I Never Had a Fear of Flying — Until I Had Kids

It used to be so easy for me to fly that I could fall into such a deep state of sleep, I’d wake up drooling on the kind yet disgusted stranger next to me. I’m now the one being drooled on, as I have a series of hidden panic attacks with every jiggle of the plane (and non-jiggles, because it means a big one is coming).

What changed? I had a baby.

Before arriving at the airport, I now take screenshots of statistics to assure me the metal death trap I drive in is much more dangerous than the one I fly in. But I have control over the car. I obsess over those screenshots until my conscious mind is convinced that flying is safe, statistically.

I’m cool in the airport, thankful to have survived security with a toddler throwing his tiny Crocs at LAX guards, eager to get some comfort food that will hopefully numb my senses on the plane, and am generally distracted by my curious son weaving through the legs of oncoming traffic.

We board the plane, and I brush aside the hint of claustrophobia by eyeing my statistics again and the tiny bottles of wine in the beverage cart. We strap in and pull out the coloring book, tablet thingy, snacks, water, juice, wine (nope, not yet), magazines, tiny cars, a fresh diaper (because of course babies wait to poop until you’re on the plane), and successfully clutter up our aisle before take off.

The creature is now awake and starting to ask questions as we begin our ascent:

“What’s that sound? Does the plane normally sound like that?”

“I think we just slowed down … Are we supposed to slow down during ascent?”

“Why is the wing shaking? Why did we choose seats over the wing? Isn’t it safer in the back? I wonder if there are any free seats in the back?”

“When do they start the beverage service?”

I then notice my family — my husband to my left, asleep and drooling, and my son to my right, drawing on the screen of my tablet with a crayon. How can they be so calm?

All is good until I see my son’s sweet face looking out upon the thousands of miles separating us from solid ground. That face is what started it all. When I think about something happening to this plane (which I have zero control over), and the now-thinkable unthinkable of falling to death with my precious baby in my lap, my heart stops, or at least starts to stutter.

I’m a white-knuckled, shrill-voiced, wine drinkin’ basket case on calm flights. Can you imagine when we go through persistent turbulence brought on by a storm, or temperamental air?

Because my family demands the ability to travel places by air, I’m forced to break my mid-flight promises on the regular. I’m certain the airplane gods are now pissed at me for breaking those promises and continuing to litter their airspace with my panic, so I now sedate myself with self-hypnosis, deep breathing, and whatever my doctor will give me.

It works … kind of. Not really. Are you crippled by the same crazy that I am? I’m sorry, and I hope you’re never subjected to sitting by me on an airplane.

Here’s hoping that if I have another baby, I’ll be so busy being outnumbered by small humans that I won’t have time to conjure endless plane crashing scenarios in my mind.

Happy flying! —By Bailey Gaddis

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