I’ve written before about my propensity for dropping my babies. You’d think that by the fourth time around, things would be different. You might expect that I’d have learned something from my first three babies, or at least exhausted all possible disastrous scenarios.
Poor Abigail. Parental experience aside, I really think that the fourth child has it the worst in terms of personal safety: the house is now designed to accommodate big kids, and nobody has time to look out for the baby. In her seven months of life, Abigail’s sister has pulled her off the sofa — by her feet. She’s been improperly snapped into her high chair (I thought it was good enough to get one leg buckled in, but I didn’t count on her wriggling that leg free and sliding under the tray onto the kitchen floor). I’ve even repeated the manicure massacre that I first tried on Georgia, in which I sliced off the tip of her finger while trimming her nails.
But today, my friends, I’ve really outdone myself. Today, I brought innocent bystanders down with me.
In retrospect, it was a poor choice to push Abigail in the stroller while running errands in town with my three youngest girls. The stroller in question is one of those “Snap & Go” types: a frame with wheels into which you insert the infant carseat. This stroller has been through three babies already; it’s rusty, the fabric basket is torn, and I fully expect a wheel to pop off any day now. But it only has to last a few more months.
This rickety stroller was my choice for Abigail’s transportation the day after a decent snowstorm. Although our town has been shoveled and plowed, mounds of snow are heaped along the sidewalks, and deep puddles of slush precede every crosswalk. So every few feet the stroller would get stuck and I’d have to puuuuuuush it through the slushy snow.
But I decided to soldier on with the stroller; with two bags and two additional children in tow, it was my best option. Of course I didn’t fasten the belt that’s supposed to secure the carseat to the stroller frame; I haven’t done that in four years — who has time? Also, Abigail wasn’t buckled into her carseat, because she’d been fussy in Ben Franklin’s and I’d had to take her out and carry her. But since we weren’t driving and she can’t exactly get up and walk out of her carseat, I figured it was fine to just lay her back in.
The girls and I crossed Main Street, which took about ten minutes. Then, at the curb by Two Brothers Tavern, I hit a slush trap. The stroller was stuck, and it wouldn’t budge. I was going to have to lift it over the curb and onto the sidewalk.
At that moment, my good Samaritans appeared. This happens a lot when you have young kids in our nice little town, especially when you look as frazzled as I do — someone’s always offering to help me out. In this case it was a young couple — a childless young couple, as I later deduced.
“Do you need some help?” asked the husband.
“Oh, thanks, I think I’m okay,” I grunted, as I wrestled with the stroller and my two older daughters ran on ahead.
He wasn’t buying my independent act, so he circled to the back of the stroller. “Well, okay, maybe if you can lift that side,” I said gratefully.
At which point, he lifted not the stroller, but the carseat that was sitting atop the stroller. And remember how I didn’t have that carseat belted on? So, he lifted the back end of the carseat out of the stroller frame, which flipped the carseat right over.
And remember how Abigail wasn’t buckled into that carseat? So, when the carseat flipped over, Abigail flipped out and landed on her stomach in a puddle of slush.
The husband stared at me and said, “Holy s*#%t! There was a baby in that stroller?!?” Apparently, when he saw my other daughters run ahead (good thing they did, so that I didn’t have to define “s*#%t” for them later) he assumed that I was a normal person with two children, using my empty stroller to carry things.
The great thing is that, when I picked up Abigail (unhurt, just a little soggy), she was totally unfazed. She even smiled at the man who’d just flipped her out of her carseat. Her entire demeanor said: Yup, I’m a fourth child and I have no concept that my life is supposed to be safe and easy. That’s my girl.
The couple didn’t notice how fine she was; they just started apologizing profusely. They even offered to give me their names — I suppose in case I wanted to sue for damages. In retrospect, I probably should have jumped on the opportunity and asked for a scholarship fund. But I took the high road.
“It’s okay, it’s really okay,” I reassured them. “She’s a fourth child. This sort of thing happens to her every day. If anything, it’s my fault; I knew there was a baby in the stroller. Excuse me, I probably should catch up to my other children now.” (At this point, Campbell and Georgia were small dots in the distance; Abigail’s near-death experiences don’t phase them, either).
As I trudged away, I’m sure that the nice young couple stared after me with horror. Perhaps they still felt guilty, or perhaps they were starting to wonder whether they should call social services. In any case, I figure that’s one couple that’s going to wait a while before having kids.