We moved to NYC at the end of July so my wife could start Grad School in September. A well planned and thought-out journey of 2,792 miles began with selling off all of our furniture, and keeping only the bare essentials: a mattress, a dresser we’d refurbished together, and a blue chair with cat-shredded arms that was my favorite place to sit in the old apartment.
There were many lessons passed on to us from our already anointed New Yorker friends. We were warned that New York was a majestic beast not to be trifled with, lest we look the fool. It was loud. People were in your face. It was stupid expensive. Walk fast or prepare to be trampled over. You can never get a cab when it’s raining. If you see an empty subway car during rush hour, it’s not your lucky day, don’t get in that car, there’s poop somewhere in that car.
We’d heard agonizing stories of apartment hunts that lasted for months. Horror stories of broker fees paid out for someone to essentially unlock a front door for an apartment you’d already found online. North East weather– the grueling armpit summers, the cold hearted bastard winters.
One friend warned us with tales of him being mugged twice in Harlem. Mugged? I’d need to brush up on those two months of karate I took in 6th Grade if wanted to save my easily cancelable credit cards.
With what we prepared for and what we’d been told– we were ready.
We got the first apartment we looked at. No broker fee. The move was painless.
It ended up being a mild summer and our new air conditioner would be used more for white noise than for cooling off.
I’d smirk as my lengthy gate drew nods of approval and whispers of “that guy, he walks good” from 10th generation New Yorkers.
The street we live on is lively during the day, quiet at night.
All the subway cars we saw were full and not used as latrines.
And then one day my wife came home early from work– “Honey, are you home?” there was a tremble in her voice and according to the advice we received that could only mean one thing … she got mugged.
I looked up, waiting for her to confirm the mugging. Ready to call up Amex and cancel and dispute all the felonious charges.
Ok… well… for starters: Phew! That is so much better than being mugged. But this would require a whole new set of guidelines and advice– as when you find a baby’s “full subway car” someone most definitely went to the bathroom in it. Hopefully the baby.
The lessons passed on to us from the already anointed been-there-done that parents can be summed up with —
Oh, you have a social life? (mouth fart) Not anymore you don’t. And soon, your friends will have forgotten you, because they’ll replace you with someone who is more fun and sterile.
Oh, you like sleeping? Well, you’ll never sleep again ever. You’re just going to be awake for the rest of your life. Sell your bed and donate your eyelids to science, they’re unnecessary now.
Oh, you have cats that you both love? After the baby’s born, both cats are going to hate you, and then they’ll just die for no reason. And then their ghosts will haunt the baby.
Please don’t drag my cats into this.
And soliciting advice from our OB/GYN ended up being a real pain in the pelvic girdle (pregnant joke). She was a stern no-bullshit Iranian Woman, who at the end of every visit would prompt my wife with “Do you have any questions?” And when my wife did have questions, because she is not an oblivious-just-along-for-the-ride stooge, Dr No Bullshit would cut her off “Don’t ask these questions, there are too many answers, nothing is definite, we don’t discuss plans, we don’t know what happens tomorrow– Chelsea Clinton? She had a plan– She didn’t want to induce– 2 weeks late– No baby– She has to induce– bye bye plan– now, does husband have any questions?” She’d point at me to dare to try to break through the certainty of uncertainty. I’d shake my head no. “Your husband is a good man.”
My wife could never break through the Chelsea Clinton defense and, come December, a letter arrived. Dr No Bullshit was retiring the OB and just focusing on GYN. She would no longer be delivering babies, and wouldn’t be our doctor.
Retired from Obstetrics… Ok, but part of me thought, what if we just got dumped, and she was totally still doing OB, and replacing us with a couple of docile non-question askers. This is definitely what happened.
But nothing was quite as bad as unsolicited advice from strangers.
A month ago, we started the nesting process. Now, our apartment’s pretty small, and our lease is up in July, so the original plan was to just empty a sock drawer and let baby do baby’s thing in that drawer for a few months until we got a bigger place, but we read a book with a chapter dedicated to Sock-Drawer-Baby Syndrome, so we opted for a bassinet.
My wife found one on Craig’s List, and was determined to get it, because it was such a steal. I tagged along, because I was certain that this was a Craig’s List trick, and my 2 months of Karate was the only thing keeping us from being captured and imprisoned in some weird Zoo for Humans.
