Pregnancy journal: On flying in the first trimester

We left for a month of travels, as I mentioned in my previous post, a mere week after learning of my pregnancy. I wrote the following on July 22, from a lounge at San Francisco International, while waiting for our London flight to board:

Lisa at Heathrow

(This photo is actually from July 30, at Heathrow.)

Because I’ve been so distracted by my pregnancy, it wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I felt the weight of apprehension about flying for the first time with someone living inside me. Even with all our experience, I always find international travel a little nervous-making by itself, and flying, too. So this extra uncertainty just cranked up all that jitteriness.

We took Lyft to BART, then BART to the airport, and then we checked in at SFO. (I always find check-in soothing, because that’s one more hurdle cleared.) At security I got all my things onto the conveyor as usual and then got in line and realized we were queueing up to go through that radiation scatter machine, and I just had this strong gut feeling of “NO, I do not want to do this.” I had opted out several times when they first introduced those machines, so I knew the drill, and asked for a pat-down. I had to sit around waiting a little before they found someone who could do it, but when she turned up — an older woman with a slight accent I couldn’t place; I’d have thought Irish, but when I told her I was passing through Dublin she made no reaction — she was so sweet and kind, my emotions threatened to emerge in tears. She picked up all my luggage for me, brought me to a quieter screening area, and then faced me and asked, smiling, “Baby coming?”

I nodded. No one had ever asked me that before.

“How far along are you? Not very far at all, looks like.”

I nodded again, and got out, “Not at all, just… less than two months.”

She nodded and said, “It’s why most women opt out.”

I explained that I just couldn’t bring myself to walk through the machine today.

She said in the kindest way, “That’s completely all right.” She then gave me the usual walkthrough of the procedure and proceeded on, telling me as she searched me that it was great I was traveling now, because I wouldn’t want to later. She did my back first, and then when she got to my front, as she patted down my stomach very gently, she said, “Hello, baby! Stay in there. It’s crazy out here.” Her ‘stay in there’ hit so close to my anxiety about this journey that I just wanted to sit down and hold onto her and cry and cry. Of course I didn’t, but it was a close thing.

Then we went and got Japanese food, which I haven’t had since I got the news, and the California roll (which had real crab) was a little fishier than I expected, so I didn’t finish it, but I did pack up the rest of the pickled ginger to guard against motion sickness en-route. I can’t imagine what the waitress made of my request to take away just the ginger.

We’re waiting to board now. Deep breaths.

I’ve had this experience before, of feeling highly vulnerable and then someone is so kind and understanding that you feel completely undone — I think it’s the sudden realization that at least for a minute, you don’t have to be so strong. It made me wonder if my pregnancy was something everyone could see on me, since it feels so entirely all-consuming to me. But I checked in the airport bathroom. I don’t look pregnant; I look normal. (But then my normal appearance is entirely in keeping with being six weeks pregnant!)



Written September 30, during another trip, after going through security twice while ~16 weeks pregnant:

At SFO, the pat-down agent was an older Asian woman (I think Filipina) who was extremely courteous and asked me nothing about myself.

At BOS (Boston), it was a younger woman, probably in her 30s, with pale skin and dark hair and large dark eyes and a Boston accent. She patted the side of my belly with the same amount of pressure she’d used elsewhere but when she got to the front her touch suddenly became very light and she asked, “Are you… are you…?” I said, “Yes, there’s a baby in there.” She said, “Hi, baby. Sorry! Congratulations,” and then added that my dress was so loose she couldn’t tell, as if it were something to apologize for. I told her it was fine and it’s still pretty early, and added that the other agent (that first one at SFO in July) had said it’s why most women opt out. She said, returning to the station and stripping off her gloves, “There are so many reasons people opt out, I just don’t think about it. Could be cancer, could be… [mumbled] or [gesturing at me] pregnancy, there are so many reasons. All right, you’re free to go.” I thanked her.


6 responses to “Pregnancy journal: On flying in the first trimester

    • Yes! I still get teary every time I think about her “stay in there,” to be honest. I felt so incredibly anxious and vulnerable in that moment, separated from Erik and my stuff, just like a raw tender heart really, one who hadn’t even realized how soft and alone she was until then. And then to have this kindly older woman look at me and know exactly what was going on, without my having to say a word, and treat me so gently (in the abrupt and definitely non-gentle atmosphere of airport security!) — and then to tell the baby to stay in there — it felt, and still feels, like a benediction.

    • Thank you, dear Kuukua!! And thank you for your email, too, from — oh dear, longer ago than I realize. I’ve been meaning to write back and one of these days I will sit down as if having a chat with you, and do it in that spirit. In the meantime I’m thinking of you often and hoping all is well. ❤

  1. Pingback: Summer travel recap: Rural England |·

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