Three weeks ago I was fearful at the prospect of a night flight to London, flying solo with a toddler in tow. What I had not anticipated is that the drama would start before the engines on the runway.
When I woke my daughter at midnight, ready to shush her gently into her car seat for a quick spin to the airport, she rewarded my care by throwing up on clean set of pyjamas number one. Taxi waiting downstairs, I decided to change her and panic later. She screamed her way to Etihad Airways' Terminal 3, throwing up again in the back of the car as we drew up. I struggled with her car seat straps as she sprayed milky vomit all over the upholstery.
We checked in wearing pyjamas number three, the last set of clean clothes that I had packed - for either of us. Wandering through to departures, a happy baby safely strapped into her pram, I felt almost gleeful, refusing to contemplate aiming a spewing bundle at the tiny sink in an airplane toilet.
Once on board, my fellow business-class passengers were surprisingly sympathetic to the sight of an overtired, writhing baby. Some offered help, none tutted, but, nevertheless, I sought refuge in the galley, alternately applying milk (a risky move) and a gentle see-sawing motion for 25 minutes while other passengers enjoyed their welcome drinks.
Miraculously, she fell asleep before take-off and I needed to ask an air hostess to help secure the seatbelts. By 3am, padded with extra cushions and blankets and seat almost fully reclined, almost comfortable, in fact, I, too, dozed.
Such tranquility lasted for about four hours before baby tried to flip over and I just failed to get her comfortable again in time. Now sufficently refreshed to take in her new surroundings, she grinned at me. And so, off down the aisle she trundled, particularly fascinated by the snores of sleeping passengers. She pointed at one man, bobbing up and down, grunting, disappointed when her efforts provoked no reaction. Thank goodness for the supplied ear plugs and eye-mask. The air crew were surprisingly patient as we made endless sorties into the galley, always in someone's way.
Next, the entertainment handset with its glowing buttons proved a distraction, as did the bag of toys I had brought. Not fun in themselves but endlessly unpacked, repacked and thrown about. Interest waned and she slept again until a loud announcement asked passengers to return seats to upright for landing. It was premature and we circled Heathrow for another half an hour.
My toddler doesn't like to sit still for a second - and a battle of wills (and tears) commenced. The passenger pack saved the day again, and baby chewed the complimentary toothbrush for the next 20 minutes while her mother chewed her tongue, willing the plane to land, dammit, land.