The trip to the US started out well. Not all travel starts out well. I remember one move where the Super Shuttle showed up to our townhouse while I was still packing suitcases or another trip where Edwin almost passed out in the elevator that took us up to the gate for our first flight of the day. So I was grateful to have our travel begin smoothly.
I had packed up bags early, everyone was in good health, and we were all happy to get on that plane to the land of good medical care. Past medevacs have left me and Brandon distressed about a month and half of separation. I still hate being separated from Brandon and he can't stand being alone in a big, empty house, but this time we were both willing to take separation if it meant that I was near good medical care. This pregnancy has been more difficult than the previous six (probably just because I'm getting older), and the last thing I wanted was to have something go wrong while still in Uzbekistan.
We were able to check in all of our bags (carefully weighed to be exactly 20 kilos) plus two carseats and a stroller without any problems and made it through passport control using both sets of our diplomatic passports. The flight to Frankfurt was on a new Dreamliner with seat-back entertainment, which is not always guaranteed on Uzbek airways. Sure, the only kid's movie was Moana, but William was mostly happy to watch it on repeat four or five times. He got a little wiggly, and only slept when I had to be awake and woke up as soon as I fell asleep, but anyone who actually expects to get sleep on a flight with a two-year old next to them is delusional.
Our transfer in Frankfurt went smoothly after the police realized that I was not a passport smuggler. I can understand how finding fourteen passports in my carry-on luggage at a security check would probably be a reasonable cause for concern. As the police officers carefully matched up our diplomatic and tourist passports to make sure there weren't any extras, I decided that it probably wouldn't be helpful to offer them the seven other passports in my purse. When I told Brandon about our run-in with the police, he suggested I add passport smuggler to my resume.
The flight to Newark was also uneventful (although not restful either) right until we started descending. Then, of course, things started to go wrong. All travel, if sufficiently long enough, will always go wrong eventually. It's just a matter of time. Our descent was surprisingly bumpy for a clear day with scattered clouds, but it wasn't that long. It was long enough, however, to upset William's stomach that had spent the last eighteen hours being stuffed with incredible amounts of granola bars, fruit snacks, and cookies. Everything came back up all over his shirt, pants, and seat. Thankfully his blanket and me were spared.
As we were in the middle of landing, there wasn't much to do except to try and mop up the mess with some blankets, mentally apologize to the flight attendants who were going to discover it later, and strip William down. Thankfully we had packed extra clothes in case our bags got lost, and I was able to change him. Thus far I've avoided ever having to clean up a vomit-soaked child on an airplane, so I guess I should count myself lucky that it hasn't happened up to now.
As part of my careful preparations for this trip, I had loaded everyone's passports into the Mobile Passport app so that when we hit passport control I could skip the line and get through quickly. But I couldn't get my phone to connect to the Wifi, so all my cleverness was to no avail. So I cheated and went through the diplomatic line. Those black passports have to be good for something sometimes.
Miraculously, all our suitcases showed up, but none of the strollers. I have noticed that Americans are terrible about helping out other people, or at least people with children, and this time was no exception. The only person who made an attempt to help me lift our 45-pound suitcases off the luggage belt was a woman with crutches. Everyone else just tried to pretend they didn't see the obviously pregnant woman lifting suitcase after suitcase onto the luggage cart.
The United employee who re-tagged our bags (they were only checked to Newark, so we had to get tags to Raleigh), also sat and watched as I hauled each of the six bags on to the scale, off the scale, and back onto the luggage cart. I'm not sure what you have to do to qualify for help, but evidently being enormously pregnant and traveling solo withs six children isn't enough.
By the time we had done the passport-luggage-recheck shuffle, we had used up a significant portion of our three-hour layover and had to hustle to make it through the terminal transfer-security dance. Getting seven people with six backpacks, four kindles, two laptops, an iPad, a carry-on bag, and a purse through security is a major effort. We had already done it twice in our travels, but I couldn't quite believe when we were asked to take out snacks from every single one of those six backpacks. I have a personal grudge against terrorists because of all the security nightmare we have to go through.
Our very last step was to make it to our gate, which was the very last gate at the very end of the terminal. By this point William had made it to the inevitable meltdown stage of travel. One could hardly blame him as he had woken up twenty-five hours earlier and not gotten more than two and a half hours of sleep in that twenty-five hours. I had also been awake for the same amount of time with even less sleep, so my ability to empathize with him as he walked down the terminal past people giving me hostile stares as he screamed and cried about his tummy hurting was about zero. I was exhausted from traveling, making it through all the hoops, and being pregnant, so carrying a thirty-pound toddler through the airport (since our stroller had, of course, not made it) just wasn't going to happen.
We made it to the gate with fifteen minutes to spare, so I had time to sit and comfort him on my lap where he promptly fell asleep. I thought that maybe he might just stay asleep for the entire flight, but of course he woke up on the jetway just in time to throw up right as we boarded the plane. This time I had a bathroom to clean him up in, but no more clean clothes for him to wear. So I stripped his shirt off, left on the shorts as they weren't too bad, and sponged off his shoes. My parents told me later that our flight, which got delayed as we waited for the vomit to be cleaned up by the hazmat team, was listed as being delayed for medical reasons. It's always awesome to be that person.
My parents were blessedly, wonderfully, thankfully, waiting to receive us with open arms and enough vehicles to fit both us and our stuff. They dropped us off at our rental house, which my mother had wonderfully stocked with food, and we all got down to the business of settling in and getting over jet lag.
I have done two solo-with-all-six children trips before, so this trip was just upping the degree of difficulty somewhat. But what I haven't done on my own before is getting settled in to a new house entirely on my own. All of our past medevacs have been at my parents' house where two other adults have been around to help out, distract children, cook food, and all the other things that help settling in go a little more smoothly. This time I was on my own.
With a sick toddler. William decided he'd had enough vomiting and it was time for diarrhea. So I got to spend the next five or six nights getting up multiple times a night to go to the bathroom. Sometimes it was to take William to the bathroom, and other times it was to take me to the bathroom. They never happened at the same time.
Eventually I moved him out of my room in to the boys' room, and that set off a fresh wave of night-time wakings, some for bathroom trips and some because he didn't know where he was.
In the daytime I got to do all the things that come with settling in to a new house - buying groceries, unpacking, organizing, beating the children into unpacking their own clothes - and the things that come with traveling to the US for medical care - appointments, appointments and appointments.
It was during this week that I decided that I never want to be a single parent. Being the one who has to solve all the problems, break up all the fights, wipe away all the tears, listen to all the stories, enforce all the commands, clean up all the messes, cook all the food, organize all the cleaning, and do it while still being the stable emotional center for the family is hard.
By Friday night I was done with being all things to all people and so I took myself out to dinner. I left a pot of macaroni and cheese on the stove for the children, told them to eat dinner, clean the kitchen, and be in bed by 8:30, and then ran away for the night. I enjoyed having a dinner that I didn't cook, didn't clean up, and didn't have to feed to anyone else. I didn't talk to anyone but my server, and nobody interrupted me while I read a book. I finished dinner early, so I sat in the parking lot and read until it was safe to go home. When I got home all the lights were off, the kitchen was clean, and the children were asleep. It was a beautiful sight.
We have settled in and school starts tomorrow, so Normal Life, US Medevac edition will begin this week. I'm very glad that this past week has now been lived and does not ever have to be repeated. I'm grateful that the current sick child (Eleanor) can take her own self to the bathroom and wipe her own bum in the middle of the night. I'm looking forward to Brandon's arrival in thirty-two days (but who's counting). But most of all, I'm hoping that I can get a good night's sleep tonight. Fingers crossed.