Mama Duck
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Motherhood

Monday, June 30, 2003

Why a duck?


For a metaphor, that is.

A friend asked why I referred to the baby as a duck. When I got pregnant, the metaphor that popped into my head was not "a bun in the oven" but rather "a duck in the soup." Don't know where it came from, or why, but that was my metaphor. Plus I think baby ducks are one of the cutest things in the world--I'm lucky to live near a lot of lakes and a river so I get to see some every spring. So I started to call the little thing the duck, or the duckie, and it stuck. Since we're not deciding on our name till he's come out to play, it's useful to have a metaphor. And perhaps it feels, emotionally, just a little bit safer to be expecting a cute li'l duck than it does to be expecting a mysterious, dependant person.


posted by Mama Duck8:19 PM

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

Week 32


No boys' club


My poor husband. As I do, he vacillates between being excited and terrified that the duck is on its way. Unlike me, though, he doesn't have a lot of people to talk to about it. As I've mentioned before, everyone talks to me about being pregnant, even strangers. They may only ask superficial questions, but since I've got the tummy, I get the attention.

He, on the other hand, can only discuss it with people who know we're expecting, and even they seem rather reluctant to do so. It's a strange imbalance. Perhaps it's because with him there are many fewer non-loaded questions to ask. Sure, people could ask if we're registered and where, and whether we've picked out a stroller, but beyond those, people aren't even going to ask him how I'm feeling, since that could degenerate into something personal and emotional. Some have asked if he's had to go on any food-craving runs for me. We have no "it's midnight and I'm craving such and such from the place across town" stories. But we did go out after dinner tonight for ice cream. I'd already made my choice and picked out a single cup of peanut butter chocolate chip, when I saw that I'd overlooked the butter toffee, made with toffee by a local chocolate artisan. He kindly indulged me and I got a second cup. So I can't say I'm free of bull-headed drives for food, but none so far have required herculean fulfillment measures.


posted by Mama Duck7:40 PM

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Thursday, June 26, 2003

Easy questions, hard questions


Here are the usual questions, in order:
1. When are you due?
2. Do you know if it's a boy or girl?
3. Do you have a name picked out?

Sometimes, though rarely, a follow-up question will be

4. Are you excited?

To which I respond, yes, but also terrified.

See, everyone, and by this I mean friends, family, casual acquaintances and strangers on the street, is ready to ask the easy questions. Often, they're willing to share personal stories of their own--I'm surprised how many women have told me about their labor horror stories. These are women with whom I'm on a hi-how-are-you basis, yet I now know if they pooped on the delivery table, and how many and what type of meds they had during labor.

But no one, and I mean no one, asks if I'm scared, how I feel about the upcoming life changes, if I worry about being a good parent. Everybody wants the happy sunshine answer, not the real one.

But a few people, most close friends, have told me stories of parenthood that I cherish, because they hint that it will be hard, that I can do it, that I'll probably fail sometimes, but if I keep a sense of humor I'll probably be OK.

One woman was two weeks past her due date, and found herself suddenly wondering what the hell she'd gotten herself into, and absolutely convinced that she would not, could not be a good parent.

Another, talking back to her two-year old, said, "Honey, I know it scares you when I yell at you, but sometimes, you're not a very nice person."

A new, first-time dad admitted that some nights, on the way home from work, he thought to himself that he could just keep on driving. He never did, but he did occasionally think about it.

I love these stories because they're so human, so real and so much more complex and interesting than the happy sunshine that is the norm.


posted by Mama Duck6:49 PM

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Some maternal meanderings


Sleep has become somewhat more comfortable since I got a Snoogle Deluxe body pillow. I use it behind my back, between my knees, and rather than under the tummy as shown in ads, under my hip. Things still aren't perfect--I've been having some jaw discomfort, which I think was the Snoogle plus my regular pillow, so now I'm just using the latter. I am also still having hip pain, in spite of egg-crate mattress pad, massages and body pillow, but it's less than it was.

I'm having less heartburn since I began using some of the Eat Right for Your [Blood] Type food recommendations.

I had a check up today and the poor duck had hiccups while the midwife was trying to find his heartbeat. His heartbeat is good, though, and the hiccups went away in a few minutes.

