detroit, part one


we had our little vacation! we had to get up at 4am to catch our flight to detroit. ramona did just great. she mostly just slept on the plane (as pictured here). the changes in cabin pressure didn’t seem to bother her at all. we dressed her up in cute little ruffle-bottom pants & a dress with strawberries on it so that at least people would think she was cute, even if she screamed.

we got to board early because we had a baby, & during general boarding, an older woman asked to sit with us. i said, “sure, but we do have a baby.” she said, “i know, that’s why i want to sit with you. i always try to sit with the little ones when i fly because no one else wants to but i don’t mind them. she looks like a very sweet baby.”

that? was awesome. it really doesn’t take much to make a parent’s day, you know? just acting like our baby isn’t going to give you monkeypox goes such a long way. this is a perfect example of a tiny act of kindness that really doesn’t cost you anything (it was like a 40-minute flight from kansas city to st. louis, so even if ramona had been a monster, it would have been over pretty quickly), but that can really help a frazzled parent traveling with a tiny baby on three hours of sleep feel better about humanity.


ramona woke up once we got to st. louis & had a little bit of a party hanging out with us. jared felt bad later because he realized a lot of travelers sitting around us were trying to sleep, but…a) ramona was just being playful. she wasn’t crying or even yelling. b) it was like noon. c) it’s a miracle if you can sleep in an airport at all, even when there’s not a baby in the area.

wrangling ramona in someone else’s apartment was…i won’t lie. it was really hard. i knew that jessika rae smoked, & i was pretty concerned about ramona being around someone who had that smoky cigarette smell on their clothes. after all, she is a preemie. she was on a ventilator when she was first born because her lungs weren’t developed enough to breathe on their own yet. even though she’s doing really well now, i still wasn’t really looking for the chance to expose her to cigarettes smoke. but jessika rae assured me that she wouldn’t smoke around ramona or in the apartment, & jared told me that i was freaking out over nothing & that being around smoke smell for like four days wasn’t going to give the baby, like, emphysema or anything.

what i didn’t know was that jessika rae DID smoke in the apartment, until about a week & a half before we showed up. only in her room, but the apartment is carpeted & the smell lingers. i used to smoke, obviously, so i am well aware that a smoker has no idea how strong they/their clothes/their home might smell. it wasn’t an overpowering smell as long as she kept her bedroom door closed, but it definitely wasn’t really an environment i would have chosen for ramona had i had all the facts in advance.

it was also just hard to set things up to my liking in someone else’s space. at home, i like to put a mat on the table & lay ramona on it & sit with her. if she’s having fun on her own, i can usually pay some bills or whatever while i’m hanging out with her. i have my pump set up there too, & sometimes i read to her while she’s rolling around (or trying to) on the table. but jessika rae’s table was too small for that. we did set up a blanket on the sideboard & that’s where we did diaper changes, but it was narrow & i wasn’t comfortable letting ramona hang out there unless i was standing right there (even though ramona liked it–it gave her a great view of the ceiling fan). she’s just so desperate to roll over, & i didn’t want her to manage it for the first time & end up falling off a countertop.

& then there was the bathtub of doom. at home, i bathe ramona in a baby bathtub. she is still pretty skeptical of baths, but she has learned to trust me & she usually doesn’t cry anymore. sometimes she even smiles! she’s learning how to splash, & she thinks that’s fun. but obviously i couldn’t pack a baby bathtub for a trip to detroit. so i figured, i’ll just bathe her in the bathtub. i’ll draw a very shallow bath & hold her so she’s sitting up. how hard can it be?

well, pretty hard when the drain on the bathtub is busted so that you accidentally end up filling it way deeper than you meant to. i only meant to draw two or three inches of water, tops, but because it didn’t drain, it got up to ramona’s waist when she was sitting on the bottom of the tub. i was terrified that she was going to slip out of my grasp & bang her head on the tub & draw in a breath of water & drown. at one point, i just froze, holding on to her & was like, oh god, i can’t move her without her slipping & i don’t know what to do.

