Dani-Mae’s first plane ride was when she was only a couple weeks old. We flew from Fort McPherson to Inuvik on a tiny charter plane with her Jijuu Shirley Mae. It was on this flight I learned how much Dani-Mae relies on me for comfort and to keep her emotions calm; basically, how I deal with a big stressful situation is how she will learn to deal with them too. Her next flight was at one-month old, when she flew with her dad and I to Edmonton, Alberta to go Black Friday shopping for her first Christmas. We also drove through Calgary and to Lethbridge for her to meet her Auntie Sarah and cousin Levi. At three-months old, we jumped on a flight to Whitehorse, Yukon, where we picked up our new vehicle and then made the 12-hour drive all the way back home.
When she was four-months old, we traveled from our home in Fort McPherson to Gatineau, Quebec for AWBEN. This is where my girl was surrounded and loved up by about a hundred Indigenous women from all walks of life. The room was filled with inspiration, many big laughs, lots of love, and above all else – the strength, beauty and resiliency that only Indigenous women carry.
From there, we visited family in Alberta and Fort Smith, Northwest Territories for a few days, before we returned home to the North. At 6 months old, Dani-Mae and I flew to Edmonton to attend an Education Symposium. My mom is the principal of our school, so she was apart of this journey with us. During the symposium, Dani-Mae and I sat on a panel where we presented and answered questions about the Ganahghootr’onatan school camp that was to come that summer. Throughout the spring and summer, Dani-Mae and I traveled to several other places like Old Crow, Whitehorse, Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon and Kamloops.
When she was 11 months old, Dani-Mae, my cousin Rayna and I traveled to all the way over to Norway for advisory meetings with the Arctic Indigenous Fund. The flight over was a seven hour red eye. I remember planning it all out in my head; I was going to keep her up for as long as I possibly could prior to the flight so that she could sleep most of the way over. It all went as planned, she was up for too many hours and she was so tired that once we got onto the plane she fell asleep even before take off. Once we had reached the altitude where it was safe to remove seatbelts and start cabin service, the lights turned on. As soon as the lights turned on, Dani-Mae’s eyes shot open and she was WIDE AWAKE. What was supposed to be a long, overnight sleep for the seven hour flight, quickly turned into a power nap that completely reenergized her. So for the next seven hours, she screamed her head off almost the entire flight. I later realized that this was from teething and the pressure must have been worsening her pain.
This experience was a lesson learned that everything will not always go as planned, and it taught me to be prepared for the very opposite of what I expect to happen. Thank Creator that I had my cousin Rayna with me, she helped by taking Dani-Mae when I needed a break, carrying our bags, and basically keeping me sane while dealing with a teething one-year-old. I would not have made it through those days of travel without her.
And that was just the flight over, there is still more to this story to be shared. We were in Norway for just over a week, where Dani-Mae was teething almost the entire time. I spent almost every night tending to her fever, trying to mend her agonizing pain and non-stop screaming. I had never heard her scream like that before. I was across the world with my teething baby who could not stop screaming, no matter what I did to try and help her… I had never felt so alone in my life. It was crazy. This experience changed me; I was stretched so thin, exhausted beyond comprehension and feelings of helplessness and self-blame clouded my mind. Mom guilt has to be one of the worst things that a mother could feel: it is so unrelenting, unreasonable and unforgiving. There is nothing that could have prepared me for that situation, but it taught me about my own strength and abilities as a mother, and I now realize that the pain of teething is a part of life and necessary to grow.
Most recently, we’ve traveled throughout the Beaufort Delta region and Iqaluit, Nunavut for my position as the Northern Engagement Coordinator with Canadian Roots Exchange. Packing for the North is a whole different game. When I’m packing for a trip North, I literally think like we are going to be stranded in the middle of no where with nothing but what I’ve packed. I would much rather over pack, carry around that extra weight, and pay the extra baggage fee, than be caught in a situation without something that we really need.
To sum it all up, Dani-Mae and I have had our ups and our downs while traveling, it’s always a wild ride with many crazy stories to tell. My daughter is my very best friend and I love making these new memories with her, watching as her mind expands with each new place, new person, new food, and new experience. What’s next for us? This summer we are heading to Ottawa and Niagara Falls to spend time with family and celebrate auntie’s graduation, and then we are road tripping to Newfoundland! I really want to show my baby as much of our country that I can, before she turns 2 in October. We are also heading to Greenland in the fall time for our second advisor meeting with AIF.
