too, then went to bed. But I was up the next morning at 4am to write. It was still dark, the house was silent, and I tried to write about a shade of lipstick called “Memory” but the only memories I could think about were the ones piling up and collecting dust in that closet.

And that’s how it’s been every day since. Even though I don’t want to think about it any more now than I have at any point since I put all of those things in there. There hasn’t been time to fall apart so I’ve been holding it together but in that 4am stillness, I can’t ignore the call of that dark, sad, somehow both tiny and unimaginably large room under our stairs. Large enough to hold every moment I nearly broke, every tear I’ve held back, every minute I would have ached, hurt, sobbed, screamed, or shattered into a million pieces but didn’t because there wasn’t time.

So here I am, up at 4:30a.m. again, sitting on the couch in the beautiful glow of our Christmas tree, staring at a closed closet door that I’d rather just burn down than ever look in again. But, since burning down a closet that happens to be under your stairs in the center of your home is not recommended, I’m going to have to tackle it’s contents another way. And, while I’m at it, I’m going to have to accept that my heart needs to pick these things up, so I can set them down properly. My soul needs to experience and write this first. Then we’ll see about the letters. Right now, I’m just love and grief inside. It’s too heavy and there’s no room for a new project, no matter how exciting and worthwhile it may be.

I don’t know how this is going to go or how long it will take so I’m not setting any expectations. I just know that when it’s all done, I want the closet to be clean and the things I’ve chosen to keep to be in the light. A dark, dirty closet is no place to hold any part of the most treasured loves of my life.

So, if you want to come along with me while I thoroughly clean out the near-literal “skeletons in my closet,” come along. Maybe you’re holding onto to something you want to let go of, too. Maybe you’re like me and even though you’re about to start, you have no idea how to actually do it and the prospect of facing these memories is terrifying. Maybe we’ll figure it out together.

The Lipstick Letters

it has something to do with how my thoughts go from
pouring to spilling
when I’ve had too much wine–
spreading across the page
and leaving a stain
no matter how I try to clean them up later.

It’s about the tangle of worries in my head
thorns that grab at my arms and legs
painfully holding me back
slowing me down . . .

It’s about realizing the tangles are all just me
the thorns are my own thoughts
so why can’t I just free myself?

It’s about how nothing helpful ever follows the phrase
“why can’t you just?”

It has something to do with wearing these words on my lips
and glossing over their lack in my life

My life is lacking something
I’m going to go get
as soon as I figure out what it is . . .

It’s about having to start here
among the thorns
when I thought I’d already have made it
to the mountaintop.



Lucky Peak, Indeed (A repost per my mama’s request!)

This happened six years ago today! And remains one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. When the chips are well and truly down, that’s when you find out what you (and your dog) are capable of! Anyway, my mama was talking about this with my aunt the other day and asked if I’d written about it (which, of course, I had). So here it is, enjoy!

This past Sunday, I decided to go kayaking at Lucky Peak Reservoir and since no one wanted to go with me, my ever faithful Why?lee was conscripted into service as first mate.  As always, I checked the weather on my phone several times prior to putting in and it was supposed to be 88 degrees with partial clouds, then a storm at 9pm. Others must have seen the same report I did, because there were lots of people still putting their (motor) boats in when I arrived.  There were clouds, and it rained for a moment, but the sun was shining brightly and it looked to be a lovely afternoon.

Here is a photo taken right when we pulled up on a little beach about 200 yards or so from Turner Gulch:

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But, as promising as things looked when I first arrived, the clouds behind me were darkening up fairly quickly and after only five minutes on the beach, I made the decision to pack up and paddle back before things got worse.  I screwed the cap back on my coke, rolled up my chips and put them into the back hatch of my kayak.  Then I turned to get my life-jacket (which I had been sitting on) and my dog (whom I had been sitting with).  While my dog was still there, my life jacket had blown away.  Not good.

I found it hung up in some sage brush and trekked after it only to turn around when I felt a strong gust of wind and see my kayak (which was half in the water, half out) blown completely out of the water and dropped onto the beach.  Now, my little kayak is only about 10’6″ inches long but it still weighs in at a solid 45 lbs.  Not good.

