I’ve deliberated internally as to whether to share this story or not for the past few months. But today I saw a post in my community forum about a couple who’s neighbour yelled at them overnight to “Shut their [newborn] baby up”. It brought back memories and feelings of my experience, so I’ve decided to share mine. This week is PANDA awareness week (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) from the 11th to the 17th of November… a time that we can (hopefully) all share, learn and grow together, to help people who experience Perinatal anxiety and also help the broader community understand it… so that we might be more tolerant, more compassionate, more one with each other (and each other’s little ones!).
I was on a long haul flight home with my partner and 18-month-old earlier this year. That sentence alone might either make you feel immediately anxious for me, or immediately annoyed at me for someone who would dare bring a child onto a long haul flight (enter “please don’t sit here” eyeball daggers). It’s pretty topical at the moment, long hauls and children… they’re not exactly ‘friends’ and there are stories a plenty from all sides of the experience. I thought we were doing pretty well. 14 hour flight. She slept for seven hours (high fives!), and was awake, and not-annoying, for six-and-a-half-hours. But there was 20 minutes. These are the 20 minutes every new parent knows. The crying. Nothing works. Not food, not entertainment, not cuddling, not screens, not stickers, not the special “wrapped present” you prepared just for this very moment because you read 10 articles with 10 tips on how to keep children quiet on long haul flights. Truth is the babies are feeling exactly how we are feeling about a long haul and just aren’t socialised to suppress it like we are as adults. Truth is these 20 minutes happen from time to time but usually in our own domain. In our homes, in our cars, in our shopping centres even – and we can usually deal. But on a long haul… you’re on show. You know there are literally 100 people wishing bubs would stop. None more so than you.
For me personally, I knew it was terrible timing. The 20 minutes crying came right in the middle of the night when the cabin is dark, all the food service is done, people have their eye-covers and blankets on – it’s the official down time. Not for my daughter. She didn’t get the memo on re-adjusting time zones mid flight, bless her natural sleep cycles. I was stressed but actually feeling like I was doing ok. I was so proud of her for the seven-hour sleep, for the event-free waking hours… I felt the people in the plane (my fellow countrymen and women returning home!) all had that 10% compassion, I figured they were all thinking “poor parents, bet they’re doing everything they can”. But then it came. From five rows back. Someone yelled at us. “Oh… COME ON!”
Are. You. Serious.
For a brief moment I had to check it actually happened. Were they yelling at us or having a reaction to a scene of Game of Thrones in flight entertainment, but alas, no screens were active. They yelled at me. My immediate reaction was to get up and turn around and give them PLENTY. But they were anonymous. Five (or six?) rows back… to the left, by the window? I couldn’t tell. I just turned around, and cried, and cried. A minute earlier I was at the edge but holding it together. Just. Then they broke me. My beautiful partner reinforced my strength and their cowardice, and the flight attendants couldn’t have been more comforting (asking my what I needed… not what my baby needed but what I needed, thank you).
People have the power. We all have the power. To break people or to support them. Every day. Keep an eye out, you’ll be surprised how often the decision is before you. How you choose to deal with it is the sum of your existence.
If you’ve been connected with me for a while you’ll know I’m naturally a positive, optimistic person – my posts are usually about lifestyle experiences, improvement and growth – less about venting, complaining or telling negative stories. Which is why I’d not told this one. But hearing the story today about a young couple who were yelled at, in their own apartment encouraged me to tell this story.
Check out PANDA and share some of the great initiatives such as the Mental Health Checklists for Expecting and New Mums and Dads. I’m also a new and big fan of the recently launched The Father Hood, a new destination for Australian dads which highlights that “Fatherhood changes you. Fatherhood changes everything. The problem is the portrayal of dads hasn’t changed with the rest of the world. There is no modern father in the media that we like – the couch-potato, the sap, the buffoon. We’re coming for you, Daddy Pig. Your time is up.” They “showcase men as fathers who are doing it their way and doing it well” and I for one am a big supporter of this new initiative, having seen so much support pointed at me as a mum, yet barely anything available to my partner as a new father.