In March 2006, I took my then 13-month-old son Jackson to North Carolina to visit my parents. Although I had been a frequent-flyer in my business days, this was the first time I had traveled with a baby in tow.
As a business traveler I used to dread seeing small children on a plane. To me, small children equaled screaming and seat kicking. Although traveling with little ones can be a more than a little bit challenging, Jackson was a complete angel–the problem was with me. I packed too few diapers for the return trip.
Late Sunday afternoon we were set to fly from Raleigh to DC and then from DC to Seattle. I had been trying to get Jackson to drink a lot of water to keep him from getting dehydrated during the flights—but I didn’t think to pack additional diapers to deal with the extra “output”. I had remembered to pack toys and snacks. But failing to pack enough diapers represented my inexperience as a traveling mother.
I didn’t realize my mistake until we were past security and well down the concourse. There was no time to leave the airport and none of the stores in the concourse sold diapers. Having worked as a marketing manager for 15 years before the birth of my son, I thought that the lack of baby products in the airport was a missed opportunity for the airport retailers.
Since there had been so many moms and babies on our flight to North Carolina I assumed that there would be at least a few on the flight back to Seattle. I decided that I would bum a diaper if I really needed one. Just before our flight left DC I put the last diaper on Jackson.
About 30 minutes into our 5½ hour flight Jackson had a “complete blow-out”. Any mom with a baby knows what I am talking about. This one was horrific. Poop coming out from EVERYWHERE. Luckily his long pants contained it—for the moment.
The fasten seatbelt sign was still lit and I couldn’t get up. I rang for the flight attendant and asked her to locate another mommy to borrow a diaper. A few minutes later she informed me that Jackson was the only child on the entire aircraft. My heart sank. What was I going to do with a poopy baby for 5 hours?
I would have to MacGyver the situation.
I had never been a big fan of the TV show MacGyver, but I loved the idea that, using whatever tools were on hand, any problem or situation could be overcome. During my days working at high-tech start-up companies that were big on ideas but short on funding, I used to refer to “MacGuver Marketing” as figuring out how to “get the word out” about our products using only a copy machine, some paperclips, and a highlight marker.
I asked the flight attendant gave me two first class, linen napkins. As soon as the captain turned off the seatbelt sign I took Jackson to the lavatory. No changing table. No counter top. Oh, no!
I stepped out and grabbed two airline blankets. I lowered the lid on the toilet, and covered the area with the blankets. I laid Jackson down. He began to kick and scream bloody murder. I quickly stripped him down and used all of the baby wipes in my diaper bag to clean him up. It was the worst poopy diaper I had ever seen. His pants were too far gone but luckily his t-shirt (with snaps in the crotch) was relatively unscathed–I am not sure how that happened.
Now to turn table linens into a diaper…without diaper pins. I experimented with several ways to fold the napkins. Their odd shape and the fact that they were heavily starched made them difficult to work with. Jackson’s kicking and screaming didn’t help. I had no diaper pins (a thing of the past) and the napkins were so thin!!! There was no way this rigged diaper was going to keep him dry for 5 hours. There, squatting on the floor of the tiny lavatory with my baby creating all kinds of turbulence of his own, I started to panic. I put my head down and said, “Think, think” out loud to myself. Then I happened to glance to the right and notice the little compartment that holds “barf bags” and sanitary napkins. Ah ha!!!!
I stuffed Jackson’s filthly pants into a “barf bag” and neatly sealed it. This made me feel like I had accomplished something.
There were only three sanitary napkins in the little compartment. I placed two of them in the crotch of the homemade diaper. I closed the diaper around him and then used the third pad like a giant, thick piece of duct tape across the front. I pulled his t-shirt down and snapped the crotch closed. “Hey, this just might work.” I then used the only baby blanket I had with me to cover his legs.
I got lots of funny looks as we made our way back to our seat. “What was she doing to that poor child?” people must have thought.
Exhausted by the whole ordeal, in just a few moments Jackson feel into a deep, heavy sleep. I laid him in the empty seat next to me and he didn’t wake up until just before we landed. Forgetting about the homemade diaper, I picked him up and placed him in my lap. Just as we were taxiing to the jet way his MacGyver diaper gave out and he pee-peed all over me.
The Frenchman in the seat across the isle from me snickered. I had to laugh too. Well, at least we had made it to Seattle.
We met my husband in the baggage claim area. That marvelous, wonderful husband of mine surprised me—not with flowers but with something far more romantic. He took one look at my soaking wet jeans, smiled, and pulled a diaper out of his coat pocket. This was just another piece of evidence to prove that I had married the right guy.