I took a moment to put the life jacket on and tighten the straps while thinking over my options.  Obviously, the weather app on my phone LIED to me and the question became, do I make a break for the dock where I put in or do I try and wait it out?  Had it been earlier in the day, had I not known it was going to be worse in another hour, and had I not really, really thought I could make it, I might have tried to wait it out.  But as things stood, it seemed to me I had a good chance to make the boat ramps before things got out of hand, so I went for it.

I put in and paddled about ten yards off the shore before another gust of wind literally blew me all the way back to the beach.  I gave it a moment, the wind died down and we struck out yet again.  This time, I made it much further before another gust came through and spun the boat in a couple of 360’s all while continuing to push us back toward the shore we’d just left.  I tried to stop the spinning using my paddle and the wind tried to rip it out of my hands.  Water was coming in over the front of the boat, it started raining again, only this time the stinging your face kind of rain, and in the midst of that terrifying chaos I went into survival mode.

Everyone was trying to get off the water asap, yet another indicator to me that I was not the only one caught off-guard by the sudden arrival of gale-force winds.  I no longer expected to be able to paddle all the way back to the dock, instead, my plan morphed into getting the attention of one of the motor boats passing me and hitch a ride for Why?lee and myself.  I was confident that if we could just keep from tipping, and flag someone down, we’d be fine.

However, after three boats passed us by as I frantically waved my arms and paddle in the air while screaming “HELP!” my confidence in my plan began to slip.  The wind wasn’t letting up, my kayak had three inches of water in the bottom just from waves breaking over the front and we were as far away from the shore we left as we were from the shore we needed.  A wonderful calm came over me, I stopped feeling tired, cold and scared and resumed paddling for our lives.

I felt like a paper doll in a paper boat trying to paddle in a storm drain.  I could feel my incredible, amazing, wonderful Why?lee (who was sitting between my knees, facing forward into the wind and completely unable to lay down due to lack of space) shifting his weight to prevent us from tipping.  Every time a gust hit, he would lower his head over the bow of the kayak and brace himself.  I am confident that had I had Orion with me instead of Why?lee, we would have been in the water, boat and paddle gone, swimming for our lives.

When I was nearly halfway there, I saw a boat coming back in my direction from the boat ramps and thought it was coming for me, but as he got closer, he wasn’t slowing down so I screamed “HELP!” and waved my arms.  He cut the boat engine, lifted the hood of his poncho and looked around.  When he saw me, I yelled, “Can you help me?”  And he yelled back that he was going out to get the rest of his family, but promised he would come for us after he picked them up.

This was both wonderful and awful news, but it gave me hope and as he pulled away, I went right back to paddle, paddle, lean in and wait it out, paddle, paddle, lean in and wait it out.  After what seemed like an hour, but was probably closer to seven or eight minutes, I heard something behind me, and when I turned to look, the boat was back, now with three men and two women on board.  One of the guys smiled at me and said, “Ready for a break?”

Sweeter words were never spoken.

They  hauled me into their boat, which had pretty tall sides and no easy way in from the water, then they looked at Why?lee and said, “Um, we can just tow him and the boat the rest of the way.”   I could appreciate their fear, Why?lee looks like a wolf and they didn’t know him, but no, no we can’t do that I thought, my dog is with me, he didn’t have a life jacket and I was no longer in the boat to hold him tight with my knees and make sure he didn’t fall out.

All of this ran through my mind in a matter of seconds as I grabbed one of the rope handles on the lip of the boat and leaned down, gripping his harness with only my right hand and hauling him into the boat by myself.  Looking back, adrenaline is a powerful thing because I cannot imagine how I lifted all 85 or so pounds (more than half my own body weight) of dog roughly four feet with one arm while leaning over the side of a boat.  But there you have it.

So Why?lee and I sat on the floor while our rescuers held the kayak on the side and we motored the rest of the way to the dock.  I hopped out, they helped me haul Why?lee out and then set my kayak on the dock.  I ran it up to the end, right where the pavement begins and just headed for my truck before remembering my keys were still in the kayak.  When I turned to go get them, Why?lee just sat down and looked at me with his ears laid back and an “OH HELL NO” expression on his face.  I laughed, a little hysterically, and drug him back to get the keys.  I am fairly certain it will take an act of God to get him in a kayak ever again.

