Flying while pregnant calls for an intense chat with your travel agent, warns Babiche Martens.
Whoever said, "It's the journey, not the destination" probably wasn't pregnant at the time of their epiphany. I realised this last year when given the chance to travel to Bangkok to shoot a Louis Vuitton fashion spread for the Herald's Viva magazine - a flight that turned into one of the worst of my life. Not only was I carrying the excess baggage associated with that of a photographer, I was secretly carrying my 13-week-old son-to-be and a debilitating case of morning sickness.
"You'll be over 12 weeks by then; the sickness will be cooling off," my midwives had said, but they were wrong. It was just as bad as when it had begun.
The flight started out okay. The direct passage on Thai Airways wasn't full, which allowed me the luxury of having three seats to myself but midway through the flight disaster struck and somebody claimed one of them. Soon, with the slightly cramped conditions and cabin temperatures soaring, the morning sickness kicked into action and I made a beeline for the toilets.
Not one for kneeling on the floor of a tiny plane cubicle with my face in the toilet bowl, I asked a passing attendant for sick bags.
She came back with five, of which I filled four. Distressed in not knowing where to dispose of the bags, I asked the stewardess who told me with an annoyed look to "put them in the toilet rubbish bin", which sounded logical but still left me embarrassed.
What surprised me most about this experience was that not once did the attendant ask if I was okay. How could you ignore a pacing, panting and heaving woman asking for sick bags? Later, when I arrived at the hotel, I vomited so much my throat bled. During this episode I realised I'd left my camera bag at the airport - a very unfashionable way to start such a fashionable shoot.
So, when Viva was sent to the UK to snap our London issue a few months later (I was 23 weeks along and growing), I was filled with excitement for the task but trepidation for the journey ahead.
This time we were flying Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific. In thinking the extra leg room and space to recline would soften the direct journey I was kidding myself. Despite another full row to myself, the armrests on these flights were fixed, dashing any hopes I had of horizontal rest. Yes, the room helped, but the extra weight on my belly wasn't quite ready for a full 25 hours of hurtling through the air in that environment - despite 10 pillows propping me in position.
Luckily, we had a stopover in Hong Kong, which allowed me to pull myself together somewhat while enjoying the luxury of the Cathay Pacific lounge. The airline saints in the sky had another plan for me, meaning the second leg of my journey was about to take a turn for the better, the news delivered in those four magical words: "You have been upgraded."
Tears of joy ran down my face at the opportunity to lie horizontal in Business Class and have enough pillows at my disposal to form a small cloud. Landing in London, I felt refreshed, and almost a little sad to leave my airline haven. How times had changed.
From bad experiences comes good advice, though. Here are my tips for those of you carrying internal "excess baggage" on an upcoming flight:
• Without a shadow of doubt, if you can afford it, fly Business. Yes, it's more expensive, but well worth it for the well-being of you and your baby. If that can't happen, book a seat on a quieter flight, which is more likely to have free seats.
• This way you may have a chance to nab some for yourself and get to lie down (ask your travel agent about this and be sure to ask whether the armrests are fixed).
• Gather up as many pillows as possible the minute the seatbelt sign is turned off. Pregnant women need pillows.
• To reduce (more) ankle swelling, buy a pair of flight socks before the journey and, on the topic of feet, move around whenever you can.
• Last but not least, to prevent dehydration, take a refillable water bottle and use electrolyte drops - I used Elete Natural, which seemed to do the trick.
So, with this all said, I wish you good luck on your upcoming journey. The flight will probably never be as good as the destination that awaits you, but hey, at least you can try to ensure it's comfortable.
The writer travelled courtesy of Cathay Pacific.