Ah, my beautiful MINI Cooper, all sea foam green and chromey. It's adorable and fun and makes me feel like I'm in a Doris Day movie set in London. This was exactly the sensation I pursued when I was in the midst of my fertility struggle. I bought the car sometime between having a balloon inflated in my uterus and undergoing weekly jabbings to check my hormone levels. When I was feeling less than optimistic about my chances of getting pregnant, just the sight of the MINI's perky little grill made me smile. In an act of both resignation and defiance, my first car purchase was the smallest, quirkiest, least-kid-friendly vehicle I could find.
Fortunately, all that fertility work paid off and I got pregnant a few months after buying my MINI. Unfortunately, I don't actually live in a Doris Day movie. I live in a world of rear-facing car seats and gigantic all-terrain strollers. Ever since its electronics decided to fail on a busy street during rush hour when I was seven months pregnant, I have begun to question the practicality of my lovely little car.
The list of inconveniences keeps growing longer and longer. I usually use a sling to haul my baby around, so it took a while before I realized I couldn't fit our stroller in the trunk. Then I tried to travel with a friend and noticed that the car seat squeezed out half of the already meager legroom available to the front passenger. And then there's the constant fear of existing in the blind spot of the gigantic vehicles that dominate the road. Sometimes I pull up next to an SUV at a streetlight and realize with much anxiety that my entire car could fit under its cargo net.
There are some advantages to my teeny car, however. It takes up so little room in a parking spot that I have plenty of space to maneuver while loading in a baby and all assorted paraphernalia. The attention it attracts is a great icebreaker when I meet people, which new motherhood has made me desperate to do. And the thing has so many airbags that, if we were in an accident, it would basically become a giant Jiffy-Pop and roll us to safety. I'm not sure the plusses outweigh the minuses, though, and I have to admit that when we rented a remarkably ugly but undoubtedly useful Ford Freestar for our last vacation, I spent the entire week marveling at how much easier it was to pop in a car seat when I didn't have to balance on one leg, squeeze my arms into the single passenger-side door, wedge the carrier between two seats and then try to find the base attachment solely by looking through the window.
I was at least somewhat sensible and leased my MINI, so I have eighteen more months to decide if it can adapt to our family or if it will become the cutest trade-in at the minivan lot. Part of me knows how much easier life would be with auto-open doors and room for more than one and a half people. But the other part can't let go of the idea that I might be tooling around one day and suddenly be noticed by some hopelessly lost casting agent in search of America's newest ingénue. I mean, hey, even Doris Day had a kid, but she sure as heck didn't have a minivan.