The alarm sounded at 4am to start getting the troops rallied. We waited until the last minute to wake up Emily and get her all bundled up. At 5:10, Dima met us to help carry down the luggage. It's funny how having a kid saved me from having to carry anything BUT the kid down 3 flights of stairs! Bummer. Hehehe.
Dima helped us haul everything to the airport and helped us get through all the checkpoints... at least as far as he could get without a boarding pass. It was a quicker than expected good-bye for Dima as he wanted to hurry us through the lines to get ahead of the crowds. Before we knew it, he was standing at the back of the crowd waving to us and the crowd pushed us through the check-in line. Thanks for all your help, Dima!
After leaving Dima we had quite a few more lines to go through. Immediately to our left we were asked to run our luggage through yet another conveyor belt/security scan. Then, we went to the KLM counter to check in and request bulkhead seating so we could get a bassinet for the trip. They were very helpful, but the process was extremely slow. We stood at the counter for nearly a half hour while they tried to get everything lined up. I still don't know what took so long but wow... Meanwhile, since the passport control line was growing by the minute they finally allowed me to leave the counter and stand in line with Emily so that Tom could join us when he was done. We made it about halfway through the line before Tom and one of the KLM reps pulled us out of line and ushered us to the very front! (It pays to travel with a baby!)
We had no problems getting through passport control and were processed and sent to the terminal to wait for our flight. When the flight was ready to board, we passed through another security checkpoint and had to run all of our carry-ons through the x-ray screening again.
Once we got to the plane we were greeted by some really great flight staff. They were so excited to meet Emily and did everything they could to make sure we were comfy. Once we got settled in and ready for take-off they brought us champagne and nuts and a welcome gift for Emily. They gave her a KLM bib with her name on it and a goodie bag with baby food, a spoon, a pacifier, and a trinket model of a building from Amsterdam. After take-off, they brought around a bassinet that fastened on the wall in front of our seats. It was a great place to lay Emily down for a nap and to store all our baby stuff when we were holding her. The first flight was 7 1/2 hours long and took us from Almaty to Amsterdam.
We had a layover in Amsterdam for a couple of hours which was just the right amount of time to stretch our legs and hit McDonald's before getting in line for another flight. The people at the Amsterdam airport were very kind and made sure we were among the first to board the plane so we could get settled in. We didn't have bulkhead seats for this flight but one of the stewardesses did a lot of juggling to get bulkhead seats for us. Unfortunately, Emily didn't want anything to do with the bassinet they provided but again, we were blessed to have some extra legroom for juggling a baby and to store our gear. Overall, she handled the flight pretty well, but every time she would start to fall asleep they would roll the drink carts through the aisle and she didn't want to miss it. Then, she'd start to drift back to sleep again and they'd come through to pick up trash. Then, off to sleep again and they'd come through with a meal. The poor kid (and us!) got some small cat naps in but nothing of substance.
This flight was 10 hours long and flew from Amsterdam to Memphis... that's Memphis, Tennessee.... in the USA!!! We were pretty concerned with the short layover in Memphis because we had to pass through customs since that was our "port of entry". However, God was good once again. Not only did we make it through customs in a breeze but we also had time for Tom to satisfy his craving for real American food by grabbing a bite to eat at Backyard Burgers!
The next flight was only about an hour and a half and took us from Memphis to Columbus where our family was going to be waiting for us. This flight, although the shortest, was one of the hardest because we were all so worn out. It don't know if she actually cried most of the way or if it just felt that way because we were exhausted but the people around us tried to be very accomodating. Fortunately the guys in the seats in front of us liked babies and felt bad for us! We tried formula, rocking, etc. but she was just so worn out and couldn't get the sleep she so badly needed. Luckily, this flight was a short one and we were ALL glad to get off the plane when it was done!
Even though a lot of airports look alike... it was soooo good to be back in Columbus and to know that we were done with juggling flights! We expected to see my family after we picked up our luggage or at least at the baggage claim area but they surprised us by meeting us on just the other side of the security area. My eyes started welling up with tears the minute I saw them anxiously waiting for us. The next 15 or so minutes were abuzz with photos, hugs, baby passing and me just admiring my family. Finally, Tom remembered that we still needed to pick up our luggage from the baggage claim and headed off with us following closely behind. It was easy to find our bags since they were the only ones still sitting around waiting to be claimed!
To quickly wrap up the night's events: Mom and Dad drove us back home and Emily had her first ride in a real carseat (and did very well). We spent a few minutes getting settled in and quickly crashed in the most comfortable bed we'd slept in for over a month! Ahhhhh. We're home! We're finally home!