And the midwife urged us not to fill out a birth plan. Instead she gave us what they recommend, and asked us to add, briefly please, any additions to that. I'm glad. The pages long birth plans at
Baby Center and Ivillage seemed WAY too involved and made me anxious just looking at them.

I learned that if I have an immediate concern, as I did yesterday, not to call the office or the nurse line, but to call the midwife-on-call line. That way, she'll be sure to get the message. The midwife today said that yesterday's trouble sounded like my old enemy, round ligament pain.

At work, I think I'll plan to work up till my due date of August 22, unless my body or the duck decides otherwise. I was planning on taking off a week before, but since things are going well and leave is a limited thing, I think this feels like the best way to go.

I'm hoping that the Minnesota weather is quieter tonight than it has been the last two nights. I think the thunder disturbs the duck.


posted by Mama Duck5:01 AM

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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Another do I or don't I?


My agonizing, kept-me-from being-on-time-to-work-this-morning dilemma today was whether to wear pantyhose and loafers to walk to work in/heels at work, or no hose and sturdy sandals to walk to work in and low but not stable open-toe heels. I figured that the low but not stable were a better bet, and wanted the no hose option since it was hot and humid today.

My morning went kablooey, then I had a meeting in another building, and figured that I didn't need to change shoes again. But when I got to the meeting (the first one there in spite of the fact that I was late), I started to feel a cramp in my side. It did not go away during the meeting or after. On the way back to my office, I sat down on a bench and wondered what to do. Was it just round ligament pain from rushing over? I called the midwife office, and got a nurse, who said it sounded as if it was a muscular strain and she'd pass the message to the midwife, who'd call (perhaps only if she thought necessary--I don't quite remember). I waited for a few more minutes. Finally, I decided to walk, very slowly, back to my office. This took some time. When I got there, I called the nurse line again, she said the message would be passed on and I should be getting a call. I still had the cramp in my side, though the baby was moving around. I told her I just wanted to know if I should stay at work, go home and lie down, or come in and see someone My next appointment is tomorrow afternoon, so I figured I'd be seeing someone soon in any case. She said that it could be muscular or gas, and didn't sound alarmed, so I went to another meeting and felt increasingly better so stayed at work till the end of the day.

Annoyingly, I never got a call back, which I will ask about at my appointment tomorrow. I continue to wonder at the line between normal signs that I should be taking it easy and when something is bad enough to call, like when I have such a bad cramp that I can't walk normally. I don't want to be an alarmist, but I also have more than myself to worry about here.

Fortunately now I'm feeling OK. I've decided that my lesson from this is that the third trimester might, just might, be too late to be wearing heels, whether high or low-but-not-stable. Tomorrow, then, I'll be wearing sturdier stuff.


posted by Mama Duck5:04 PM

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Monday, June 23, 2003

Birthing class #1


I survived my first birthing class. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared. It was more useful than the "Hey, you just found out you're pregnant class" that our clinic offered. I saw diagrams that explained why my heartburn is so bad, and found out that a baby born between 37 and 42 weeks is on time--a five week window is much more generous than a puny, random due date.

In our class we had The Young Couple, The Lesbian Couple and the Woman with her Mom. We were one of four Yuppie Couples. I was the second most pregnant woman there. The instructor is a flake. She demonstrated birth with her knitted uterus and dummy baby with snap-off umbilical cord. There was even a stuffed, toy placenta and membrane that looked an awful lot like a jellyfish. We practiced breathing while listening to uterine sounds set to music. Did I mention that the instructor is a flake? I am a little suspicious of these people who are birth junkies, but then, as my husband noted, we're all geeks about something, and she's just a birth geek.

The funniest moment was when the expectant lesbian's partner said her biggest hope was that the kid would look like her. My husband enjoyed the class while I just tolerated it. I get to talk about pregnancy and birth all the time--people ask me when I'm due and talk to me about birth and sometimes even parenthood. But my husband doesn't get to talk about it much, so this was a much bigger deal for him.