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Here is a photo I snapped just before we got in the truck:

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After taking a minute to chill out, I pulled down to the boat ramp and before I could even get out, my rescuers were loading up the kayak for me.  Yet another blessing, as my arms were still trembling and generally useless.  Once I had it tied down I started to head home but quickly pulled over, shaky and just not focused enough to feel safe driving.  I got out, grabbed my coke and chips out of the boat, got back in and took this photo of the water we’d just been on (Note: Why?lee would not look at me for the photo, even though I offered him a honey BBQ Frito):
Then I saw I had a text.  It was from my dad and said, “Get home now.  It’s too scary out.”

I text him back, “You have no idea . . .”

Why?lee wasn’t speaking to or looking at me all the way home.  We were both in a bit of shock, I think.  But once we were home safe, I made him a very special dinner which included an entire can of tuna fish.  He earned it and I’m not above bribing my dog for his forgiveness.  : )

I also included each one of my rescuers in my prayers because no one has to stop.  No one has to do anything, but some people do and because they did, I never had to find out if I was strong enough to make that last hundred yards on my own.

The storm raged all night with gusting winds, lightning and thunder.  And after my hot shower, I went to bed glad I had decided to go for it and wasn’t still huddled on the beach with Why?lee praying for the storm to pass.

When I woke up the next day, I was covered in bruises and felt like I’d drank a fifth of vodka by myself and been hit by a Mack truck.  But I was also safe in my warm bed next to my also safe Why?lee bear, listening to my coffee make itself, and feeling pretty good about being alive.

So I suppose Lucky Peak Reservoir can still be considered lucky, indeed.  : )

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Where to Begin?

There’s so much of the past three years I want to write and I plan to write it all but where to begin?

It started with losing Tammy–a person who helped me become the woman I am, who always saw the best in me and let me know it. She was much too young, it was so unexpected, and before I could catch my breath, I was faced with the decision to put down my dog, Why?lee. Why?lee was seventeen at the time and we’d spent fifteen of those years together. It was brutal, but at his age, I knew it was coming. Three months later, my horse Tristan had to be put down suddenly. He was twenty eight and we’d spent eighteen of those years together. Despite his age, I was unprepared and completely wrecked.

Two months after that, I had a miscarriage, and in another two months I was pregnant with twins, our cars broke down at the same time, my pregnancy was a nightmare of violent illness every single day for seven months. I got so dehydrated from vomiting, I had to go to the ER for an IV.

Then we lost Kerry–one of the best humans I’ll ever meet. I wasn’t actually related to him, but he was soul-family to me and he will always be one of my highest role models. And then we lost Brent, a good man and a good friend, for devastating and unfathomable reasons I still can’t wrap my heart around.

The past three years I’ve felt like I’m always just one half-step away from a complete breakdown. It’s too much. Too much loss, too much sadness, too much worry. I am unimaginably grateful for my friends and my family, my amazing neighbors who just keep showing up even though I struggle to reciprocate, for this beautiful place where I get to watch my three, precious babies experience so much joy and wonder. Because it’s been some of the hardest living I’ve ever had to do.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that I was not, in fact, a half step away from a complete breakdown. I fell right over that edge and did have a breakdown. A breakdown doesn’t necessarily mean a complete inability to function. For me it looked like a lot of cancelled plans, a lot of not responding, not sleeping, not brushing my teeth, not taking enough showers. I stopped trying to process my grief. I stopped making plans and trying to connect. I stopped reading. I stopped riding. I stopped everything. I’d forget my thyroid medication, forget to eat, forget to respond to texts. My whole life became one minute to the next, one foot in front of the other, one absolutely necessary task at a time.

And now I’m here, having drifted so far only to come right back to the same realization that I had in the midst of my cancer treatment–this is my life and time presses on whether I’m truly living it or not. I have lost so many but there are so many who are still here. I am still here. And for what? . . . if all I do with my time is shuffle one minute to the next? I need to write out this dark chapter so I can finally close it.

