Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drive by Advice

Clara was five months old and I decided to try her stroller out for a spin in the neighborhood.  Up until that point I had been using her car seat in a stroller contraption.  It was a brisk but mild day in late November.  I planned to walk ten blocks to my sister's apartment, take her dog for a brief walk, then head back home.  Clara seemed happy - in her coat and blanket, stroller in the recline position.

Six blocks into my walk, I saw a middle aged woman walking down the sidewalk.  As she apporached me she started yelling a blue streak.  It took a minute for me to realize she was cursing me out - for not having a wind/rain protector on my stroller.  You know - those clear plastic shields they put over strollers to keep the rain or wind out? As she kept getting closer, her  yelling rose in decibels: "WHAT ARE YOU CRAAAAAZY, LADY!  YOUR BABY IS GONNA FREEEEEEZE OUT HERE - YOU DON'T HAVE A WINDSHIELD PROTECTOR WHAT'SA MATTER WITH YOU, BITCH!" 

The amazing thing was that she didn't even slow down - she just marched past me, still screaming - her voice fading with the Doppler effect.

I was shaken to the core - and promptly began crying.  Here I was, a new mom trying out a new stroller and I had apparently made a serious, baby-killing mistake. I spun the stroller around, sniffling, and headed home.  As I walked I called Gerald and found some solace in his outrage on my behalf.  He assured me Clara would be fine.  By the time I got home  Clara had fallen asleep in the stroller.  I left her their to nap and started doing some paperwork at my desk.

Not fifteen minutes later the doubts began to creep in.  What if Clara had in fact been freezing?  What if...she wasn't alseep in her stroller but was in fact suffering from extreme hypothermia? What if she wasn't sleeping but was in fact, in a cold-weather induced coma?

I tiptoed over to the stroller and watched Clara breathing...or was she breathing?  I gave her a tentative poke.  No response.  I blew air on her face and her eyelids quivered then stilled.  I tired to convince myself to no avail that Clara was just sleeping.  I ended up taking her out of the stroller, trying to say in a happy voice: "wake up, wake up, wake up."

She did wake up - she was fine, if unhappy and grumpy from being woken from her peaceful baby nap. She was not frozen.

Did that cursing woman envision the ripple effects her yelling had on me?  That it would affect me for hours? That it would make me cry?  Did she think for an instant that perhaps I was an inexperienced, sleep-deprived, emotionally fragile first time mom? Did she think to stop and offer a bit of advice?

Since that time, walking with my now  wind/rainshielded stroller I have seen strollers with and without the plastic protective shell. It seems to be a judgement call on how much it helps with cold weather. It is certainly not worth screaming at a stranger on the street over.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Coming Up for Air

Clara is almost 9 months old.  Two nights ago Gerald and I were discussing a dinner invitation we received and he said:  "Let's invite more people over.  Let's be social.  Whoever - old friends, new friends. Let's start entertaining."

I thought for a second, and amazingly, the idea made me happy.  It made me excited. Yes!

For the previous nine months it feels as if Gerald and I have been operating in a mind fog of exhaustion coupled with a hundred new experiences as new parents we have to assimilate and incorporate into our lives each day. 

For the pat nine months : I haven't slept past 5:30 or 6 in the morning. I haven't had more that four hours of connected sleep. I have had a baby with me pretty much 24 hours a day.  Gerald and I have also watched an amazing baby grow and learn something new every day and I hope we have something to do with that.

One night while giving Clara a bath, Gerald said: "Clara smiles so much.  She smiles all the time because we're smiling at her.  That's a good sign, right?"


But in all those nine months I have also felt like Gerald and Clara and I were living in this cocoon of "this is exactly as much as we can handle right in this moment."

Any time I was asked to extend myself past my new family I felt overwhelmed.  A train trip to visit Gerald's parents left me shaky and coal-eyed with fatigue. Friends who visited me at my apartment got to see me, if they didn't - I certainly didn't accept any of the offers I got to visit them anywhere. 
Sometimes staring at the week-old pile of laundry made me want to weep, and after another day spent figuring this parent thing out, the idea of cooking dinner was just too much to handle.

Like a light going on, things have turned around. Gerald and I are enjoying cooking nice dinners for ourselves, alongside the endless supplies of blended fruits and vegetables for Clara.  Suddenly, I don't dread the idea of being out in the world anymore.  I want to crawl out of my cocoon...and apparently, Gerald does too.

I am sure, Clara (who just learned to clap) will be clapping her hands in delight for all the new people she is about to meet.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stranger on the Bus.

One day after I moved uptown to Washington Heights I decided to try taking the bus downtown.  I have a lot of fond memories of riding the bus around with the various kids I babysat in New York City from the time I was 13 until I was about 23.  

I had Clara in a carseat fitted into a stroller contraption.  It was a hot day in early August.  The bus pulled up to my stop and the doors hissed open and I prepared to board.  The bus driver held out his hand, stopping me. 

"Miss, you gotta fold up that stroller or you can't board."

What?  Fold up the stroller carrying my one month old and do what with it? It took my new-mom muddled brain a minute to process these new bits of information.

