These days I navigate Downtown via a three-wheel Jeep All Terrain vehicle, off-roading to the Cornfield park in Chinatown, weaving in and out of crowds along Broadway and trekking to Ralphs for groceries.
This rugged-looking contraption with all its upgrades - iPod dock and dual cup holder included - also happens to be my baby stroller.
A little more than two months ago my husband and I brought home our new baby girl, Nina, who was born at Good Samaritan Hospital weighing a healthy 8 pounds 7 ounces. From my delivery suite I had a stunning view of the Downtown skyline, which I had time to appreciate just before the epidural set in. Just a few minutes away was our condo at Third and Spring streets, where we've lived for the past three years.
When my husband and I returned home a few days later it seemed light years from where we started. Our lifestyle had been carefree and simple, something akin to that ubiquitous marketing slogan that now brands Downtown: Live, work and play. And that's basically what we did, taking advantage of all the area has to offer, from the Art Walk to the Music Center.
But these days, that phrase for us has gained a key word: stroll.
We've become part of Downtown's burgeoning baby brigade, that defiant, pioneering group of urban parents who seem to be sprouting families faster than you can count. On walks around the neighborhood stroller sightings have proliferated as a growing chunk of the population transitions into life with children. We just happen to be part of the trend.
Everything people tell you about having a new baby is true. The first weeks were an exhausting blur of diaper changes, unfathomable sleep deprivation, around-the-clock feedings and burping. There were stretches where I'd go days without brushing my teeth or taking a shower, and sitting down to eat a complete meal was out of the question. But the day we saw Nina's first real smile - not one from gas but the one from happiness over something you did - is something we'll never forget.
Life Downtown has finally started to settle into a rhythm. It's been an adventure exploring a new side of the city, discovering the hidden and even unlikely resources available to families. For example, I was lucky enough to find my team of doctors at Good Samaritan - Allison Hill, Yvonne Bohn and Alane Park - an awesome group of hip young women who are, incidentally, being featured in a new Discovery Health series called "Deliver Me." They bring some 400 babies into the world a year, and Nina was one of them. Even our pediatrician, Dr. Nakamura, has his offices three blocks from my home in Little Tokyo.
Almost from day one Nina has taken to city life like a pro, a natural urban baby. The noise and activity outside our window lulls her to sleep - except for that motorcycle that revs its engine on Third Street - and she takes it all in with wide eyes. Her first restaurant experience was at the Pacific Dining Car, where we enjoyed a breakfast of blueberry pancakes and mercifully strong coffee. She enjoys visits to the City Hall farmers market on Thursdays, shopping in Chinatown with mom and reading car magazines with dad at Ralphs.
The guys at Old Bank DVD know us well when we stroll in for a movie, a frequent occurrence these days. We discovered the hard way that movie theaters are out for now. As summer approaches, we're looking forward to the slate of free summer concert series that we now realize were made just for families like us. We even manage to get in a glass of wine every so often at Pete's, only now it's planned around naptime.
It's interesting to watch how people on the street respond to a baby. The crowd makes a little more room for you to pass, tough-looking characters soften, and those who would normally hassle you seem to leave you alone.
Of course there are concerns, many of the same ones we had even before Nina was born. Finding a good school when the time comes is a big one, and safe places for her to play when she gets older.
Fortunately, the Downtown Los Angeles parenting community is a welcoming brotherhood. You strike up conversations in random places, network with like-minded souls and support each other just by strolling around the neighborhood. People seem to get to know you through your baby.
We still get more than a few surprised looks from some who don't expect to see a baby stroller cruising the Financial District or the L.A. Mall. But then there was also a time when few people thought Downtown would ever make a residential comeback, let alone one that could support kids.
Well, it's doing just that, ready or not.
Contact Kathryn Maese at firstname.lastname@example.org.
page 8, 5/26/2008
© Los Angeles Downtown News. Reprinting items retrieved from the archives are for personal use only. They may not be reproduced or retransmitted without permission of the Los Angeles Downtown News. If you would like to re-distribute anything from the Los Angeles Downtown News Archives, please call our permissions department at (213) 481-1448.