At the end, we watched a birth video. Yeah, it was kinda gross (the instructor called birth a "juicy" process) but when the baby came out, I had tears in my eyes. Yeah, even cynical old me.


posted by Mama Duck8:08 PM

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Sunday, June 22, 2003

Week 31


The duck is not an oracle


Everyone asks if we've picked out a name. We haven't. And we're not going to until he is born. We have one family name. Beyond that, things were pretty unclear till we negotiated a prioritized list over breakfast last weekend.

Over the last several months, I've said many of the names aloud, with my hand on my tummy, to see if there's a reaction. There never is. My husband laughed at me each time. Last time, though, I think he'd had enough.

"Honey, the duck is not an eight-ball. Quit bothering him."

Rats.


posted by Mama Duck7:06 PM

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Thursday, June 19, 2003

An unlovely day


I slept badly last night, then woke this morning with decidedly puffy ankles, probably due to the Italian sandwich I had last night for dinner. While I did have it on gluten-free bread, I think the turkey, canadian bacon and other meat that I can't remember (salami, maybe?) were hardly low-sodium.

I spent the afternoon in the throes of pernicious heartburn. On the way home I was enjoying watching a baby bunny when I noticed another one lying dead nearby. Then at home there was a roach in the kitchen.

How on earth am I going to be a good parent if I have roaches in the kitchen and silverfish in the bathroom?

I did, though, get good news from a friend whose ultrasound was today, and who is carrying a healthy girl. So I'll try to focus on that.

And hope I'm less puffy tomorrow morning.


posted by Mama Duck6:43 PM

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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

It burns, it burns!


As the pregnancy progresses, so does my heartburn. Some days are especially bad--I have it off and on for most of the day. Other days it lurks in the background, threateningly. And some days it seems to take a sabbatical.

I've mentioned before that I like Altoids new sour flavors for temporary relief. They come in citrus and tangerine and are pretty good, even if I didn't have heartburn.

When I eat, I have to think hard about consequences. Eating a lot now might seem like a good idea, but eating a lot later will only ensure the quick onset of heartburn. I feel like a rat in a maze that's received electric shock, and I'm wondering if fear of heartburn is an acceptable reason to fret about how much to eat. Shouldn't I be shuttling nutrients to the duck as fast as I can?


posted by Mama Duck4:30 PM

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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Stormy


There's quite a variance among the duck's movements.

Sometimes he moves in little swishes and swooshes, like a quiet, gentle, steady rain.

Other times, he gives occasional strong jabs and kicks--grumbles of thunder in the distance.

Then there's the kind of kick that he gives only occasionally--a short, fierce punch to the ribs, completely startling, that brings to mind ground-shaking, bolts of thunder.

He certainly has my attention; I just wonder what the next ten weeks will bring. Hurricane winds? Typhoons?


posted by Mama Duck4:12 PM

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Monday, June 16, 2003


Out of all the decisions I've been obsessing over, there's one that hasn't troubled me at all--whether to have a home birth. I'm all for questioning the status quo and trying to have a conscientious birth experience, but I find the cost/benefit analysis pretty straighforward.

Home birth potential benefit: Mother is in familiar, comfortable environment for challenging labor process; baby arrives into home.

Home birth potential cost: If anything should happen to mother or baby, medical consultation, monitoring and intervention are not immediately ready.

As far as I'm concerned, the risk so far outweighs the benefit that it's not even a consideration.


posted by Mama Duck4:26 PM

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Sunday, June 15, 2003

To call or not to call, that is the question


Overall, I am very fortunate that the pregnancy is progressing well. I've had some problems sleeping because of hip pain, and some rather nasty heartburn, but other than that, things so far have been going OK.

Then Friday, on the way to work, I felt a little crampy in the lower abdomen. I decided that I'd wait till I got to work and see if it passed. It did, so I promptly forgot about it.

Saturday I did my usual routine of breakfast, then grocery store. My husband and I decided to take a walk because it was a beautiful day. As we did, though, I began again to feel unwell. My entire abdomen and lower back felt like they were locked up. We were on a short walk to the cheese shop and back, though, so I decided I'd lie down once we got home.

Once home, my husband consulted one of our pregnancy reference books and we failed to determine whether my symptoms matched those listed of possible pre-term labor. He urged me to call the midwife while I hesitated. I've written on my other weblog,
Girl Detective, on 8/28-29 of 2002, that I have a history of hypochondria, which I try valiantly to overcome. Was I worried over nothing and just needed to lie down? Or should I call?