So I’m straightening my shoulders and picking up the reins (and my pen ; ), even though I haven’t quite decided where I’m going yet. I know I’m ready to leave here. I’ve turned a corner and whatever comes next, I’m meeting it head on . . . in clean clothes . . . with my teeth brushed . . . and my lipstick on.

What do you do . . .

when instead of the one baby you thought you were having, you find out you’re having two?

I can’t answer for you or anyone else, I’m sure the range of emotions is wide and deep on this one, but I can answer for myself because this is exactly what happened to my husband and I at our ultrasound appointment this past Thursday.

My first thought was that it explained a lot.  Like why I’ve been showing so much more than I did with my first and why I’ve been so much sicker this time around. Then I sort of floated in some strange space where nothing matters until we got to the car.  That’s when the tears started.  I hadn’t planned on having three children.  We were going to stop at two.  One for each hand has always been what I thought I could handle best.  How can I hold two newborns, feed two newborns, and still keep up with my sweet, wild Sunshine who will be about three when they arrive?

*A quick note for anyone who’s thinking I’m unhappy about twins; that simply isn’t true.  These babies are mine and I already love them fiercely.  This is not a story about wishing children away.  This is a story about changing expectations, shifting realities, and how life has a funny way of keeping us on our toes.*

While still sobbing and imagining a terrible six months where I never left my house and my poor toddler was stuck inside being miserable with me, I went to Google on my phone and typed “twin baby gear” in the search field.

Now, this might shock you as much as it shocked me, but apparently people have been having twins/multiples for literally thousands of years and ummmm, they’ve actually already come up with some pretty great ways to cope with the additional workload.  ; )

I mopped up  my eyes, blew my nose into a napkin from the glove box, and started telling Carl about everything I was finding.  Turns out, this is going to be really hard, but people do it all the time and we’re going to be just fine.  Not to mention, the minute we broke the news to our families, offers of help in all forms and fashions came pouring in which has done wonders for a good portion of my anxiety.

That was a few days ago and the news has continued to sink in slowly but steadily.  I can already feel them move and watching them move together on the ultrasound screen was absolutely surreal.  I’m going to be a mother to three beautiful children and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.  Part of which, means taking care of myself.

Like right now for instance, while the love of my life takes our sweet Sunshine to run errands at Lowe’s and the Co-op.  The minute the door closed behind them, I flipped on my new diffuser, cut the elastic waistband out of my pajama pants, and mixed up and applied my clay mask.  There’s going to be lots of time to plan, and worry, and read, and worry, for now I think I’ll go have a bath.  : )mask

Things to Do and Be

I was inspired by a particularly brave thirty-something whom I dearly love and deeply admire to write a list of things I want to do and be but am afraid to try or there are obstacles in the way that seem insurmountable.

  1. Grow and tend my own herbs and vegetables.  (We bought seeds yesterday!)
  2. Have a regular yoga/mediation practice.
  3. Leave the country for a family vacation.
  4. Take some of the incredible love my sweet Sunshine has brought us and reinvest it in our marriage in new ways that better fit who and where we are in life now.
  5. Learn to swing and ballroom dance.
  6. Ride Daisy (and not just in the paddock or round pen).
  7. Become an active member of this lovely town and community.
  8. Publish

There they are.  Eight things I badly want to do and be.

I am afraid I will fail.

Actually, I’m pretty confident I will fail.  And just as confident that I can dust off and try again.  I’ve failed before; I know the drill.  After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  : )

What are you afraid to try?  What do you want that, in this moment, seems impossible?  And what are you going to do about it?

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The Cancer Files

Some of you may remember this series from when I was actually going through treatment back in 2011 and 2012.  For those of you who don’t, spoiler alert, I’ve been cancer free going on five years now!  That said, I’ve been rereading my old posts and noting how incomplete they are.  So as practice for writing and to give my story the complexity it deserves, I’m going back to the beginning, to tell it again.

. . .

When I went to my appointment that sunny, spring day in 2011, I told my husband not to come.  He offered, but there was only a two percent or so chance that the nodule found on my thyroid was cancerous; we were not concerned.  I met with the physician’s assistant who was all smiles and he repeated what my primary care doctor had already said as he pulled up the results of the imaging I’d had the previous week;  Roughly fifty percent of women get thyroid nodules and of that fifty percent, ninety eight percent or so are benign.  Then he looked at his computer screen and was quiet a moment before turning to face me and saying,

“I am as sure as I can be without a biopsy that you have thyroid cancer.”

