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As you may have seen, we just flew our first couple of flights with our two month old. On the first flight the four of us were all seated together in a row of three with the baby as a very content sleeping lap infant. On the second flight, a regional jet this time, my five year old and I took the upgrade to “first class” (which really is a bit of a misnomer on a regional jet) in order to have slightly more room than row 21. This meant that we were seated away from my husband who didn’t get the upgrade, and as such when I was trying to put up our bags upon boarding I had to have my five year old help briefly with the baby since she I wasn’t wearing her (since she was having none of that at the moment).
My instructions to my older daughter as I put the baby in her lap were simply don’t let her fall. Anything else that could happen in the 10 seconds I needed help was probably survivable. However, in my rush I failed to remind her that she still had to support the baby’s neck, so the baby pretty much instantly started sinking with her neck flopped backwards. Passengers around us saw this happening while I was putting up the bag and several immediately offered to help and essentially started giving their parenting resumes to me as they offered. “I have four kids”, “I was a nanny”, “I am a Grandma”…. Well, I just handed my baby to a five year old who doesn’t understand neck control, so clearly 98% of the rest of the plane is probably more qualified to hold her for a few seconds!
In the end I had the baby back safely before I could take anyone up on their offer, but it was comforting to know that so many others were immediately willing to help in a pinch even though they didn’t know us and I didn’t know them. They may not have been thrilled to be seated next to a baby, but they didn’t let that show, and they didn’t hesitate to offer to help when they saw a need.
This event was fresh on my mind when I started seeing a story on social media of a new mom, Rebekka Garvison, who was flying solo with her four month old from Chicago to Atlanta to visit her husband who is in the Army. This four month old, Rylee, apparently was not happy on the 5:30AM flight, and not surprisingly given the hour, neither were many of the others on the plane who were listening to her cries. After interpreting the body language of the people she was originally seated next to, the mom spotted a pair of seats that were open and asked the flight attendant if she could move to those seats, which was permitted.
As luck would have it the woman in the window seat of that row was Nyfesha Miller, a woman who had raised several children of her own and has a soft heart for babies. Baby Rylee’s mom had tried the pacifier, toys, etc. and the baby just wouldn’t stop crying for her. However, Nyfesha asked if she could try, and Rylee immediately quieted and eventually fell asleep in her arms for the duration of the flight.
The photos that the mom shared of the “stranger” holding the sleeping baby on Facebook went viral, and the story went on to hit national media outlets like Good Morning America, Inside Edition, and more.
Who knows what was in the magic touch that Nyfesha had that morning, but just the fact that she was probably calm and was a fresh set of hands could have made the difference for the baby. As a now self-proclaimed veteran mom of fussy babies, I know the power of a fresh set of hands. That’s part of the beauty of traveling with a second person with an infant – there’s someone to trade off with if things aren’t going as well as you hoped.
When I first saw the photos from the flight earlier this week on some of my online “mom groups” before they hit national media, I thought the story was very sweet and heartwarming. Now that the story has made national news my feelings the new mom, the helpful stranger, and the baby have only gotten warmer as more details about them have come out, but I’m left a little perplexed by the attention the story has gotten.
Is it really national news that a woman offered to help hold a baby on a plane? I mean, I vastly prefer that sort of news to that of all-too-common violence and doom and gloom segments, but is it really so rare of an occurrence to help another traveler in need that when someone does have the heart to offer assistance that it gets shared on Facebook over 100,000 times and TV stations cover the event?
My hope is that it really isn’t that rare, but maybe the fact that this story had photos to go along with it made it more newsworthy. If news was regularly made up of stories like this I would probably have the TV on more, but I’m sad for our nation and our culture if offering to help a mom with an upset baby is such an isolated experience that it warrants so much coverage. That said, I am simultaneously thrilled with the coverage and hope it encourages more people to offer a helping hand to a traveling parent in need, especially when they are flying solo with their kid(s).
Not everyone will probably want someone they don’t know assisting with their children, but even just the offer to do something small like help put up luggage or pick up a fallen toy can make a big difference in someone’s day. If you aren’t able to do that, just a kind smile or nice words makes the world so much better than an audible sigh, eyeroll, or worse.
Babies can be tough to listen to when they are upset whether they are yours or not, but they are also pretty special. I 100% agree with Nyfesha who expressed that she felt honored to be able to hold the baby and assist.
Plane travel is unique in that for a moment in time you are in very close proximity 100+ people. Much closer proximity than for most of the rest of your day. These are people who you have never met before and probably will never meet again, but for that time you are essentially a part of each others lives. We often like to put on our headphones and stare at our devices and pretend the other people aren’t there, but they are. Every now and then look up and take notice. Maybe you will be lucky enough to have a chance to make a difference in someone else’s day.