When I was too terrified to ask, you understood I needed you. I was flying back to my hometown to say goodbye to my dying father, and I had no idea when I’d be back. For an unknown period of time, this was a one-way flight for me. As I sat with my 7-month-old twins, you had no idea I had left behind two young girls (ages 3 and 2). You had no idea that I was leaving part of my family behind to say goodbye to another.
But you intervened as tears streamed down all three of our faces. In the middle of the flight, my twins were crying uncontrollably. We’d already flown from Washington to Minneapolis and spent an inordinate amount of time in transit. We were all really exhausted after the trip. This day, our usual rigid plan at home was entirely thrown out the window, and my twins were not having it. But why would they? They were only 7 months old at the time. They were feeding off my frenzied energy, and halfway through the flight, everything just blew apart.
I had the impression that the entire plane was rolling its eyes at my half-hearted attempt to silence their screaming. Everyone had a right to feel irritated. None of you were aware that one of my twins wailed continuously throughout the day, every day. She was one of those babies that was never at ease or content. I was used to blocking out her screaming, and I’m sure I did so while we were all imprisoned in that plane. Honestly, all I wanted to do was stand in the aisle and say, ‘If you’re tired of hearing this sobbing, please come and help me!’ I knew one of the main reasons they were going insane was that they both needed to breastfeed, but I didn’t know how to do it in the middle of a plane with no cushions to support them. I wasn’t even in the correct frame of mind to try to work out those technicalities, which is why I prepared bottles for them ahead of time.
You sat in the unoccupied seat next to me and took the girl who was bouncing in my lap. You cradled my daughter in your arms and sang her a lullaby while staring her in the eyes as I offered you a pre-made bottle of milk. I was nearly ashamed of myself for not being able to do the same for my own children, but I was grateful for your grace in that moment. You never made me feel insufficient. Instead, you showed me the greatest level of empathy I’ve ever experienced, and it happened in my worst hour. You swayed and sung to her as if you were a member of her family back home, loving her in the way she needed at the time. Loving each of us in the way that we required at the time.
I was doing this on my own, and you may have noticed that my moods were down. I was intellectually drained and emotionally exhausted. In retrospect, I wasn’t in a position to be caring for those girls on my own, let alone going across the country with them. When I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, I couldn’t leave my exclusively breastfed babies at home. For all of us, it felt like a lose-lose situation, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes. You just have to get on that plane with your two kids and hope that the eye rolls and sighs don’t ruin your already low self-esteem.
I’m not sure if we talked about the circumstances I was in. It’s funny how words can be forgotten, but the way someone makes you feel will always be the way you remember them. Maybe an angel whispered to you loud enough that you knew you needed to answer. Maybe your mom instinct kicked into high gear when you realized that both of the babies screaming…belonged to me. Maybe you could see me struggling and decided somebody needed to step up. Maybe you just put yourself in my shoes and did what you would hope someone would do for you. Or maybe you are just a very kind person who helps wherever she sees fit.
My biggest regret is not taking a picture of you holding my baby. Sometimes it feels like in today’s world if something wasn’t documented with a camera, it never happened. I don’t even remember your name or where you are from. I honestly don’t even remember what you look like. But I wish so badly I did.
You saved my sanity and probably everyone else’s on that flight. It was easy for everyone else to just sit back and make assumptions about my parenting ability. Instead, you saw a mom in need and you jumped in without skipping a beat.
Flying with kids is one of the most terrifying things in my opinion and it’s nice to know that some people understand the pressure to be perfect isn’t always attainable. Sometimes I really wish people tried harder to help out or at least give a genuine smile at a struggling mom. I couldn’t walk around with a sign that said, ‘Flying alone with twins to say goodbye to my dying father while also leaving behind my other two daughters.’ If I could go back and do it over though, maybe I would make myself that sign. Grief isn’t something you can visibly see with the naked eye, but maybe if they could see the words, people would have been more understanding or empathetic.
Thank you. Thank you for treating me with dignity and love when I desperately needed it. I hope this letter gets to you and I hope you remember us from our picture from that flight. I hope you know you saved a mom from a severe mental breakdown at 35,000 feet in the air.