Only because I was expecting it to be a trick did the universe course correct, and instead have it be a for reals bassinet sale. It was a very sweet couple with two kids. The Arms Reach® Co-Sleeper® Bassinet was broken down, packed up and ready to go in its travel case. But my wife is not a sucker, so she asked to see what it looks like set up– you know, to make sure the goods ain’t broken or not as advertised.
The safety measures and assembly steps on this piece of baby furniture to keep it from collapsing on an infant would shame some of the puzzles Indiana Jones has had to solve.
Step 1: Squeeze left leg safety release, while rhythmically wiggling top bracket, and making unbroken eye contact with right leg bracket in 5 second bursts, while gently spinning entire bassinet in counter-clockwise motion or bracket won’t lock and baby will die.
The dad tried to set it up cold turkey. Now I don’t even eat cold turkey, cold turkey. I usually hit up a few cooking websites to see the best way to prepare the turkey cold, and even see what my options are for hot turkey. Meanwhile, the directions were at his feet, being ignored, as he marveled how complex the thing was, and repeatedly asked Bassinet wife for a hand, over and over again while she ignored him and pontificated to my wife instead.
While he toiled, his 3-year-old boy and 18-month-old girl would keep jumping into the bassinet before it was set up. And scream. Dad would pick them up, place them down about four feet away, and they would walk right back over plop down on the bassinet, “I’m helping you! Say ‘thank you’!”
I wanted to interject that this was a really ineffective way for stopping them, but I didn’t have any better ideas. Maybe a numbing agent applied to their legs or some sort of child straight jacket?
Meanwhile, Bassinet Wife was shooting off birth advice like a firing squad at my wife “…And of course you’re not going to give birth in a gross hospital, you must be getting a midwife and a doula! And you’re going to do a homebirth, right? Homebirth is so much better, no stupid doctors at home, and you can just deliver in your bathtub. It makes birth fun.” That does sound fun, like a real world version of “The Cat in the Hat,” where you can’t clean the stain, and no one wants to use the bathtub ever again.
Done helping out, the little boy was now playing a game with his little sister, where he would whip iPod headphones like a cat-o’-nine-tails, mere inches from his sister’s 18 month old face, and she wouldn’t even blink or flinch. I believe this is also how they train Navy SEALs to hide fear.
It took 30 minutes for the bassinet to get set up. It took another 20 for them to figure out how to break it down again. And despite all the different variables in play, the pressure to put together an impossible puzzle in front of strangers who were clearly in a hurry, the un-maskable patronization in my wife’s “uh-huh, yeah, what you said”, and two toddlers using their dad as a jungle gym, while playing a high stakes game of Loser Goes Blind — they seemed pretty stress free and happy. Just two crazy kids keeping it honest.
We got the bassinet home, and within a few hours the Bassinet Wife started emailing my wife with more birth “tips” which was sweet of her, if not poorly researched on her part. Most of her “tips” I ran through reputable sources and they’d fall under the headlines of “inconclusive research”, “thoroughly disproven” or “someone is messing with you.”
Most of her tips did survive the scrutiny of some websites, usually the longer the url name, the more they seemed to agree with her tips.
Here’s a sample tip from her email:
“Synthetic Vitamin K which they inject right after birth is very unnecessary! It’s new mandatory practice, which if you have regular OB/GYN is unavoidable, but midwives have ways to go around it and not inject your baby. Synthetic vitamins are bad for any human, but vitamin K has many side-effects, one of them is leukemia!”
So According to the American Cancer Society, in the early 90’s Doctor’s were concerned there was a leukemia link, but studies showed there was none. So this tip is kinda like her recommending a good phrenologist to make sure our baby has the skull size of a land owner and not a chimney sweep.
Vitamin K is necessary for blood coagulation, and the American Academy of Pediatrics say all newborns should get the shot to prevent serious bleeding. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t want my kid bleeding seriously all over the place. I’ll take the shot.
Also, how about when she says “midwives have ways to go around it and not inject your baby.” I mean I have ways to not inject a baby too, it’s called just not sticking a needle in a baby. Midwives have important jobs, but let’s give them credit for real things, not the ability to not do something.
So if you’re moving to New York, take all the advice you can get. If you’re pregnant, be pretty selective, or just don’t tell anyone you’re pregnant and show up with a kid one day.