A new mom learns some serious life lessons in New Orleans.
Elizabeth Hurchalla: I wasn't going to let having a 4-month-old keep me from going out and living my life -- including joining college friends for a blowout trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I wasn't worried; I'd heard there were family-friendly areas, and I wanted to prove I could keep traveling and having fun just like I always had, even now that I had a kid. (I felt so strongly about this, I even wrote an essay about it for this website.)
The first day was fine: We walked around the Garden District, and Dean fell asleep on the go. It was working!
But that evening, our entourage set out for the Bacchus parade with baby in tow. After dark, everything seemed louder and more crowded. It was past Dean's bedtime, and as I attempted to steer the stroller through the throngs of revelers, I started to doubt myself. Dean wasn't too impressed; he immediately started to bawl. My husband bounced him and shushed him and smiled at him, but the baby was having none of it. I clapped my hands over Dean's ears as a float with the volume set on max went by. We lasted maybe four minutes before turning around and heading back to the house.
Fortunately, the days have worked out okay. Dean has been happy enough to be carted around in his carrier or stroller -- napping on the move -- while we explore the city. We saw a jazz band leading a conga line of dancers through the streets of the French Quarter. We sampled crawfish étouffée and pralines. We marveled at the city's architecture and spirit.
This morning, I nursed Dean from the steps of an apartment building twenty yards back from the Zulu parade. It was loud and crazy, and there was smoke from barbecues and cigarettes everywhere. I just did the best I could to enjoy the spectacle while shielding Dean from all of it.
But the truth is, I've realized I can't just live my life like I used to. I'm not the person I used to be; now I'm a mom, and with motherhood comes responsibility -- such as realizing that something that's totally fun for me might be totally unfun for my baby. We saw lots of kids at Mardi Gras, and I do think it can be something the whole family can enjoy. But my baby is too young to have much interest in checking out the floats or collecting beads. He'd rather just hang out with us at home. Which is where I'll be next Mardi Gras.