Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stairway to Nowhere

Following our traumatic summer last year when we were homeless for nearly 3 months during my pregnancy, I promised myself that when we finally found a suitable apartment it would be one we could stay in for a few years.

We took the place we are in now pretty much out of desperation. It was the last place we looked at and it kinda WAS at the top of our budget. It's a 4 bedroom duplex with a shower and a bath. Our building also has an elevator and an entrance with no stairs, which is perfect when I'd have to deal with a stroller. Being disabled and pregnant, I needed several ameneties to make my life easier but I HAD to have the elevator.

              With my balanced compromised because of my belly, I wasn't taking stairs.

                         Fast forward to baby.
I can't schlep a stroller up or down stairs and I don't have the balance to wear the baby in a baby carrier and just take her down or up the stairs, so it'd be great to stay where we are now, because I have my independence, but I think we have to move again=( I have trauma just looking at apartment rentals online!

Having a landlord from hell and an apartment at the top of our budget, now that we no longer have a live in nanny (thank God!!) we don't need the extra bedroom, so it'd be great to find something cheaper and smaller, but we haven't had any luck finding a suitable place. We live in a city in the foothills of Jerusalem Israel, so nearly every building has stairs. The buildings in this city are fairly old, so chances of them having an elevator are none really. Many ground floor apartments even have stairs leading downward to the apartment.

In our searches, apartments have been listed as disability accessible, but apparently Israelis don't understand what disabled access means. The first apartment we looked at months ago sounded GREAT. Ground floor, totally in our budget and it was at the back of the medical clinic we go to. Best of all it was still in the neighborhood we are in now which we were very happy about. We got Naama ready, put her in the stroller and off we went to look at this apartment. On the way I asked my husband if there were stairs. He said there were a few small stairs. No big deal. I can deal with taking the stroller up and down like 2-3 stairs. Not that I ever tried, but I figure it's the same thing as going on and off a curb with the stroller which is something I do very often.

We get to the building and I see TEN stairs just leading to the courtyard of the building. I was ready to turn around and walk home. But my husband said there may be another entrance. If there was I didn't see it! We got to the entrance of the apartment and I was just in shock! 2-3 stairs my ass! There were at least 8 stairs going STRAIGHT down to the apartment. My husband had a go at the landlord saying that he was told there weren't really stairs etc. The landlord said no no it's OK! He said we could possibly build a ramp over the stairs. I just stared at the guy like he landed from Mars. With the angle and height the stairs were at there was NO way a ramp would even be possible. My husband looked at the apartment anyway. I don't understand why. If I can't get in and out on my own, I don't care if the apartment is a palace!

This situation was only the first of many similar situations. It doesn't seem to matter whether I tell the landlord or agent NO STAIRS in Hebrew or English (even native English speakers), they continually show my husband apartments that have like a flight or a flight and a half of stairs just to get in to the place. Maybe they would understand if I spoke in Swahili?? Geez... I don't know, maybe they just really don't understand that I really CAN'T deal with a stroller and stairs. Maybe they think I will manage?? And my husband God love him, he continues to look at these apartments as if they are actually a possibility!!! As soon as I see stairs, I turn around. No need to waste anyone's time!
Truth is, even if I were completely able bodied, I wouldn't want to schlep a baby and a stroller up and down stairs multiple times a day. If only I could wear a baby carrier...Sometimes I think I want to try it because I have overcome so many other challenges I faced in caring for Naama, but then I come back to my senses. One fall with her on my body and it may be all over. No way am I taking that chance. I wonder if there have been others in my situation who have found a solution...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mommy and Me

Today Naama and I went to our first mommy and me class.  I was very much looking forward to the class. I was nervous because we'd be taking the bus there and I wasn't sure how I was going to manage on the bus with a stroller. Walking with my husband to the bus stop, I felt like a little girl on my first day of school. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Here I was going with my baby to a mommy and me class all on my own! My husband put the stroller on the bus through the back door. I followed, put the stroller on brake and walked to the front to pay. So far so good. A woman helped me off the bus and I was on my way to the class.

When I got to the mommy and me class, there were stairs leading to the apartment. I called the woman leading the class and asked her to come out and help me. I didn't tell her I have Cerebral Palsy. She cast me a quick up and down, so as she pulled the stroller up the stairs, I mentioned I had a slight disability. I feel like I should wear a sign saying I HAVE CEREBRAL PALSY. I hate explaining... sometimes I do, sometimes I don't...
Walking into her apartment, I saw all the other moms already sitting with their babies in a circle on the floor. There was no room to bring the stroller through to the circle, so I had to ask the woman to carry Naama to the circle. Someone thoughtfully put a chair out for me so I didn't have to sit on the floor like the rest of the mommies. I got glances from some mommies in the class. I don't blame them. I'd look too if I saw someone walking abnormally.

