How To

No one told you This about Driving with an Infant in the car

Baby on Board: The inconvenient yet embraced matters of having your baby in the car.

The greatest joy in our life was born on the first day of 2014, seventeen hours after we got home from New Year’s Eve festivities, and five hours after the Leafs beat the Red Wings in the Winter Classic – contractions were six minutes apart at the start of the game and four minutes apart by the end, so my wife concentrated on her breathing and had her eyes shut for most of the shootout. All in all, it was a very good day and within 3 hours of the birth, we all hopped in the car to head home.

Since then we have spent lots of time in the car and it’s grand. Except for just a few slightly inconvenient things. We drive a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon. Despite being a wagon, it’s small and ideal for our downtown permit parking. Its smallness however, does account for one inconvenience – car seats in small cars make adults in the passenger seat eat glass.

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The baby seat’s size, on its strapped-on base, limits the passenger seat’s forward-backward-slide adjustment capabilities by about half, sitting it further ahead than most would comfortably position it, even if they’re small. Because she’s smaller than me and very nice, it’s usually my wife who sits on the dashboard when we’re in the car and because it would take a contortionist for her to reach, it’s my job to pat the tiny head behind her for extra soothing, when necessary.

Poops are an interesting one for the car and there are a number of signs that may indicate a new presence. It might be the silence in the slightly contorted red face I sometimes see through the connection of the rear-view mirror and back seat headrest monkey-mirror. Sometimes it’s the sound – somewhere between the end of a squeeze ketchup bottle and a minor explosion. And then sometimes it’s simply that smack, right in the face, mid-inhale. This is also known as the hotbox – cracking the window a smidge is appropriate at this time. And you might also sometimes find yourself having to drive with the full force of highway wind in your face.

We’ve changed diapers on the roadside, in the back of the wagon, and in cold weather on each other’s laps – though depending on baby’s mood combined with said presence’s consistency, one must remain vigilant, ninja-like, and expeditious so as to avoid further unpleasantness and/or trips to the shop for an interior clean.

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At least with poops you can smell them. With any standard spit up, there is no warning. They’re silent, odorless, tasteless (well, probably not tasteless), and they sneak up on you like a warm caterpillar of goo on your arm. Spit ups are rare in the car because they usually occur immediately after a feed-and-burp session before putting your foot back on the gas. However rare, the automobile pilot should stay alert to avoid the baby barf, the cute curdle, the lactic lunch – it’s still a thing to look out for. Because when you’re least expecting it, you go to grab the little bundle out of the car seat and you touch something wet and squirmy. ‘Cloth. I need a cloth.’

lady scrunching her face

And then, some babies just get sad. Though our baby sleeps most of the time we’re in the car, I know of others who only scream. Plus, that does not make our car immune to the blood-curdling cries and vein-popping surges of desperation from the back seat. As very new parents, this would get us sweaty on the highway but we’ve since learned from our daughter that a combination of head rubbing (me) and singing (wife) calms her down right away.

Driving with the baby has been an overwhelmingly good experience here. My wife and I enjoy long drives and it seems our little one is following suit. Usually when I look she either is asleep or staring out the window at the passing scenery, clutching her bear, and pointing at stuff she likes – beautiful. And then smack! Right in the face.

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