it all worked out in the end. i didn’t lose my grip on her, she got clean, it was fine. but she went unbathed for most of the trip because i was NOT going to do that again. if she seemed especially gross, she got a little spot bath.

jessika rae also keeps her heat a lot lower than we do at home. one of ramona’s big challenges in the NICU was getting strong enough to maintain her body temperature, so at home, we leave the heat at around 70 all the time. even at night, since she doesn’t consistently sleep through the night yet & i have to get up to pump anyway. but jessika rae keeps her heat at 65 & detroit was much chillier than lawrence. our second day there, ramona had a complete screaming meltdown, which was one of the worst experiences of my life. i’m reluctant to complain too much because i know some people have colicky babies who scream like that on a daily basis. it’s a very rare occurence for ramona, & thank god, because i was have to sell her to the first hobo i saw if she was like that every day. it felt like it took hours to settle her down, but it was actually only like 30 minutes, maybe. but i finally got her down for a nap & then she slept…& slept…& slept. she started her nap at 5:30pm & i tried to wake her up at 8pm so she could hang out for a few more hours before her real bedtime. but she just sucked down a bottle & passed out again. i swaddled her & put her in her sleep spot (a mat on the floor in the corner of the living room) & then panicked…because the baby was sleeping too well. she wound up sleeping until 9am the next morning, & the only reason she woke up then is because i made her because i wanted to go get breakfast.

sounds great, right? i’m on vacay & my baby sleeps for fifteen hours straight? what’s not to like? but i was worried that she was sleeping that much (WAY more than she does at home–& she’s a pretty good sleeper at home) because she was cold & was using all her energy to maintain her body temperature. i floated that theory to jessika rae & she turned the heat up. i know i slept better after that. i’d spent the evening before layering things like my coat & my towel over my blankets & i was still freezing.

& the other thing that was really hard is that, technically, jessika rae’s apartment has hot water, but it seriously takes fifteen minutes to get there. we have a bottle warmer at home (a gift from a mom friend with older kids), but before we had that, we just filled a bowl with hot water & plunked the bottle in until it was warm-ish. i figured we’d do the same thing on the road. but that method takes about ten minutes, which is hard enough when you have a baby screaming for food. add another fifteen minutes for the water to just get warm & you have a recipe for a very frazzled mommy & a very grumpy baby. jessika rae explained that her landlady thinks things are more environmentally-friendly this way. how is it more environmentally-friendly to have to run the water for fifteen minutes before it gets warm? i mean, there are times when you need hot water. warming a bottle in ice cold water is obviously not very effective. i tried ramona on a cold bottle a few times, but she was so upset about it (even though she doesn’t usually mind it). i even tried to breastfeed her at one point, but that didn’t work at all.

& not to just be a litany of complaints, but it was also really hard to make sure ramona got enough naps on the road. i mean, who the hell goes on vacation just so they can sit around the place they’re staying, being quiet while their baby naps? i could do that at home & save myself the airfare. but ramona is at an age where, if there’s something cool going on, like people to look at, or some birds flying around, or some gusts of wind to cower from, she wants to be right in the thick of it. she will force herself to stay awake so she can be involved. & then she has a complete meltdown later because she is too tired. so i tried to be vigilant about her naps, & her bedtime. which means we were able to go out for breakfast in the morning (that’s when she’s happiest & most alert) &…that’s it. we went for burgers for lunch one day, but ramona woke up halfway through (i’d been wearing her in the moby) & proceeded to lose her shit. she obviously needed a diaper so i hustled off to the ladies’ room…where there was no flat surface at all, let alone an actual changing table, save for the floor. so guess what? ramona got changed on the bench in the booth. too bad if anyone thinks that’s gross. complain to the the restaurant that doesn’t have a changing table. ask yourself if you’d prefer to be in the vicinity of an undiapered baby for thirty seconds or a screaming baby for ten minutes or however long it would take me to pay the check & get out of there. yeah, that’s what i thought.


ramona & jessika rae partying in the burger bar.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

2 thoughts on “detroit, part one

  1. I loved reading this! You write so well! And the stories about Ramona actually make me laugh out loud! You’re a fab mom doing a great job! Ramona is lucky to have you and vice versa!

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