I’ve never been a light packer. But the birth of my twins turned me into a sidewalk-navigating sherpa. I get comments. Many. A frequent example is the chorus from my husband’s family, who, used to the lean nature of city living, always ask, “Did you leave anything at home?” In my genuine fear of such a thing, I answer, “I hope not!”
My perpetual need to become a carryall began with trying to make plans with another mom of twins. Her boys, about a year and a half older than mine, were headed to my home to meet our 2-month-olds. My friend’s requests were totally appropriate: two high chairs, baby-proofing of anything they could pull down or stick their fingers into, and a vegetarian-friendly lunch for the three of them. But my newly postpartum brain almost melted.
In that moment, I made a resolution. We were about to intimidate a lot of people with our presence. When we go somewhere, we will be self-sufficient.
READ: How in the World Do I Pack for Four Kids?
You may scoff at my lode and full-body baggage. After all, I have my double frame stroller, two car seats, two rain shields, a double-wide diaper bag, two fleece blankets (for covering or laying on), two muslins, a cooler for four bottles, a box of formula and pureed solids, chew toys, soft toys, booster seats if headed to someone’s home, my purse, my umbrella, and my own jacket. And that’s not counting my husband Isaac’s jacket nor the breast pump gear I used to schlep on trips longer than three hours.
As you can imagine, for the first few months it took us more than an hour to prepare to leave the house. But I knew my efforts were not in vain when I left my kiddos alone with someone who wasn’t me or Isaac for the first time. I had to start prepping that morning at 10 a.m. for a 3 p.m. appointment in New York City—a 25-minute trip just a few months previously. We made it into the city, and Isaac’s mom was excitedly waiting to watch them. I had set her up with two sleeping angels, perfectly cuddled in their carseats. I headed out for my six-week post-birth checkup.
I called at the end of my appointment and told her that my insurance had to be run, and that I should be back within half an hour. They were still sleeping. Phew! When I walked in 33 minutes later, my always-put-together mother-in-law was standing there flushed, hair astray, covered in spit up, holding one crying baby with the other baby naked laying on the floor. Good news! I had full outfit changes, plenty of bottles, and even some wet wipes to take those pesky spit-up stains right out of her blouse. (Is there anything a wet wipe can’t take care of???) YESSSSSS! My various array of baby accouterments had paid off. And in front of my mother-in-law, no less!
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By contrast, it makes traveling alone both easier and more harried than how it was pre-babies. On my first weekend away by myself, I was feverishly patting my pockets, making sure my subway Metro card was still there—just a slight silhouette of the usual pacifier outline that graced my pockets after it had dropped somewhere undesirable. I opened and reopened the smallest compartment on my backpack. Yes, my wallet hadn’t moved from where I had zipped it in. No small hands had grabbed at the dangling zipper handle.
After my fifth or sixth or perhaps 50th time checking, it struck me that caravan was my new normal. Finally, all those years of desperately trying to downsize to a smaller purse, cleaning out receipts, only taking one pair of sunglasses (but what if one breaks on me?!?!), had finally been justified. I did need two outfit changes. Twelve extra pairs of underwear were necessary, even if it now meant diapers, not Victoria’s Secret. And snacks were a non-negotiable—both for cranky babies and desperate parents.
Of course, despite our best attempts, we have also failed miserably. Most gloriously, we packed for a day in the park that would culminate in an engagement party for Isaac’s brother and his new fiancée. On top of all our regular haul, we also had dress clothes for all four of us and a present for the couple. Our picnic promptly got rained out and we went to my other in-laws where extra diapers and wet wipes abound. We sat down to our indoor picnic while the boys nibbled on teeny bits of bagel and lox.
READ: So Long and Farewell, Diaper Bag
Our meal came to an end, and it was time to top the boys off with some formula. In an instant, a panicked look passed between me and Isaac. I didn’t pack the formula! Didn’t YOU pack the formula? The one thing that could not be replaced easily was the only thing forgotten. We held them over with some water and hightailed it to the supermarket a couple blocks away. New York City prices be damned, we were back to carrying capacity and only $19 poorer. Next stop, full tummies and an engagement party!
So if you see me coming, and by God, with all this STUFF you should, be grateful. I’m just trying a to be a bit more aware and take a little more burden off you. Does that mean we’ll be invited back? Maybe not. But me and all my stuff have done our part.