Turns out that stroller policies have changed on New York City buses since I last babysat in the mid-nineties.  You now have to take your child out of the stroller and close it up.  In my case involved taking the car seat out of the stroller, holding the baby/carseat while trying to fold up the stroller part.  A nice gentleman standing on line helped me out with all these machinations while the patrons already on the bus glared in fury at the delay. 

After that ordeal I got a seat on the bus, with car seat Clara in my lap.  I realxed a little - enjoying the air conditioning and the view as the bus meandered down Broadway. 

A few stops later a middle aged woman gets on and sits next to me.  Without preamble, and without acknowledging my presence, she starts talking to Clara in a baby voice:  

"Hewooo wittle one…what is your Mommy doing taking you out on a hot day like this? Is she cawazy?  She should  be inside with such a wittle baby on a hot day. It's too hot for wittle babies.”

Another round of unasked for advice - this time directed at my baby daughter who hadn't even learned to focus her eyes yet.

I turned to the woman and said: "She’s on her way to visit her grandmother.  And she’s fine.”

The woman said: “I guess New Yorkers do things differently.”

I said: “Yeah – they do.”

The conversation ended there.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Drive by Advice on a Subway Platform

When my baby was 2 weeks old, my partner and I had to take her to the 2 week pediatric checkup.  We were living with his parents because we had only closed on our apartment the week before I gave birth.  Our trip entailed taking the subway from Murray Hill to Washington Heights…where we would have been already living if our co-op board hadn’t taken 4 months to schedule our Board approval meeting. 

Standing on the platform a pleasant looking woman in her late twenties smiled down at our little baby girl in her car seat stroller said: "I have a six month old…how old is yours?"  When I answered "2 weeks" the woman's smile disappeared into a  gasp of horror.  She half-shrieked: “OHMYGOD you can’t have such a little one on the subway it’s so dangerous all the germs and their tiny immune systems I wouldn’t let MY nanny out with her until after three months an then I got the germ net for the stoller. It’s a meshnet that keeps out the germs from the baby. You shouldn’t be on the train with her yet or ever! You could take cabs or a car service.That’s what my nanny does.”

Needless to state my heart started pounding.  Was Clara in danger from subway germs?  Though I immediately questioned the efficacy of mesh netting in keeping microscopic airborne germs off my baby…did this woman have a point?  Why hadn’t my What to Expect Book detailed the dangers of public transportation? I certainly didn’t have a nanny or a car service or even own a car, so my options were limited.  Mentally shaken, I smiled and thanked this apparently well-meaning stranger while silently vowing to ask a doctor for advice. 

Frazzled and already sleep-deprived, Gerald and I rode the train uptown.  I eyeballed the subway atmosphere looking for free-floating germs that might attach themselves to Clara's tiny face. 

When we finally made it to the pediatrician, I unloaded my worries onto her is a garbled stream that ended with: "Is she allowed to ride the subway?!"  The doctor’s advice was simple: “As long as Clara isn’t holding onto the handrail in the subway she should be fine.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Did I ask for your advice?

Have you ever wanted strangers to come up to you, unannounced, on the streets of New York City and strike up a conversation? Would that change your stereotypical view that “New Yorkers are Assholes?”  As a native New Yorker I have to admit that apart from the occasional exchange about delayed trains with another passenger or being asked for directions, total strangers didn’t often come over to talk to me. 

That all changed after I got pregnant and then had a baby.

Turns out, pregnant bellies and babies attract strangers like bees to honey, in all the good ways (honey), and in all the bad ways (BEES!).

Some of the attention is positive. Faces softening into a smile as they asked: "When are you due?," or “How old is she?”or “What’s her name?” reinforced my faith in humanity and the everlasting cuteness of babies.  

But a lot of the attention was and is negative.  While I was pregnant I heard a lot of unsolicited scary pregnancy and birth stories that my forgetful "pregnancy" brain was very unaccommodating about deleting from my mind.  And these days, pushing a baby stroller around apparently gives people the impression that they can walk up to you and just say anything. When was the last time someone walked up to you on the sidewalk and judged you?  It's incredible and I plan to share some of these experiences.

I remembered I started a blog.

I never read blogs. I should but I don't. But this week I read a few blog posts from friends that were interesting and inspiring.  Like this one by Libby Emmons:

And that made me remember...didn't I have a blog once long ago?  The answer is yes.  This one.  After a few harried minutes trying to remember what and where my blog was and re-authenticating my account after  (it turns out) an unintended 8 year absence, I found it and have decided to reactivate it.

I read over the old posts - and you should too.  I cringed a bit  and considered editing them but I have decided to leave them alone for posterity.

A lot has changed in 8 years. 

 I am older. 

That and I met and fell in love with Gerald Schultz and 8 months ago we had our first child together - Clara.. We bought an apartment together and are living in Washington Heights.

I have been wanting to write about the experience of being pregnant and being a new mom.  I think a blog will keep me writing.  Of course, I probably thought that 8 years ago too.

Here's to the girl who once danced on the bar at Hogs and Heifers with her sister Sam.

(I actually forgot this happened until I looked at this blog.)