It’s 2:30am local time and my monkey of a baby has woken me up, legs a-kicking, ready for action. She fell asleep around 8pm and didn’t even stir until around 11pm, when I nursed her and put her back to bed. I suppose I shouldn’t complain – I’ve had an amazing run with her sleep-wise so far. We did just fly half way around the world, but waking in the wee hours to let her kick her legs and grin joyfully wasn’t what I had hoped for.
For the record, travelling for 30 hours with two kids is not ideal. The first 7-hour flight was fine. The 12-hour layover in Munich was long. But the final 11-hour leg was downright brutal. I was cranky. April was a disaster. Charlie was grumpy. And the stars did not align to make it as pleasant an experience possible.
When travelling with a small baby, do everything you can to get the bassinet. I called ahead to reserve one for each leg of the flight, but unfortunately on the section from Munich to Cape Town, they had already been booked. All two of them. While the plane is actually fitted out for at least another six, for some reason Lufthansa only provides two bassinets, regardless of how many babies there are on board.
While this might sound ludicrous, it gets worse. When I called and was told that they couldn’t reserve a bassinet for Charlie, I was assured on the phone that they would give us the next best seats.
Around 9:30pm Munich time, we finally boarded the plane. We were the first people on. I had mentioned to the woman at the gate that we hadn’t been assigned a bassinet and we really needed one.
She fiddled around with the computer for a few minutes. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything. They are booked. You should ask the flight crew on the plane.”
So as we arrived at the threshold of the airplane, I asked the crew.
“Let’s see where you’re seated,” said the flight attendant as she led us up the aisle toward our seats.
“Oh,” she said. “This really is not ideal.”
“What should we do?” I asked.
“We will have to wait until everyone is on the plane,” she told me in her German-tinged accent. “Then we will see if we can move you.”
So I ushered April into her assigned seat, dropping our bags on the floor and seat beside me. I sighed deeply and attempted to fight back tears.
Not only did we not have a bassinet, we didn’t have a bulkhead or even an aisle seat. So this overtired mother, travelling alone with two tykes under the age of four, would have to climb over my neighbour every time I needed anything – to change a diaper, to get a snack, to retrieve a toy or game.
At this point all of the other passengers began to board. Another unhappy family loitered in the aisle. They were a family of five with three children – the youngest about April’s age – and they had all been assigned separate seats.
I tried to remain calm while April fussed about wanting to watch Max and Ruby on my computer although I had already explained to her that the battery was empty and we simply couldn’t do anything about it until we arrived in South Africa.
The plane was fully boarded and still we were wedged in the middle seats. I asked two other flight attendants for help, but all they could say was that the plane was full and they would see what they could do. I felt myself beginning to lose my cool as I was told that we would just have to stay where we were until after take-off. The flight attendant then jammed our bags up into the overhead compartments and I took deep breaths with Charlie on my lap, April still whining beside me as the plane took to the air.
It took until about half an hour after take-off for the flight attendant to find us better seats. I do not fault her. I watched as she asked person after person to switch with us. But nobody wants to sit in the middle. Finally, two single travellers sitting at the bulkhead agreed to switch with us. I am immensely thankful to these people. But I am still taken aback by the disorganization of Lufthansa. They could have avoided inconveniencing all of us had they simply given us the bulkhead when I called the first time to book the bassinet. I thought Germans were supposed to be organized.
The rest of the flight was better, although sleeping with a sixteen-pound weight on one’s lap will leave a person with a very sore bottom. As we started our descent, I looked out over the rocky landscape, mountains cresting above sun-bleached fields, and tears welled in my eyes. I was coming home, and this time I would get to show it to my kids.
In the airport, April wanted to know where the swimming pool was. I think her concept of South Africa was somewhat like going to the zoo. South Africa is a place where she would get to swim and wear dresses every day. Fortunately, we did not disappoint her, as my cousin, Sue, has a swimming pool, and after running a few errands (including buying a car) we headed to Sue’s house.
A few more pics from our day: