With two toddlers and a husband in dental school, my life is barely sprinkled with me time… Something that I have learned to live without and have done so quite happily. When those rare moments present themselves, however, I eagerly snap them up. So, when I received an invitation to fly to Beverly Hills for a press event last weekend, I quickly accepted. Little did I know that Hurricane Irene was barreling towards New York City, and I was about to strand my two toddlers and husband in her path.
I boarded the plane to Los Angeles, despite the news loud and blaring about Irene’s massive wingspan fast approaching Manhattan. I have zero experience with hurricanes (not unlike other New Yorkers), so I listened when everyone around me seemed to think she would pass with nary a whisper. I quickly enabled the airline’s wifi and obsessively checked weather updates for the entire 5 hour flight. Pregnant, hormonal, worried sick and wondering how my trusty instincts could have betrayed me into allowing me to board that airplane.
I checked into the hotel room and promptly turned on the news. With our apartment building stationed directly on the East River, we were classified as Zone A, the very first zone that would be potentially evacuated. Without any family elsewhere in the city or even a car to leave, my worries were only elevated, imagining my husband and kids making their way to a shelter in the middle of Manhattan.
Despite the knowledge that stress is bad and sleep is crucial during pregnancy, I neither slept nor ate much through the anxiety of the approaching potential disaster. The only comfort that I took was knowing that at least one of my babies was safe with me.
The following day I received the first notice of mandatory evacuation from the management of the complex where I live my family. Sure enough, our buildings began to get boarded up and I immediately arranged to have my husband and kids head to a hotel in midtown. Hotels and shelters in the city were filling up with people from evacuation areas, and I wasn’t about to have my family somewhere unsafe or unfamiliar. I called the Four Seasons and they not only had a room but were also able to accommodate our kitten, Charlie. I knew that this was somewhere that the kids would think they were on vacation and it would be an adventure with daddy-taking focus of the stress of the hurricane and my absence away from their attention.
My superhero husband packed the kids, cat and everything else they might need into the stroller and headed out into the calm before the storm. The hotel was not even halfway staffed and had completely shut down room service, but made sure that their guests would be safe throughout the hurricane and possible tornadoes threatening the city. This in and of itself was priceless to me, especially knowing that I couldn’t be there to take care of them myself.
The following morning, after the storm had passed, they had gotten the call that it was “OK” to return to our apartment. There hadn’t been any damage to our buildings whatsoever. We are all very lucky; Everyone was safe, sound, and happy. Thank goodness.
I was in the process of wrapping up my trip in Los Angeles a the time, and learned that due to all of the flight cancellations to and from the airports in NYC, my next flight back home wouldn’t be for another week. So, I flew upstate to the Bay Area to stay with my mom; The one place away from my home in NYC that I knew I would sleep soundly, eat well, and rest comfortably.
I miss my family and friends terribly when we are in New York City, so this extra little blip of quality time with them was truly a blessing in disguise. It feels quite unnatural, awkward and lonely being away from my children for so long, but it was the first time during this pregnancy that I’ve been able to actually focus on myself and baby #3. I haven’t had this kind of time to myself since way before my first child was born, and certainly haven’t counted & calendared the waking/kicking moments of the baby inside me the way I did with the first two.
I was welcomed back to NYC with huge hugs and love from everyone, and I’m finally truly content and happy. The best part of the experience: Learning to appreciate the “me” time, especially when my family is around.