I would just like to take a hot minute to say thank you to those that we’ve traveled with, those that have welcomed us into their homes, those that have helped in any way (even something as small as lifting my bags into the overhead compartment), those who have held my baby while I used the washroom, those that have taken a second out of their day to make my baby laugh, and just to make her feel comfortable and loved.
And with that, I want to leave you with this list of tips & tricks for traveling with your baby (which were all basically accumulated from hard lessons learned and lots of trial & error):
- Always always always feed baby during landing and take off as this helps tons with the ear pressure and keeps baby calm.
- Board the plane last. The least amount of time that your baby spends on that plane, the better.
- Get lots of rest before traveling. It is no fun to travel with a baby who needs a lot of your time, energy and attention, while you are tired.
- Take a photo of your passport and ID’s. This is incase they get lost, an airline will most likely let you jump on the plane home if you at least have a photo of your ID. And be sure to keep the originals in a safe place. I keep our passports in a Ziploc bag inside a waterproof pocket to prevent loss and damage.
- Pack your suitcase & bath baby the night before. I was always trying to rush around and bath baby the morning of a travel day. But I realized that bathing her the night before was much easier, that way I only have to worry about myself the day of.
- The washroom situation can be tricky. The wrap helped a lot with this when she was a tiny baby. I will usually just hold off until I’m on the plane. Then I’ll ask a flight attendant to hold her while I use the washroom on the plane, this way she is with someone that you can somewhat trust and can’t be taken too far. Do not ever leave your baby alone or with a stranger.
- Don’t be shy to ask for help or to accept help. I am still working on this one, but I am learning that it’s okay to ask. You don’t need to take everything on all on your own, you’ll burn yourself out that way.
- With that being said, always be aware of what is going on around you. This is a crazy world that we live in.
These are the items on my Must Bring list:
- Books & Toys & Snacks. No explanation needed, just bring it.
- Baby wrap/carrier/strap. This has been a lifesaver for us on so many occasions. We have the boba wrap, I put this on as soon as we are ready to leave the house and head to the airport. When Dani-Mae was a newborn, I was able to put her in the wrap and have two free arms for carrying the carry on bags. A baby wrap is perfect for if you want to have a nap with baby, you don’t have to worry so much about baby falling out of your arms as it keeps them super snug and cozy.
- Stroller. This will help tons, especially once baby is too big and heavy for the baby wrap/carrier. Also great for hauling carry on bags.
- A water bottle. This is especially for us breastfeeding mommas, we need our water. A bottle of water in the airport is damn near $5 these days. But there are water fountains everywhere that you can refill your bottle with. Plus, it sucks to get caught at security with a big plastic bottle of water that has to be thrown away.
- Extra set of clothes for both you and baby. Accidents can and ABSOLUTELY WILL happen! I’ve been stuck with baby vomit down the front of my shirt for a 3-hour flight with no extra change of clothes. Not. Fun.
- Change pad. The change tables in airports or any public washroom are disgusting and not cleaned as often as they should be.
- Medicines. Tylenol, gravol, vitamins (at the very minimum) for both you and baby. Traveling with a sick baby is HARD, so be prepared with medicines for anything that could possibly come up. I also bring my essential oils for calming and to help with nausea.
- Blanket. Bring one that you don’t mind getting dirty by laying it on the floor for baby to play with while waiting in airports. You want to get baby moving as much as possible when you have the chance.
- Diaper bag. I would advise to get one with lots of compartments and pockets, for organizational purposes. It can be a challenge to try and find a bottle of Tylenol at the bottom of your diaper bag with a screaming baby on your lap while squeezed between two people in your tiny seat on the plane.
Have fun! Yes, there are tons of things that are running through your mind about what could go wrong; being late, forgetting something important, etc. and sometimes things can become overwhelming but it’s important that to remember that you have little eyes watching you and looking up to you, stay calm and handle each situation as it comes. Try not to worry, that will just cause you to suffer twice.
Last but not least, remember to take care of yourself too. Like I always tell Dani-Mae, “Momma needs to take care of herself, so that she can take care of you.”
– shayla snowshoe