It's Okay...the Baby is Still Alive.

No babies were harmed in the making of this story.  

        If that disclaimer leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you may want to skip the rest of this post.  If you are perfect, please skip the rest of this post.  If you--like me--have been spared parenting calamity by the grace of some cosmic sympathizer, please join me in my pool of humility.  The water’s warm.
             I am that mother who has read my Baby 411 book forwards and backwards.  I signed my husband and myself up for nearly every class the hospital offered in preparation for Little A’s arrival, and I was the only parent taking notes on a yellow legal pad during the “How to Change a Diaper” tutorial.  During the nights I suffered from pregnancy-induced insomnia, I spent hours in the dark on my iPad reading about how not to accidentally kill my baby.  

            Some of the guidelines the powers that be in the baby-rearing realm provide have this oxymoronic quality of seeming both completely sensible and totally crazy at the same time.  For instance, it makes total sense that an infant should never, never sleep in a crib with loose bedding (a strangulation/suffocation hazard)...until you set your baby in her crib for a minute while you put away some laundry, only to turn around and see she has fallen blissfully asleep for the first time in five hours right on top of that blanket you were about to fold.  You look at her, with that blanket smashed squarely beneath her adorable little butt, and you know there is no moving that blanket without waking that baby.  Were you from your mother’s generation, this is when you would tiptoe out of the room, close the door, and enjoy a nice glass of wine.  

I, however, am afflicted by a special kind of neurosis that is most common in new parents.  We’ll call it The Six O’ Clock News Psychosis.  The way it works is that any time common sense or grown up intuition starts to tell me that the baby will be fine if I “break the rules” occasionally, I ask myself, “How would this sound on the six o’ clock evening news?”  If the answer is that I would sound like a sadist, an alcoholic, or an idiot, I err on the side of caution.  When I found myself in this exact situation, I grabbed a book and sat in a chair facing Little A’s crib for forty-five minutes while she napped, checking on her every sixty seconds to make sure she hadn’t somehow turned her blanket into a rope ladder, thrown it out the window, and started to escape.  All that happened was she woke up to me staring at her and looked visibly unsettled--not a common expression on a five-month-old.

           I alluded to this scenario in conversation with my sister-in-law one time.  She is finishing law school while raising her two little girls and does not have time to read what The Mayo Clinic has to say about how fitted a fitted sheet should be in a baby’s crib.  

         “I think someone is feeding you really weird advice,” she said.  

         “Probably,” I nodded while simultaneously crossing her off my mental list of possible babysitters.  

           I just can’t stand the idea of something happening to Little A that could have been prevented had I only listened to what they said on page 432 of Baby 411.

           I have a friend with a bunch of kids.  (I am not sure what the proper terminology is here...a gaggle?  A herd?  A brood?  A litter?  I am going to go with “a bunch” as in “a bunch of bananas” because it sounds much more manageable than “a herd of buffalo.”)  Anyway, she told me one time about a conversation she had with her rather serious-minded sister-in-law who also has a bunch of kids.  In trying to relate to her with some kind of motherhood bonding gesture, my friend mentioned that the way she found out each of her babies could roll over was when she heard them roll off of her bed.  

          “You know that sound you hear when one of your kids hits the floor?” she asked in an of course you do fashion.

          “None of my babies ever rolled off of anything,” her sister-in-law replied flatly.  Her sister-in-law has five or six kids, so that is truly astounding.  But more to the point, this is one of those instances where, my friend explained, you see yourself reflected back at you with extraordinary clarity--I mean really see yourself--and it’s disheartening.  

          I knew exactly what she meant.  I have committed this social faux pas on occasion, believing I had a like-minded audience only to discover my misjudgment the hard way.  I recalled a particular incident in middle school when I was generally being an idiot at the lunch table in order to get a few laughs, and this girl turned to me and said, “You really don’t take yourself seriously” in the same tone one would say, “You are incredibly annoying.”  I’ll admit, my first thought was, “You take yourself seriously?  We’re in seventh grade.”  But then I thought about how I had drunk an entire cup of pickle juice several days earlier of my own free will--I was not dared--and I saw a little bit of what she saw.

          Despite this memory, I still thought to myself, No way is this baby rolling off of anything.


This brings us to the other night, when Z and I were heading out.  We stepped out of the front door and began pushing Little A up the sidewalk in her stroller, sound asleep.

             I have this ritual before I close our front door.  I always check the knobs on the oven (our kitchen is very tiny, and a few times we have accidentally bumped them into the “on” position), and I always ask Z if he has the keys.  Every marriage has the responsible one who remembers to bring the keys everywhere and the one who locks herself out of the house all of the time.  Z is usually our key guy.  

           “Do you have the keys?”

           “Nope,” Z responded, patting his jacket pockets.  “I’ll go get them.”

           I was closer to the front door at this time;  Z was several sidewalk squares ahead with the stroller and Little A.  You may wonder why I did not go inside and grab my keys.  That is because you are assuming that I am a person who knows where my keys are at any given time.  Z knows better, so he headed for the front door without even bothering to ask.

Our stroller has a brake.  It is a simple foot pedal you push down when the stroller is at rest so it does not roll away.  We never use it.  When the baby is inside of it, the stroller always seems heavy enough to remain stationary on level ground.  When Z walked over to the front door, he just left the stroller standing a few sidewalk squares away.  I’m not going to level any blame here because I would have done the same thing.  It turns out, however, that our sidewalk is not as level as we thought.  

There are two kinds of people in this world: a.) the kind who, in the face of imminent disaster, like a bus torpedoing towards a baby buggy in the middle of the street, leap into action like superheroes and b.) me.  Over Z’s shoulder, I watched in horror as Little A rolled down the sidewalk and toppled over into a bush, the wheels of the stroller spinning dejectedly in the night air.  I could do nothing but point.

Oh my God...is she all right? I panicked, followed by, Did the neighbors see?  I hope the neighbors didn’t see.   

Of course we ran to Little A’s rescue the instant after anything useful could have been done to stop this from happening in the first place.  We lifted the stroller out of the bush and peeked inside.  She was sound asleep.  I kid you not.  The baby that woke up from her nap one day because my knee joint popped when I bent down to pick something up slept through her first human cannonball trial.  A cursory glance around the perimeter confirmed our hopes: no one witnessed any of this.  That’s when I realized that “We got away with it!” is never associated with good parenting.

Little A’s stroller is one of those travel systems where the car seat attaches to the top.  Had the car seat portion of her stroller been constructed like the one my parents used for me back in the day, she probably would have been decapitated from rolling over a small rock, let alone tipping over into foliage (see exhibit A):

Exhibit A

Thus, I see this story as a win for modern baby product engineering and a big fat loss for our credibility as parents.  

In the end, Little A didn’t get tangled up in a blanket or fall off of the bed, but she did go careening into a large bush.  

No pages in Baby 411 address that.  I checked.  

Sometimes life goes off script, and we don’t know how we will improvise until we get there.  In the meanwhile, I’ll think twice before judging someone else’s worst scene.   
Goodness knows I’ll have a few of my own before this kid is eighteen.

You can thank Z for this video.  Please don't submit it to the authorities.


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