The class got started and at first I was holding Naama on my lap and moving her arms and legs to the puppet show and song.
 Then I just sat her on the floor in front of me so she could explore a little. I stayed behind her at first because while she can sit on her own, she can't sit alone for a long period of time, so I was afraid she was going to fall back and hit her head on the leg of my chair, but she was fine and loved playing with other babies.

               After the puppet show, they broke out the rattles and tamboreen bracelets.

 I wanted to get in on this action, so I got down on the floor with Naama and together with the other babies and mommies we were shaking our tamboreens, rattling our rattles and singing away. I think I had a little too much fun...=) At nearly 9 months, Naama is still putting everything in her mouth, so of course in went the rattle and the tamboreen bracelet! The woman running the class must have read my mind because she said "to all new mommies, I've disinfected all the toys." Keep munching away then Naama! 

When all the babies were back in a circle, the head of the class went around putting this big furry hat on each baby as she said their name. Unfortunately, I couldn't get in front of Naama in time to get a picture, so I had to settle for a back shot.

 I think I was the only mom there with a camera. I lack the balance and strength to bend down to baby level and get really nice shots, so I do what I can. I was all over the place trying to get a good photo. Can you tell this was my first mommy and me class? =)

For one of the activities, all the mommies were holding their babies as they walked around in a circle and then jumped in and out of the circle. The other activity had the mommies walk around in a circle and the babies got to beat on a drum when the circle stopped. I don't have the balance to walk around holding Naama. I didn't say anything. For the activity where the mommies and babies jumped in and out of the circle, I just leaned back and forth in the chair with Naama in my arms. For the drum activity, when the circle reached me, the woman running the class brought the drum to Naama and let her bang on it=) 
At the end of the class, I waited till nearly everyone was gone and then asked for help to carry Naama to her stroller.

          Mommy and Me was a lot of fun! I had a blast and it looks like Naama loved it too! 

 One of the mommies in the class happened to be an old friend of my husband's from back in Australia. She recognized me and we walked out together. My new mommy friend mentioned how Naama was perfectly suited for me since she is such a calm, happy baby. Interesting how people pick that up almost  right away=)

Getting on the bus home was a story. I won't get on through the back of bus because I'm always afraid the driver won't see me. When the front doors opened, I asked the driver if he could come closer to the curb so I wouldn't have a gap between the stroller and the bus. Instead of coming closer, the driver lowered the bus but no ramp came forth, so that didn't really help me. An elderly woman on the bus saw me and came to help me lift the stroller on the bus. Right away I realized my mistake of not getting on at the back. The stroller's back wheels were too large to fit through the narrow aisle toward the front of the bus and I couldn't just stand there because more people were boarding at each stop. I had no choice but to take Naama out of the stroller and hold her on my lap. The elderly woman helped me fold the stroller and we stuffed it as best we could by my legs. I had one arm around Naama and I was holding the stroller steady with the other arm. This was my first time on a bus in our city. In certain areas the city is very hilly with windy roads. I guess I let my mind wander for a moment during the ride because the next thing I know, the bus took a deep turn and caught me off gaurd. The stroller flew into the aisle and I almost lost my grip on Naama. I readjusted my grip and someone helped to put the stroller back, but my heart was racing and my hands were shaking. What was I thinking getting on a bus with Naama by myself?

Finally when I reached my stop, a woman helped me and Naama off the bus. I thanked her and then realized I got off about a stop early which meant I had to walk uphill in crazy hot weather. As I walked to meet my husband, I had mixed emotions. I felt like crying because the whole bus thing was such an ordeal and I was so embarrassed. I just wanted to go to the class so my baby could have a good time.  On the other hand, I'm happy I went to the class with Naama. It was good for both of us. 

When I told my husband what happened on the bus ride back, he wondered why I didn't just catch a cab home. I explained that taking a cab would've been nearly the same as taking a bus. I would still need help transferring Naama and dealing with the stroller. 

I definitely want to go back to mommy and me next week. Maybe one of the mommies has a car and can give us a ride, but the ideal would be a mommy and me class in my area so I wouldn't have to worry about a 15 minute bus ride with Naama.