Sunday, October 11, 2015

Flying while Pregnant (and Anxious)

I hate flying. Loathe it. When I'm in other unpleasant situations, I think, It could be worse. I could be on a plane right now. So when I'm on a plane, there's really nowhere to go mentally. Sometimes I think about people who've been tortured and figure that must be worse because that's the only thing I can think of. I wish I were joking.

I thought I should just be one of those people who don't fly. I've met several of them, and their lives seem fairly complete. I don't have a strong sense of wanderlust. With my nomadic life, though, not flying isn't a good option if I ever want to see certain people again. I also don't like that there's something I can't do, like I've taken the option away from myself. I don't want to rule anything out.

Before my recent trip in August, I had figured the next time I decided to fly, I'd take some strong medication. That might have worked, but being pregnant put a kink in that plan.

To give you some indication, I made my flight reservations to Kansas City almost a month in advance, and that's basically when I started feeling the anxiety. My triggers are:

1. Lots of people
2. No escape, limited movement
3. Other people's anxiety
4. Motion sickness (this usually happens after the plane lands, but I do occasionally get queasy during the flight)
5. The sound of people around me (it reminds me they're there) and the engines of the plane (especially at takeoff)

Here are some things I did to offset those triggers, knowing I can't really avoid any of them:
  • Ear plugs: This was ridiculously easy and made a noticeable difference. It muffled the sounds of the plane and the people around me. Takeoffs were much more tolerable. Plus, some people say ear plugs help alleviate motion sickness. Each time I took them out, when we were taxiing to the gate, I marveled at how loud the plane and the people were. Listening to music on headphones works for some, but when I get anxious, my senses are easily overstimulated, so I really prefer silence.  
  • First class: The extra space was nice, although I'm not sure it was worth the extra $200 or so. Generally, everybody in first class is more relaxed and comfortable, which put me at ease. I sat as close to the front as possible so I didn't have to see the other 100 people on the plane. Except on one very small plane, the first class section had its own bathroom, and since there are fewer people in the first class section, it was almost always available if needed. I've also read you feel less movement/turbulence the closer to the front you sit. 
  • Red eye: On my way to Kansas City, I was able to fly out at about midnight. It's inconvenient, but when the plane is dark and everyone (else) is sleeping, it's calm, and I think time passes more quickly. Again, regarding the plane's movement, you'll probably have a smoother ride if you fly at night or early morning when the air temperature is more consistent.
  • Staying busy before flights: I walked around the terminal or worked on a simple knitting project (TSA says knitting needles are okay on flights).
  • Ginger chews: The day before my flight, I made some, but there are stores that sell them. They taste good and alleviate motion sickness. I ate a few throughout the day before I flew and again during layovers. While I normally feel queasy during the car ride after I land, this time I didn't feel bad at all. In Salt Lake City, after a bumpy landing, I was feeling kind of gross, but I took a chew and felt much better for my last leg.
  • Rescue Remedy: My midwife recommended this. I'd tried the mouth spray in the past with disappointing results. This time, I bought the drops that you put into water, and I think it worked better. I drank it in the days before my flight and the day of, and I found it didn't work right away but probably within 20-30 minutes (yes, it could have been a coincidence or placebo, but I'll take what I can get).  
  • This isn't so much about flight anxiety, but I always bring a change of clothes on the plane with me. A few times, I've had my luggage arrive several hours after I did, and it added to my discomfort being away from home after traveling all day without the ability to change into clean clothes. At a minimum, I carry on pajamas or comfortable lounging clothes and a change of underwear. 
I won't say these actions together made an enormous difference, but they helped and they made me feel I was doing something instead of being a victim to my own mind. 

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