I will remember those words forever because they were the end of everything and the beginning of everything else.

I sat unseeing, unfeeling, and certainly not hearing while he talked a bit more, felt my neck, then had me go sit in another waiting area until the scheduler was available.  She handed me a blue folder filled with information about thyroid cancer and the surgery I would need.  In blue ink, she hand wrote my surgery date (set for three weeks later) in the upper, right-hand corner, smiled and sent me on my way.

Outside, in the parking lot, I sat staring at nothing and wondering what to say to my family.

In the end, I called my husband, told him, then let him know I couldn’t come home right away.  I needed to be alone, to think, to not be touched, to not be looked at with sad eyes.  He offered to tell my parents for me and I let him; I didn’t think I could.

In hindsight, I find it funny that I took myself to the mall.  I’ve never really liked the mall, particularly after working there, but in that moment, being around lots of people but not having to look at or talk to any of them was exactly what I needed.

To be continued . . .

 

A List is all I have in Me

  1. The last time I felt this tired, it was due to a life-threatening, medical condition.  Motherhood and loving horses are not for the faint of heart!
  2. Nothing went as I planned when I planned this trip.  I thought it would be too long, and yet I find myself scrambling.
  3. I am so afraid for my horses–moving like jellyfish in the ocean of my life, at the mercy of currents they cannot control.
  4. Tris put his two front feet in the trailer of his own accord for the first time in the fifteen years I’ve known him and I cried.
  5. The first time my sweet Sunshine rode a horse, it was in the same driveway where I first rode a horse when I was three years old.  Best of all, my dad was there to watch and help, just as he watched and helped me nearly thirty years ago.  Tristan was every bit as good to her as Missy was to a very little me.  : )
  6. I am looking forward to a long, dark, quiet winter full of coffee, momming, writing, coffee, knitting, horses, coffee, dogs, and more snowy, northeast adventures.
  7. I have so much more to write it’s silly, but not one more millimeter of head or heart space to give to words until my horses are safely on the other side of their incredible journey.  Please keep them in your thoughts, by early October we should all be safely together again where we belong.  : )

Flying with a Newborn: A Comprehensive List : )

I don’t know about all new moms, so I’ll just speak for myself, but the day my little girl was born is the day I became a high-functioning agoraphobic.  I will never forget standing up from the wheelchair after handing her up to Carl and watching him buckle her into her car seat, then clip the car seat into its base.  She looked so incredibly small and fragile and I couldn’t stand to let her out of my sight, so I sat in the backseat where I could monitor every sound and breath.

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Then, when we arrived home and got her settled into the house, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking “Excellent!  Now let’s never leave here again.”

Buuuuut apparently, life happens and, at some point, for instance two days later, you’ll at least have to go to a doc appointment.  I was a wreck when we had to venture out that second time, even worse than coming home from the hospital.  I criticized every little thing about my husband’s driving: he was going too fast, he surely couldn’t see the car braking in front of us, he was turning too sharply, etc.  I sat next to her in the back and tucked two fingers under her harness so I could feel her breathe.  I didn’t even recognize myself.  I’ve never felt so intensely worried at a time when absolutely nothing was going wrong in my entire life.

Which is why I’m not even sure what made me think I could do it (looking back, I don’t think I thought it through at all, to be honest) but when our girl was born nearly two weeks late, we had only about two weeks together as a brand new family, complete with lots of visits and interruptions, before my husband had to take off for the east coast and start his new career.  The week before he started his new job, we realized we simply had not had enough time just being together, the three of us.  So we bought a plane ticket for the baby and I to follow him a week after left.

I didn’t really start to panic until a few days before we were scheduled to fly.  But, just as it was hitting me like a ton of bricks, I got a phone call.  It was my Identical Cousin offering to fly from where she was on business to Idaho for the sole purpose of accompanying the baby and I on our cross country trek.  This brings me to the first item on my list of things to bring if you’re crazy enough to fly with a newborn.