We called, and some time later the midwife called back, apologetic because the birth she'd been with had taken longer than expected. I explained the symptoms and she told me that it didn't sound like pre-term labor, and that if it were Braxton-Hicks contractions then they would have stopped and started and not been constant, as I described. She theorized that the duck had jammed himself in sideways for a while, and suggested that I get some rest, which I was already doing.

So I felt both reassured, and yet abashed for indulging in what felt like my hypochondrial tendencies. I think the real problem is that I'm having trouble discerning between when I actually need to rest, and when I need to move through my inertia and do things like get out of bed, go to work, exercise, write, etc. My dad, when I called him earlier today, said "Oh, your body will tell you when you need to rest." But I'm not sure I can trust myself entirely. As far as I can tell, my body is telling me to stop going to the gym, to eat ice cream at every chance, and to lie on the couch reading all the time.

This weekend, then, I've taken things easy, resting a lot, reading a lot, and eating ice cream only once a day. I went for a short swim this morning, resting frequently between laps. I wish I felt like I had better judgment, but right now that sector of my brain feels entirely fogged in. So I'm giving things my best guess, and trying to discern between rest and inertia. It's a very tough call.


posted by Mama Duck7:33 PM

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Friday, June 13, 2003

Week 30


Grr
This morning at 3 a.m. the fire alarm in our building went off. This is the third time it's happened in as many months, and each time it's been a false alarm. This morning was no different, except that I was jolted very awake (the alarms are effective at alarming, if not in detecting actual fires), as was the duck, who proceeded to rocket around my abdomen, as if 3 a.m. was the perfect time for exercise. Then I started worrying about work, and couldn't get comfortable, and it was some time before I was able to get to sleep again.

This morning, I am very tired. On the way to work, though, I saw three baby bunnies happily munching on bright green summer grass. That cheered me immensely.


posted by Mama Duck7:54 AM

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Thursday, June 12, 2003


Last night, I felt the duck climbing my insides, as if my ribcage were a jungle gym.

Later, he beat out rhythms under my skin, as if my belly were a drum.

This morning, I am tired.


posted by Mama Duck5:08 PM

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Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Guilt, organically grown


A while back, I read an article in Natural Health magazine about how most conventional furniture, mattresses, bedding and carpets have been treated with toxic chemicals that release over time. Many mattresses have been treated with formaldehyde for flame retardancy. Most sheets are also treated with something nasty in order to make them soft right away.

This all sounded very creepy to me, so I decided that when my husband and I purchased a new bed, we'd explore some ecologically sound options. We found a site online that offered a nice, simple maple frame for the bed, plus a mattress that used a type of wool for flame retardancy. The bed frame was inexpensive, and the mattress cost somewhat more (about 20%) than a conventional one would, so we thought this would be a good choice given that we'd probably be sleeping on it for ten or so years.

Now it's time to shop for a bed and bedding for the duck, however. I've checked out both Consumer Reports and the very useful book Baby Bargains, in which they recommend a crib and mattress by Childcraft. Both are available at Target.com. Total cost? $270.

Then I checked the website where we will likely order our bed. The have one crib. Nearly $800. They have an organic baby mattress for it. Nearly $500.

The math? The eco-friendly baby option costs over four times as much as the conventional one. In fact, it costs not much less than the adult bed and frame that we'd priced there. The difference in cost of the adult eco-option versus the conventional one is not much. The difference in the baby's, though, of over four times, is astonishing. I hear a little voice in my head wondering if they deliberately want me to ask how much I'll pay to ensure a safe environment for the duck. If there were a small difference, I'd probably opt for the organic one. But given the ridiculous gigantic difference, I think my practical voice is going to win. $1300 for an eco-friendly baby bed does not seem conscientious. In fact, it feels a bit like being duped.


posted by Mama Duck4:41 PM

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Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Sidewalk surprises

Walking to the gym on Sunday morning to go swimming, I saw the following on the sidewalks:

dozens of cards advertising a local strip club
my personal pet peeve, chicken bones
horse shit
vomit

Additionally, there was so much dried blood spattered in front of Old Chicago that I couldn't contain my "Ew!" of disgust. I had to stop walking and figure out the best way to navigate around and through the mess.

