‘Our lives don’t have to end just because we have a baby,” my wife told me in December.
Ana was eight months pregnant at the time, and we were imagining what our lives would be like in the coming weeks with our son joining the family. Would we still be able to eat out? Would we still be able to take walks on the canyon rim and hike in the South Hills? Would we still be able to hang out with friends?
Though I’m typically the optimist in our relationship, I was being a downer. We wouldn’t be able to do any of the things we did when it was just us two, I theorized.
My wife, usually pessimistic about things like this, was surprisingly optimistic.
We’ll still be able to go out and do all the things we love, she told me. It will just take a little more time and effort.
Our son was due Jan. 2, but he came a week later. Felix Alexander Riggins was born at 6:48 p.m. Jan. 9. I wept, completely overcome by the first sight of my screaming son.
In the three weeks since we brought home our little bundle of joy, I’ve learned that my wife was correct, as usual. We can still go out and do things outside our apartment, still try to live normal lives.
But there are limits.
Here’s what we’ve learned about going out in the Magic Valley with a newborn baby:
Asleep in the car seat
With mom and baby both doing well, the hospital sent us home Jan. 11. We stayed home the next day, but Felix had a doctor’s appointment that first Friday, forcing us to venture out for the first time.
We soon learned that our newborn son loves his car seat. He hates going into it and screams as we buckle it, but as soon as I pick it up and rock it, he zonks out.
So after the doctor’s appointment, we decided to go out to lunch. We wanted a place that was spacious and usually not too busy, just in case Felix started crying. We chose Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.
The food at Dickey’s was good, and like we hoped, the restaurant wasn’t too crowded. As luck would have it, it was a family-friendly atmosphere anyway — all three other couples at the restaurant had young children too, though our four-day-old son was certainly the youngest.
It was nice to know the other diners would have been understanding if Felix started crying, but luckily, he slept through our meal. He slept so soundly, we decided to go grocery shopping after lunch. He slept peacefully through our shopping trip, too.
Help from mom
Over the next week, we didn’t venture out much, but that had as much to do with the weather as it did with our newborn. Had the weather been nicer, we likely would have tried testing out the stroller on the canyon rim trail. Instead, we stayed inside, enjoying our son’s first weeks of life.
On Jan. 19, Ana’s mother flew into town. With my helpful mother-in-law in town, we ventured out several more times. Ana and her mom checked out the canyon and the Perrine Bridge, and did some shopping at Target, a store with a family-friendly atmosphere.
On Jan. 21, with the sun shining, we thought we’d finally take a walk along the canyon. Unfortunately, the path was still covered in snow, and while our stroller has good tires, the bumpy, icy path was too treacherous.
Helpful hint: if you want to get out into the fresh air and wilderness with your newborn, plan to have the baby in the spring or summer. Poor planning on our part.
With the canyon trail a no-go, we instead stopped for lunch at IHOP – my mother-in-law had a gift card, and it was nearby.
We picked a booth in a corner near another family with a boy who was about 5 and a toddler. It was the first time Felix cried in a public place, but a quick transfer from the car seat to mom’s arms solved the problem. And IHOP seemed baby-friendly enough.
Our biggest test was taking Felix to a bit more of an upscale restaurant. During her pregnancy, Ana and I had developed somewhat of a tradition eating a Sunday meal at Jaker’s once every two or three weeks. With Ana’s mom in town, we wanted to take her to our favorite restaurant, but we were nervous about bringing Felix.
It turned out well, and though he started to get fussy at times, we were able to rock the car seat and keep him calm. The only unfortunate part was the car seat didn’t fit into our booth, so we had to keep it on the ground. It wasn’t a problem for us, but it cut down on space that the wait staff had to serve us and other diners.
To their credit, the Jaker’s staff was understanding and didn’t complain, and told me not to worry when I apologized.
After taking Ana’s mother to the airport for the afternoon flight Jan. 25, we finally brought Felix into the newsroom to introduce him to my colleagues. That started out great but turned ugly when we had what I’ll call a diaper issue.
From the Times-News office, we walked to lunch with some editors to Mi Tierra, the Mexican restaurant at Main Avenue and Gooding Street West. It was here that Felix had his first real public meltdown, crying and becoming inconsolable.
But again, to the great credit of the wait staff and the other patrons, nobody seemed to be bothered.
And that’s really the lesson we’ve learned in our first few weeks as parents. We know we can go to pretty much any public place and people likely won’t mind too much if our newborn starts crying. After all, people are good and understanding, and crying is what babies do.
When the weather warms up, we hope to get out even more, to prove to ourselves that Ana was right again. Life doesn’t end when your first baby is born, and we can still do the things we love, even with a newborn in tow.