  1. A Good Friend

    Now, it’s important that you don’t bring just any good friend.  Make sure you bring a friend who will provide more than a pair of helpful hands, good conversation, and support for whatever random situations arise.  I recommend bringing a friend who can take a screaming infant in stride, find humor in just about any scenario,  and not only won’t judge you for wanting a beer before you board, but will also order it, pay for it, and squeeze the lime for you because your hands are full.  Bring a friend who orders you food even though when they asked if you were hungry, the baby was crying and you were heading for a  bathroom and said you were fine.  Bring a friend who doesn’t care when/where you need to breastfeed (if you’re breastfeeding) and who has creative ideas to help avert disaster.  Bring a friend who’s in it for the long haul and doesn’t get cranky even after seven hours in the air and a four hour delay resulting in an arrival time of 4a.m.  And finally, bring a friend who can take a potentially terrifying, stressful, physically demanding, insane journey and turn it into a fun, hilarious, adventure full of great memories, pictures, and lessons learned.  I’m lucky to have someone who not only fits the above description to a T, she also volunteered.  : )
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  2. Car Seat/Stroller

    Both of these items can be checked at the gate if you plan to use them before boarding or during your layover (you’ll want to specify at the gate if you want them for your layover or they won’t be available until you reach your final destination.  I didn’t bring a stroller and had no regrets because our baby is so small, she’s relatively easy to lug around and it didn’t seem worth the trouble for me.  The car seat, on the other hand, is essential because you will need it to take your baby wherever you want to go after the airport.  In our case, my husband bought a separate base for his car so I just brought the car seat itself.  We gate checked it on the way over, but if you have no reason to use it in between, I recommend checking it with your baggage.  It doesn’t count as one of your bags and this way you don’t have to carry it any further than is absolutely necessary–they’re heavy!

  3. The Diaper Bag (back pack style is my preference)

    I brought all the little things I always keep in there (i.e. diapers, wipes, diaper cream, thermometer, snot sucker, muslin baby blanket, burp cloth, gas relief drops, emery board extra baby clothes, a few mini garbage bags, lanolin (for me! ; ), and a little, fold up mat for changing her on random surfaces.  My diaper bag came with one, but if yours didn’t, no worries, a little blanket will do or they even sell little mats that will absorb but not leak.

  4. Baby Carrier

    This is the reason I prefer the back pack style diaper bag for traveling. I wore the baby on my front in her carrier and the diaper bag on my back.  This way, I had my hands free in between flights, I could wear her into the restroom when necessary (when I flew alone), and she sleeps like a dream every time I put her in it.

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  5. Changes of Clothing for Yourself

    I don’t know about you, but after experiencing one, simultaneous vomit and blowout, situation, both of which ending up all over me, I now bring a change of clothes with me EVERYWHERE.  For this trip, we put our lightest shirts and yoga pants so they would take up minimal space in the diaper bag and be as lightweight as possible.  If you are nursing, you’ll want to include an extra nursing bra as well.  I picked a padded, nighttime for my extra so I could just roll it up and stuff it in.  : )

  6. Diaper Packs

    The diaper packs were my cousin’s genius invention!  They consist of one, mini garbage bag with a small ziplock bag containing 5 wipes, one diaper, and one large ziplock bag.  We made up five and set them on top of everything else in the diaper bag so if my daughter had a situation on the plane, I could just grab a diaper pack and head to the bathroom without having to dig around.  Also, once there, I could change her, put everything dirty in the garbage bag and toss it, but save her outfit in the large ziplock to seal in smell and wash when we got home.  The packs are not only great for airplanes, they’re great for roadtrips, hikes, and any other situation where you may not have immediate access to facilities. For the return trip, I added two, head to toe, baby cleansing cloths so that if she did throw up on me/herself, I could wipe us down before putting on clean clothes.

