The day my baby stroller broke nearly broke me, too. One of our babysitters texted: "This just happened . . ." with three sad face emojis and a photo of my stroller, with the hinges completely detached from the wheels.
"It's the end of an era!" I texted my husband (more crying emojis) and explained about our stroller's demise. We were way past due for an upgrade anyway, but this stroller had been with us since our firstborn. By now—and two more kids and over six years later—it had "seen some things."
That night, I couldn't wait to cart away The Great Big Blue Eyesore that had been taking up the better half of our entryway for years. I waited until the kids were asleep so as to avoid all the questions that would inevitably ensue if they were to see me in the act:
"Where's it going?" (The trash.)
"You're throwing OUR STROLLER in the trash? What's gonna happen to it?" (Um…)
"Is another baby gonna use it?" (Hopefully not, unless that baby's parents don't intend to leave the house.)
I wheeled it (sort of, since it was falling apart more and more with every inch it traveled) down the hall, slowly and solemnly. When I reached the trash room, I gave the stroller one final, firm push in the direction of some crushed Amazon.com boxes and a chewed-up-looking wicker basket, and turned away.
But right before the door shut behind me, I felt this surprising pang as I pictured the stroller sitting there alone in the dark. Forlorn. Like it was a living, breathing thing.
Though in many ways, my stroller did have a life to it; it had soul, a spirit. It was my faithful friend since the day my first baby was born.
It remained the most indispensable tool in my Mom Arsenal—without which I would basically be housebound in a city that's not exactly car-friendly. Nearly every day, I had silently praised its extra-large wheels that maneuvered this way or that with basically the suggestion of my pinky's push, and its enormous undercarriage that could hold the family dog and a week's groceries (or sometimes an entire 6-year-old boy.)
As fast as I shut it, I threw open the door to the trash room and flung myself at the thing, burying my head deep into the sickly-sweet-smelling seat. How many ounces of milk (my own and from other animal sources), ice creams, and chocolate chips had congealed into the dark fibers of the stroller seat over the years? I inhaled the smell of it and felt intoxicated with memories:
There I was as a new mom, side-by-side with a mom friend, strolling down the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights in matching strollers (same brand, hers was yellow), as we traded tips on how best to swaddle.
There we all were, new mamas unsure of ourselves and these new roles we had, our strollers lined up while we made a picnic beside them, squeezing those messy pouch foods into our baby's waiting mouths.
The stroller smelled of memories and more—it smelled like my babies. It was sour-sweet-milky mixed with sweat and skin and boy and pacifiers. Leaving all of this behind almost did feel like leaving a living thing alone in a dark trash room, and walking away.
This stroller was a representation of my transformation to 'mother.'
When I got back to my apartment, I broke down sobbing.
"I threw out the stroller!" I cried, to my husband.
He smiled, relieved that I hadn't received a horrible phone call between the trash room and our apartment, and wrapped his arms around me.
"I don't have babies anymore!" I wailed as if I had lost my actual children, rather than having merely allowed time to do its thing.
We had already said goodbye to all the other accouterments of babyhood—from the jumparoos to the baby carriers. Even the high chair that had way overstayed its welcome simply because it looked good in our kitchen, had finally gone on to greener pastures (our cousin's house).
But getting rid of the stroller signaled my very solid leap away from the baby years and onto the kid stage of my motherhood. And while these are all good things—triumphs, really—it is hard to shake off an identity that's been with you for what feels like forever.
I toyed with the idea of going back for the stroller and holding onto it for just a few more days if only to smell the baby smell that no longer clings to the skin of my growing boys. But I knew that would be ridiculous. So I did the only thing you do when you're having trouble saying goodbye to something or someone. I found something new.
Before bed, I ordered our replacement stroller—a sporty, compact, umbrella stroller meant for toddlers and up and selected overnight delivery. I looked at the space it would soon occupy in place of its forebear. I would have a day to grieve my loss. And tomorrow, I'd strap my 3-year-old into his new, 'Big Boy' stroller (that would fit his legs, finally!) and his big brother could ride beside us on his scooter.
Honestly, mamas, change is painful even when it's good.
And the truth is, no matter the ride, we will all get to wherever we need to go.