I like living downtown. I like walking to work and the gym, to shops and restaurants. But Sunday morning sidewalks are pretty grim, even in this midwestern city. Will we become a cliche and flee to the "safe" 'burbs after the duck is born?


posted by Mama Duck4:25 PM

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Gone swimmin'


Normally, the building I live in has a pool. This summer, however, the courtyard is under construction. Since regular yoga is becoming more difficult, and prenatal yoga classes are annoyingly non-existent or unavailable for those of us who work day jobs, I thought it was time to swim again.

I passed on the boring, black maternity swimsuit and found a cuter, cheaper one in the regular section with orange fishies on it that has enough room for my belly (at least for now...). I splurged on a matching towel, bought a new pair of swim goggles, and set out for the gym to swim laps.

Overall, it was great. My back felt wonderful after swimming for twenty minutes, though I did get my heartrate up too high at least twice. Oops. Have to hope I'm doing no lasting harm, but it's hard to ensure that it stays under 140 the whole time.

It's rather a production to get dressed, get to the gym, shower, swim, and have remembered to bring all that's needed for the return trip. It takes at least as long each way to get there and done/undone as it does to swim, but the relief in my back from all the wacky pillow contortions that I'm using is well worth it, I think.


posted by Mama Duck5:51 AM

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Sunday, June 08, 2003

Week 29


Reading material, again
We finally finished reading The World of Pooh, an edition that combines both Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, to the duck. I was struck again by the injustice done to these wonderful books after they underwent Disney-ification and lost both the endearing pencil drawing by E. H. Shephard and some of the wonderful turns of prose of the book.

A few passages stick with me, and I can't quite pick a favorite. One occurs when Piglet stops over at Pooh's house.

"Nearly eleven o'clock," said Pooh happily. "You're just in time for a little smackerel of something."

Another is when Pooh and Piglet are at Kanga's house and trying to figure out what Tiggers eat.

"Shall I look, too?" said Pooh, who was beginning to feel a little eleven o'clockish. And he found a small tin of condensed milk, and something seemed to tell him that Tiggers didn't like this, so he took it into a corner by itself, and went with it to see that nobody interrupted it.

Finally, there is a wonderful passage at the end when Christopher Robin asks Pooh what he likes doing best. But I'm not going to quote that one, since you really should go out and read it yourself.

We started The Hobbit last night, and I fancy there's more than a passing resemblance between Bilbo and Pooh. I am going to miss Pooh, though.


posted by Mama Duck6:54 PM

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Thursday, June 05, 2003

And so it begins


I think my ankles are beginning to swell. Not in an alarming, pre-eclampsia-type way, but in the slightly puffy third trimester way. Rats.


posted by Mama Duck7:04 PM

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Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Let's do some math


Soon after I got pregnant, I read Flux by Peggy Orenstein. It went into a lot of detail about how women's ideals of their lives differed from the realities, and she interviewed many mothers about how their life had changed with parenthood.

I make a decent salary where I work. I will be able to take off 6 weeks of work on short-term disability pay after giving birth, then up to six more weeks of unpaid leave. My company also offers the option (which must be applied for; it's not a given) of a reduced work week. The program basis that I must do 100% of my same job, just in four, or three, days, while also taking an equal pay cut--20% if I go to four days a week, and 40% if I got to 3 days a week.

I've heard many people complain about the unfairness of this--if one is expected to do 100% of the job, then why shouldn't one get 100% of the pay? A reasonable question. Yet I'm a manager, and I've seen how it plays out in real time. It is simply not possible to do the same job in 3 or 4 days that one would do in 5. There are things that come up on the day/s out that must be taken care of, and either get delayed, or get added to someone else's workload. Additionally, other companies don't even offer this option (my husband's does not), so while it might not be ideal, it is more flexible than most.

OK, so if I decide to apply and get approved to return on a four day work week after my 6 weeks of partial pay and my 6 weeks of no pay, then I take a 20% pay cut. Additionally, I'll need to provide care for the duck while my husband and I are at work. Day care centers in our city cost about $1000 per month. Most centers don't adjust if the infant is only there for a partial week.

