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In just a few weeks we'll be flying to Kentucky. My sister's getting married. It reminds me of the last time I flew to Kentucky, two and a half years ago for my brother's wedding. I was pregnant and had a toddler (not much has changed!). But rather than flying from the other side of the country, I was flying from the other side of the world. And I was doing it alone, pregnant and with a toddler. That's how much I wanted to be at my brother's wedding.
We stopped in Detroit to visit my in-laws and to celebrate an early Christmas with them. After a few days with them and my first made-in-America holiday meal in four years, the day dawned for us to fly to Louisville (say it like you have rocks in your mouth). We had an evening flight, so we slipped in one more play date with the cousin that morning. While the little ones romped, I started noticing some cloudiness in my eyes.
I thought, "Hmm. Probably just need to rinse my contacts." But that didn't work. So I switched them out for my glasses and was thoroughly confused when the cloudiness continued, and a headache began to set in. "I bet a nap will help," I thought. My 12 hour jet-lag and my pregnancy said, "Amen!"
I woke from the nap feeling worse than before. But I had a flight to catch, so we loaded up the car. I grabbed a wad of kleenex because my eyes were beginning to inexplicably run with tears every ten minutes.
I knew my mother-in-law was worried sick about me getting on a plane like this, but I knew it was a short flight. So I told her again and again we'd be fine. But my own conviction was wavering. I wondered if the pressure change of the flight would make it worse. We stood at the ticket counter and the agent asked if I was ok to fly. Apparently I wasn't looking so good. We stepped out of line and called an eye doctor. She said the pressure change shouldn't affect my eyes, but that I should see a doctor as soon as we got to KY.
That reassured me. The ticket agent said my father-in-law could escort me and my daughter to the gate. We got through security and found a shop with some eye drops. I dripped what I thought would be soothing relief into my eyes. Instead it felt like fire balls drilling through my eyes.
At the gate, we said goodbye to my dad-in-law. I knew he felt helpless. "I'm ok," I lied.
Through the haze of clouds in my eyes, I made it to our seats. Any light at all felt like the sun itself blazing into my brain. My eyes watered constantly now.
I must have been a sight, because passengers around me fretted. Here's a weeping pregnant lady alone with a toddler. But despite the wreck that I appeared to be, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm on the inside. My toddler, who had been a tantrum throwing, puking mess on our last flight, now sat quietly in my arms, miraculously sensing that this was the time to be an angel. She drifted off into a peaceful sleep, for the whole flight.
I held her with my eyes closed, one hand mopping my cheeks. It was one of those moments in life where, despite the pain, you can breathe deep, because you sense, you know that you are being held by unseen hands. Fear and worry, these companions know me well, but in this moment, they were gone. Instead, peace, beautiful peace.
I asked for wheelchair assistance to meet us at the gate, because at this point, I couldn't see...at all. Two helpers pushed us through the terminal, me in the wheelchair, Ellie in her stroller. I never saw their faces, but I'll never forget the sound of their voices. An older woman and a young man, their Kentucky drawls slow and sweet. They stayed with us past their shifts until we could get to our family. They are the inglorious heroes in life, these helpers of those who cannot help themselves.
I'm hoping this trip to Kentucky with a baby in-utero, a toddler, and a four year old will be a bit less dramatic. My husband will be with me this time. But I know that I was never really alone last time.
And maybe, just maybe, as we make our way through the Louisville terminal, I'll hear a familiar voice and be able to thank my inglorious heroes. Or I'll just be the crazy lady eavesdropping on the wheel chair pushers.