"Well at least I'll know for next time." That is my refrain when I do something dumb. Like bring a not-even-eight-week-old to Six Flags New England. Yes, I am serious. I, a fair skinned, first time mother, brought my equally sun-senstive newborn to an amusement park in the middle of July.
But please, before you call children's services: had I stayed home from the church youth group trip, my daughter and I would have been alone without a car for 15 hours, and I would have missed what seemed like an ideal youth pastor's wife - teen girl bonding time. In addition, I should get some credit for being a very responsible parent as far as planning goes.
That morning we loaded the car with the diaper bag and stroller, as well as a newly acquired fan-water-spritzer, and a canopy/tent thing for the stroller, which supposedly not only shields a baby from the sun, but comes equipped with little screens on the side for ventilation. "I'm such a great mother!" I thought to myself, as we pulled away, our SUV packed to the brim with these "supplies."
After some delays, we arrived at Six Flags a little bit past feeding time, and when we finally found a parking spot, about a mile from the park entrance, Greg had to round everyone up and head out. "You go with everyone. Don't worry about me; I'll stay here and nurse," I told him, thinking to myself, "I'm such a great wife!"
After 30 air-contioned minutes in the car, Darby and I stepped out into an unseasonably hot Massachusetts day, and I had the first inkling of doubt about my decision. But I covered her with the new canopy thing and marched on, as things soon began to go downhill. (Not to be confused with the mile walk during which I pushed a stroller and carried two bags; that was uphill.)
When we reached the steps at the entrance, I learned for the first time what should have been an obvious truth of physics: a multi-level stroller/wheelchair ramp forces a person taking it to walk twice the distance as someone walking directly up the steps. That's probably why I noticed a man lugging an empty stroller up the stairs instead of rolling it up the ramps. In my naivety, I thought, "What is he doing? Doesn't he see the ramp?"
By the time I had pushed Darby to the top, I was the definition of a hot mess. And I had to use the bathroom. After locating one, I uncovered my daughter's "protective" canopy to find her pink and sweaty. "What? This thing is supposed to be ventilated!" I cried, grabbing my fan-water-spritzer and frantically spraying, as she awoke from her nap and began to cry.
I think this is the moment I began to seriously rethink that "great mother" thing.
A little while later, as I attempted to quickly push Darby from the shade of one ice cream stand awning to the next, I noticed a woman inside a covered picnic area, bottle feeding an infant. Her legs were up and she was relaxing. RELAXING.
"See! I'm not a horrible mother! Someone else brought a baby!" I thought, heading straight over for a moment of solidarity.
"Hey! It's another crazy mom who brought her baby to Six Flags!" I said, wheeling up to her. She smiled.
"I thought I was the only one! How old is he?"
She informed me that her son was eight weeks, and in an adreline induced moment of overreaction, I cried, "Wow, so is she!!!"
The woman stared at me.
"So, how do you keep him from overheating?" I asked, practically panting, as I glanced at her calm, happy child.
"Well I have one of these stroller canopies," she informed me, pointing to something that looked like it had come from an L.L. Bean baby gear catalog.
"Oh! But I have one too, and it seemed like it was making her even hotter," I interrupted, pointing to the flimsy Wal-Mart purchase that I had shoved into the bottom of the stroller earlier in the bathroom.
"Well ... mine actually reflects the sun," she said, indicating the aluminum covered portion of her canopy.
"Oh ... yeah ... well ... good luck!" I awkwardly replied, before maneuvering my stroller around and leaving.
Things eventually improved a little. For one thing, I found some of the girls from our group and spent some quality time with them. Read: I walked beside them, pushing Darby with one hand, while holding a borrowed umbrella over her with the other, almost running into things and focused on nothing but whether or not my baby was suffering from heat exhaustion.
We passed the first aid clinic on the way to the water park, and I left the girls and maneuvered my way up another ramp and in the door. Someone had told me they had air conditioned rooms for mothers to nurse, and it seemed like just the ticket at that moment.
An hour later as I was finshing, after taking my time and making the most of the air conditioning, it seemed to me that Darby was still hot. I was cold after an hour in that room, so why was my baby hot? I started freaking out. A million possibilities entered my mind, including the idea that her body had lost the ability to regulate temperature and would steadily increase until she died. I know; completely logical.
I frantically grabbed my phone and called Gina, one of the moms on the trip and a former nurse, who was innocently lounging poolside in the water park. She told me she would be right over. Bless her heart. I didn't realize that if I exited the clinic, which connected the water park to the amusement park, she would have to walk all the way through the water park and half of the amusement park to find me. I waited right outside the door on the amusement park side, but when she entered the clinic from the water park side, they told her I had already left and that she was not allowed to pass through that way.
By that time, Greg had gotten in touch with me, and heard my fears. He found me outside the clinic, said he thought Darby looked fine (she fell asleep as soon as I stepped outside), and I got some chicken tenders. That's when Gina finally reached us.
"She is warm," she remarked, pulling her out of the stroller. After removing her onesie and throwing a blanket on the table, she laid Darby on her stomach and instructed Greg to spray her down with the fan-water-spritzer. I'm sure you can imagine the response this elicited from Darby. I sat there staring at my baby, in nothing but a diaper, laying on a ketchup stained picnic table and getting sprayed with water in the middle of Six Flags, and felt like I belonged on the show, '16 and pregnant,' only I was 29. And it was all my fault!
Thank God for Gina. She advised me to place the white, cotton blanket on top of the dark gray stroller seat in order to keep her cooler. It worked, and so had the table top debacle. On top of that, the weather changed rather quickly and became overcast and windy.
For the remainder of the afternoon, Darby and I followed Greg around as he rode a few more rides with the guys. On a bench outside one roller coaster, I sat and fed Darby as hundreds of people walked by and stared at me nursing my diaper clad infant. Somewhere I've read that a publicly breastfeeding woman should stare right back and smile proudly, but I have to admit that I completely avoided eye contact.
After such an eventful day, Darby slept very well that night. But I'm pretty convinced that Gina had been right when she looked at me and said, "You say your mom told you to stay home today? You should have listened to her. Always listen to mom."