One Family's Journey Back to the U.S.
Military life can be a whirlwind of experiences. Here at MBRN, we like to share parent's stories that show how this unique lifestyle is full of life changing events, and lessons learned. Everyone's experience is special, and sharing them brings us together in our military community.
It all began with orders. As it usually does for a military family. My little family of three was about to be shipped across the globe, from Okinawa to Florida. My husband and I had made the reverse trip three years previously with little problem, even with two dogs. Now, however, we had our 4 month old added into the mix.
During pregnancy, most women spend hours upon hours researching everything from diapers to car seats, colic to nutrition, but I included travel into my own. We knew when we would be leaving Japan even before we knew about my pregnancy, and we thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult. We were wrong! But also, we were right. Let me explain.
Babies, for the most part, are tiny, go with the flow humans, especially for the first 6 months of life. I took that into consideration when making my elaborate plans for PCSing with a baby. What I forgot is that I am not so go with the flow. I had rigid schedules for sleeping and eating that I thought would make things easier for my baby. I planned to teach her to sleep independently before our transpacific flight, with a noise machine, special pajamas, blackout curtains, anything I could find on the internet that told me it would help my baby be a star sleeper.
When the big day came, we loaded up the car and headed to the airport. I fretted over having to wake her early, and hoped that she would fall back asleep in her carrier. Of course, things did not go smoothly with our dogs, and my husband had to fix their kennels while I stood with all our luggage, two leashed dogs, and wearing a baby who almost automatically decided it was time to explode out of her diaper. The schedule I made for her said it was naptime, but instead we were in the bathroom taking a sink bath. Needless to say, we were one of the last ones on the plane.
Having never nursed in public before, doing so on a plane was not so bad, I discovered. She ate, took a quick nap, and was up in time for our first of three landings. A quick layover and we were back in the air, with a repeat of nurse and nap. Finally, I thought, back on schedule. And then, we landed in Yokota. And we stayed in Yokota for hours. I ended up having to ask a very shy airman working in the terminal if there was a place I could breastfeed in private. I was directed to a half enclosed (from the floor to bar height) room. So I sat on the floor and hoped no one would pop their head over the side!
Finally, we made it to the last leg of our flights for the day, from Japan to Seattle. I became increasingly nervous as I saw children running up and down the aisles, and hearing other babies cry. It was an 11 hour flight, and I thought this would be the end of our good sleeper, that her nights would forever be off schedule. I timed it to the minute of when bedtime would have been in Okinawa and what it would be in Florida, and when the time came, we set up her sleep fort. We took a blackout curtain and bungeed it to the seat back and the seat in front, with our carry-on bags at the foot of the chair. We set a portable mattress on top of the seat and luggage, and voila! A dark cave for baby, complete with sound machine.
My little darling slept for over 6 hours! I, of course, spent the entire time jumping at every sound and bump of the plane, worried she was going to wake. The cabin lights were turned on shortly after she had woken for her breakfast, and she was up until we landed in Seattle. Once we were set to exit the plane, I strapped her in her carrier, and we headed towards the next step in our PCS adventure…
To be continued!