Home was 1600 miles away, yet Owen had never traveled outside of Salt Lake City. His whole life had been the hospital and the extended-stay hotel where my wife and I struggled to bottle-feed him, change his diaper, and get him to nap in his pack ‘n play.
Waiting for the adoption paperwork to take him out of Utah, we became sleep-deprived hermits. Days blurred into nights. Nights blurred into days. I thought a lot about caffeine and little about Thanksgiving until our parents asked if we’d be home in time for turkey. After telling them “It’s not looking good” for what seemed like weeks, the powers-that-be at the state-level approved our departure the day before the feast. As excited as we were, we couldn’t secure last-minute tickets on the busiest travel day of the year. We settled for an almost empty flight Thanksgiving morning.
The journey to Atlanta began after three hours of sleep. For such a tiny newborn, Owen made a lot of noise. He cried as I carried him and his car seat through airport security. When we placed the bags of baby needs on the scanner’s conveyer belt, a TSA agent abandoned her post and approached us. “Oh my gosh! He’s so adorable!”
I’d never taken a baby through security before. Was I supposed to walk through the metal detector with him in the car seat? I secretly hoped so. I was still nervous holding someone so fragile.
A veteran agent read my confusion and instructed me to walk through the detector with Owen in my arms. I did as he asked. Everyone let out a collective “Aww” as the baby rested his head against my shoulder.
The detector emitted an aggressive beep.
After a few waves of the wand, the three of us boarded the plane and claimed a row in coach. Owen was asleep before the safety demonstration. A cautious optimism of a trouble-free flight came over me, but my hopes were sadly shattered by a dirty diaper over Arkansas. My wife fished out changing supplies and sent us to the lavatory.
To this day, I can’t tell you how I changed that diaper. The tight space afforded little room for maneuvering, and I didn’t lay him on any germ-infested surfaces. I only remember sweating and a perturbed flight attendant knocking on the door as we finished. We’d been in there for 45 minutes, and we were about to land.
The plane taxied to the concourse. Feeling beyond exhausted, we gathered Owen and our things. The underground tram and long escalator to baggage claim delivered us to more than our luggage and grandparents-in-wait. It delivered us and our first son to a family made new.