I wasn’t good at pronunciation when I was a child. So I get told the story of how I was insisting on going in the troller while my Aunt kept trying to tell me it was a stroller. I ended up frustratingly saying, ‘OK I want to go in the fram‘. Prams, strollers, carriers, backpacs, arms, shoulders and the shopping trolley, call them however you like, but they have all come in handy for my expeditions on two feet with my little ones.
I was so excited to be able to walk again (and see my toes), that I went for a walk to the beach the day after I got home from the hospital. This was probably not a good idea because you need time to relax and heal after giving birth. But I did love getting back on my feet and finding a bit of rhythm and fresh air to make me feel alive. So, when you feel the time is right, get walking with your baby, but take it easy and enjoy the places closest to your house to start with.
What to carry the baby in?
We had a bassinet pram for our first baby and it was great for the first few of months. It doubled as his bed at night and we could go out walking, have some dinner, come home and put him next to our bed without him waking up. The bassinet is also good for them to be able to have some time to stretch and play on their backs which I regretted not having with my second baby. Instead by second baby has become all too familiar with what I’m wearing, as he is often snuggled against my shirts in a carrier.
At some point we realised that we wouldn’t be able to keep our first born in this convenient multi-tasking bassinet for the rest of his life and we found ourselves with a pram he could sit in, slouch in, put his feet up on the handle bar and finally become a little houdini and slip out of the seat belt and climb out of while it was moving! I am no pram expert, and everyone will want something different from them (facing you, facing the world, lightweight, lots of space, storage space, easily stored, trendy, can leave it anywhere and no one will steal it.. and the list goes on if you drink coffee) so I’m not going to review different prams etc. We live on a hill so I was just excited to see that prams have leashes to stop you having to chase runaway prams down steep streets. Our street is so steep I actually had to make sure blood didn’t rush to his head when we climbed up.
I was also excited by the built-in storage capacity. I have carried almost all my groceries in prams since I became a mum and learnt how to play 3D tetris to fit a weeks worth of shopping in the bottom of the pram (sometimes I kick the toddler out and it turns in to one mighty shopping cart). I have occasionally had library books and pasta fall out onto the road while I’m trying to mount the kerb, but in general the pram has held together through all the abuse I have thrown at it. I have even used it to move furniture! I almost feel like I wish I’d had a pram without having a baby, they are very handy and make car drivers more careful around you.
If you go down the baby carrier path, when you have it on, it’s this amazing feeling of constant snuggles and adoring looks beaming up at you (it can feel a bit too cozy in summer though). You will also start to put a bit more bounce in your step, realising you have become a walking talking bouncer with a heart beat. You will also have to work out how to put it on. Depending on which one you go for, you will be testing your material management skills or whether prenatal yoga has paid off and you can actually tighten the straps, that are at the point on your back that is the most difficult to reach. Several times I asked people to help and they loved the chance to have a small interaction with a baby and to feel helpful in a world we often feel unhelpful to the strangers around us. Just a word of warning, unless you are happy to go to the toilet while wearing a baby (which I soon discovered that I was), go before you put them on – that extra pressure on my bladder would often hit the spot that made me need to rush for the closest public toilet, or any establishment that would let me use their facilities with a baby strapped to me.
One day this back clipping business was just not working for me at all – my fingers were feeling numb from the effort. So in an effort to fight of a baby blue moment, I looked up videos of how to put the baby on your back (that way I figured the clip would be on the front and all would be good). So kneeling on the bed surrounded by cushions, I twisted and contorted until I managed to shuffle the baby and the front of my shirt onto my back. I raced off to the shops hoping there would be no reason to get my baby off my back because I had no way of getting him back on. And then I had this amazing feeling of being a teenager wearing a backpack in love with a band called gerling. I felt slightly free for the first time since I had become a mum and it felt slightly wrong that it was because I was equating my baby with with vegemite sandwiches, disorganised folders and all the other inhabitants of my school backpack.
Then you have the option of wearing them in front of you, which is a favourite amongst the dads. It’s less snuggly but a whole lot more playful as you can pretend that you are a robot being controlled by a smaller, more human version of yourself, neon genesis style. Or you can just enjoy moving their arms and letting them shudder with the excitement of seeing the world hovering a metre above the ground with their legs dangling in space.
Whatever way you end up carrying your baby be aware of your back and try and make sure things are adjusted to be as comfortable for you as possible. Afterall, hopefully you are going to be walking everyday so it’s worth getting it right
No gym membership required
Since having my second baby I have done almost no other exercise other than walk. And while I don’t have a perfect figure or fitness, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. I love that my exercise starts the minute I leave my house and it varies with the terrain and the kids (sometimes it’s more of an exercise in patience when my toddler starts stopping to examine every pipe he sees). And while the hill to our place is a killer, it gives me time to work on my strength and will (especially when I’ve bought over 20 kg of groceries) and tell myself that this is all good training for climbing in Tasmania or the Pyrenees. And while I don’t have a gym instructor barking at me to keep going, I get lots of encouragement along the way. It gives me a confidence and makes me believe I deserve all the chocolate I bought down the street.
Getting familiar with your neighbourhood
I thought as a cyclist I knew the streets around me quite well. But as a lady from Berlin pointed out in my film, it’s not until you start walking that you really notice the little things – the details that make you really feel part of your neighbourhood. Firstly, you will want to become a close penpal of the council as you see all the missing footpaths, pram ramps, pedestrian crossings, cars parking over footpaths and many other impedimence to a safe and pleasant walk. Do it! Write to them, call them up. It might be a chance to talk to an adult during the day, let off some steam and they will listen to you because everyone has a soft spot for sleep deprived mums. Beyond this, you will notice lots of interesting and banal things, like where the shadows fall at different times of the day in different seasons. You will know the faces of more and more of the people you pass and the buildings, the cracks in the pavement, the trees, the slopes, the windows and much more.
On the days I don’t walk, I feel like I am missing something. So, if you have a baby remember you are only one step away from some fresh air, exercise and maybe even sanity. And if you don’t have a baby, see if you can borrow one to take for a walk. People look differently at you when they think you have a baby and then differently again when they see your pram actually contains five months worth of soft plastic you are returning to the supermarket.