If I want to spend more time with my child, then I'm penalized because the care cost remains the same while my income is reduced. Additionally, if I reduce my work week, then I am less competitive in the workplace for things like promotions and raises. I won't scuttle my career, but I will definitely reduce my chances for advancement.

If I or my husband decided not to return to work, then the care cost will not apply, but then neither would we have the same income. I also do not yet know how either of us would be, and how our duck will be, with one of us as a primary caregiver. Just because we are his parents doesn't mean one of us will be the best person for him to spend all his time with. One of the things that many parents praise about daycare centers is how they help children become social with others at an early age.

There are really no good answers to be had. My tentative plan is to return on a 4-day week and take the pay cut, plus pay for full-time daycare even though he'll just attend four days a week. This seems to be the most best compromise for income, career and infant care.


posted by Mama Duck5:11 PM

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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Growth spurt


I could be wrong, but it feels like I'm significantly larger in the past few days than I was. Is this possible? Am I imagining it? The duck has been particularly active the past few days (until today after yoga, when it took some time for him to get going. I worried that I'd squished him during pigeon pose.) My theory is that when he grows, he rockets around my uterus, kicking out the walls and making more room.

I thought it might just be coincidence that I feel larger, given that I had my 28 week appointment last week. But then my husband told me I was walking with a little waddle. This is both encouraging, since I'm tired of people telling me I don't look very pregnant, and discouraging--I really can't take waddling as a compliment, and I've got some time to go. Ah, well.


posted by Mama Duck5:50 PM

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Monday, June 02, 2003

Going to the bathroom has become an adventure


Once upon a time, I used to drink things, feel that my bladder was full, and go to the restroom. Nowadays, though, it's a whole different story.

Sometimes, I seem to have my old, pre-pregnancy giant bladder that allowed me to guzzle gallons with only infrequent trips to the loo. At other times, though, I'll feel an urgent need, only to have next to nothing going on in there--I came all the way in there for that?

I assume that the wild variation is due to the position of the duck at any given time. If he's decided to settle in for a nap on my bladder, then that'll have me up and running several times a day. If he's off and grooving in other parts of my uterus and abdomen, then the bladder is freed up for normal duty.

I am amused by the weirdness of the changes. These are things I never thought about when wondering if I wanted to have a kid. Probably a good thing, that.


posted by Mama Duck4:53 PM

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Sunday, June 01, 2003

Week 28


Hardly a stroll in the park

One of the smartest things I've done so far is email my friends who are already mothers for their advice on things to come. One of the items I asked about was strollers.

A few friends highly recommended those by Graco. Two others could not sing high enough praises for the Peg-Peragos. Today, my husband and I went for some test drives. We looked at strollers and car seats by Evenflo, Peg Perego, Graco, Inglesina, Combi, Zooper and Kolcraft. We faced a bewildering array of choices.

We found that the Evenflo Journey had a smooth ride but an annoying folding mechanism. Its car seat did not perform very well in the Consumer Reports crash test.

The Inglesina had a fabulous folding mechanism and came in a lovely color, but did not have sturdy attachments for an infant car seat. Plus it was quite expensive.

We stopped a woman pushing a Peg Perego Venezia in Babies-r-us to ask if she liked it--she said that it was great except you couldn't access the boot while the kid was reclined. The Peg Perego Venezia had wheels that were not intuitive to me, and was also pretty big. The Peg Perego Aria was nice and light but needed both hands to fold, though it did get nice and compact. Additionally, the Peg Perego items were only hand washable, not machine washable, which seems problematic.

The Combi folded small but didn't look like a comfortable stroller. The Zooper had a great folding mechanism, but it also had lots of parts that would break.

The Graco Quattro had a smooth ride but was heavy and bulky. We liked the Graco carseat better than the Peg Perago one, though, so we were leaning toward the Quattro.

One friend said that after trying several strollers, the one she uses most often is the Kolcraft universal car-seat carrier--it's simple and inexpensive, both of which we found were true, but then, it will only be usable as long as the duck fits in its infant seat.

We finished the day with much more information, but no definitive answer. It's quite clear that there is no perfect stroller. We just need to figure out which one would be best for us.


posted by Mama Duck6:50 PM

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