  7. Food

    On the way over, I had my cousin and she made sure that I was able to eat by grabbing us both food during our layover.  On the way back, I was alone but knowing it would be an all day trip and my newborn may not want to stand in line, wait for me to order, then cooperate while I ate, I decided to pack my lunch for the return flight.  My personal opinion here is to spoil yourself.  I packed a BLT that was LOADED with thick cut bacon because bacon makes me happy no matter what else is going on in my life.  I also packed a banana, goldfish crackers, a couple granola bars, a little bag of fresh blueberries, and a chocolate bar.  Make sure it’s something of substance, not just junk, you’ll need all your energy!  One other note about food, I packed it in the front of my diaper bag for easy access, but taking it one step further, when I boarded, I actually got my food out and put it in the seat back in front of me where I could reach it without disturbing my baby if she was sleeping and I could get it/open it/consume it using only one hand.  : )

  8. Boppy Pillow/Regular Pillow

    I know this seems like an annoying to carry around, useless addition.  I wasn’t planning on bringing it, but my cousin suggested that I go ahead and since she was going to be with me, I figured no harm as she could carry it.  That said, I ended up bringing it with me on the return flight as well despite being on my own because it was totally worth carrying it around!  About thirty minutes into the flight, my arms would have fallen off if I hadn’t had that pillow to lay her in/on in such a way that she could sleep comfortably without me having to hold her up.  I also used it to change her in our seat (do NOT use the tray table to change your baby, people eat off those!!!!) and I used it to safely lay her in the seat next to me when it was time to deplane so I could gather up my stuff before returning her to the carrier.  SO HANDY!
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  9. Odds and Ends

    I haven’t found gas relief drops very useful when I tried them in the heat of a gas related scream-fest.  However, when I gave our daughter a small dose after each feeding on the day we flew, I found that she had no gas trouble AT ALL.

    In order to stay hydrated but avoid having to pee while in the air, I drank as much water as I could the day of my flight but stopped liquids altogether about two hours before take off.  Then, during the flight, I got water from the flight attendants when they came around. It worked for me, I didn’t get dehydrated, but I also didn’t have to use the restroom during our 5 hour flight.  It wouldn’t have been impossible while flying alone, I’ve worn my baby in the restroom before, but the dimensions of an airplane bathroom were just not something I wanted to deal with.  ; )

    There are nurseries in airports where you can feed your baby, but they do not include a restroom.  There are handicap/family restrooms that have a large counter top-like surface with a safety bar where you can change your baby but they have nowhere to sit, other than the toilet for nursing.  And then there’s always the regular restroom, but I avoided it like the plague.  : )

    I bought a few books on my phone to stay entertained when flying by myself.  With my cousin, it was much more fun because I had someone to talk to the whole way.  : )

    We were not at all prepared, but when checking in for our very first flight, they required age verification.  We didn’t think we would need to prove that she was under two years of age because, well, at less than four weeks, we thought it was rather obvious.  However, they did, in fact, require us to provide proof of her birth date.  Thankfully, Southwest was flexible and allowed us to show them a screen shot of her online medical records showing her birth date.  So it might be a good idea to either bring a copy of your baby’s birth certificate or some other form of age verification.

  10. Take off and Landing

    I nursed as we took off and began to descend which seemed to eliminate any ear pressure issues (pacifiers/bottle feeding would serve the same purpose), but I only did that when she was awake.  Twice, we took off while she was sleeping and I let her sleep which did not seem to cause her any additional issues when she woke up.

  11. Upon Arrival

    For both trips, I asked that the people meeting me park and come in to help with juggling bags, car seats, etc.  Also, both trips, when we finally arrived, the baby was hungry and tired so I took her to the car and fed her while family grabbed our luggage.  Lastly, prepare for a a few days to a couple weeks worth of fussy, out of sorts baby if you have a full day of flying and change time zones.  Our sweet girl, who is such a happy little thing, had a terrible few days of crying, trouble sleeping, fussy eating, etc when we arrived.
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Just remember it’s a grand adventure!  And if things go awry, take a good look around and you’ll see that most people aren’t angry that your baby is crying or that you take a bit longer to get settled in your seat, etc.  Most people have either been there or know and love someone else who has and what they’re really thinking is that they remember those days or that you’re a rock star for hanging onto your sanity through this wild trip.  You’ll be amazed at how many people offer a helping hand or kind look as go about your business.  So have fun and make great memories to share with your own sweet one when they grow up.  : )
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