Stroller Story Part 3: The Long-Awaited Finale
Okay, I have to admit that this blog post has been lingering for quite some time now. In fact, I have probably put it off for so long that what was once three blog posts might become synthesized into this one as a final post. We’ll see…
For those of you reading this for the first time, I paid a stroller consultant to help me find the best stroller for me. Find the initial survey I completed here and the StrollerQueen’s bio here. As I said in my comments, the StrollerQueen is amazing. She really knows her strollers. She immediately responded to my answers and payment with suggestions based on what I had written. I just did a quick search of my gmail and have well over 50 correspondences with her, so she definitely earned her $35. Plus manufacturers are liars. Once you start researching strollers, you quickly realize that the weight may or may not include the seat. Or might shave a few pounds off. You need to make sure you check the weight from a third party, like the StrollerQueen or Baby Bargains.
Her first bit of advice: I will say that the first thing that comes to my mind is that you do need a “defensible” stroller, and one that sits high up. She also recommended a carrycot. A carrycot is a bassinet that you can switch out with the stroller’s seat. It makes the stroller look more like the traditional pram. I must admit that I really love this idea. It seems very sweet and I am not getting in and out of the car that often. Plus there are a lot of strollers out there that offer this option. The StrollerQueen ruled the Bugaboo Bee out right off the bat. It is fairly low when reclined and it doesn’t feature the carrycot option, unlike the Bee’s big brother, the Frog. If you are a careful reader of my blog, you will know that the Bee was my first choice with reservations.
The StrollerQueen provided another key bit of advice about car seats that snap on to strollers:
Recent research shows that it is not a good idea to leave your baby in a car seat, at all. The new motto by a lot of doctors is, “Car seats are for the car. Leave them there.” That is because extended infant car seat use has been implicated in plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), respiratory problems (not as much oxygen goes to the brain in the reclined angle of the car seat, vs. lying flat in a bassinet) and developmental delays (babies are all scrunched up and restricted by the harness, vs. wiggling around and stretching out the way they are supposed to.) So, I don’t recommend sticking any car seat in a stroller.
So even more of a reason to get a stroller with a carrycot option. Plus I have always hated the idea of lugging around a car seat. You see moms sort of limping along with a heavy car seat hanging down below her knee. It looks so unnatural and uncomfortable. And I have a crooked back. I am eager to leave my car seat alone until a drive is in order.
Henry and I planned a trip to NYC the last weekend in January. So I knew that this consultation was timely. I wanted to have my recommendations and finalize my research before our trip. The idea of driving around to the various DC suburbs was not appealing to me. My attempt to go maternity shopping was a complete bust. It led to a huge fight, blurred vision (a migraine warning) and an hour and a half drive just to go 14 miles. When I finally walked into the Gap, the sales clerk smiled and said, “I think they have maternity clothes in Fair Oaks.” We were in Tyson’s Corner. The only perk to that shopping trip is I never have to return to Tyson’s again. It was way easier for us to take the three-hour train to NYC and shop than any attempt to find the same items in the DC region.
A week away from my trip to NYC, I had my top two strollers in mind. I had read up on the statistics on SQ’s web site. Plus I had watched countless videos of stroller reviews on YouTube. Baby Gizmo seems to have taken the lead on stroller testing videos. If you are curious about how a stroller collapses, I guarantee there is a video available for you. I had my picks ready and revealed them to the SQ: At this point, I think that I am interested in UppaBaby Vista first and the i’coo second. I want to try to see them in person next week.
Really, I wanted the UppaBaby Vista, which has a massive basket, a single-hand fold, and comes fully stocked with accessories like the carrycot, weather shield, and a full-coverage canopy to protect my baby from the masses. Plus it is reversible. And they have a new addition where I can add on a little seat underneath when Baby Number Two comes along. So I wouldn’t even need to think about which stroller to get next time around. It would already be standing upright on its own in my closet.
Then SQ dropped the bomb on me. She suggested that I might as well test the Frog out while I was looking at my top two favorites: You know, you might as well add the Bugaboo Frog to your list. There are some deals out there.
I quickly responded: I’m still leaning towards the Vista. I saw a Frog when I saw the Bee. My husband loved it, but it felt a little big to me. Is the Vista the same size?
SQ: The Vista is bigger than the Frog. But, see what you think.
Oh no… back to square one. Granted when I wrote that, I had just gotten off an afternoon shift at Paper Source, which really wipes me out. If I’m going to stand for four hours, I need to do it when I feel peppy first thing in the morning. I didn’t fully freak out, but the SQ did try to calm me down and pointed out that not all strollers are perfect. Hence the reason there are more stroller models than there are cars (especially now with all of the car companies starting to cut back and close down). So I quickly regrouped with my full knowledge and had a new list in hand before heading off to NYC: I’ll test the Bee, Frog, and Pliko Switch out. Plus we discussed the Valco Buggster. It does have a bassinet, but isn’t reversible. Finally the StrollerQueen predicted that I would end up with the Bee.
So off to NYC…
Once we started looking at strollers in NYC, it was like opening our eyes to a whole new world. We hopped into Metro Minis, a baby boutique, on our way to the Whitney. Henry asked if the sales clerks if they had any strollers. They did not. However, they have THE largest selection of baby carriers in the city. And they also pointed out that if you live in NYC, taking your stroller on the Subway is not an option. Ummm… yeah, with the stairs, teeth-like gates and general chaos, that was pretty obvious to us. We are certainly spoiled in DC to have a very easy and accessible Metro system. But there was a proud new papa standing there with his Bugaboo Chameleon, the top of the line Bugaboo. He bragged, “I paid $800 for this.” Shocked by his candor, we asked a few follow up questions. And finally ended with, “Have you ever taken it on the Subway?” “God, no!”
Lauren also told me that her father-in-law received a ticket for helping a random woman carry a stroller up the Subway stairs. He refuted by saying it wasn’t his stroller. The officer replied that he shouldn’t have helped her. NYC Subway = Strollers Not Welcome. Which explains the excess of large Bugaboos that never enter the Subway and Maclaren umbrella strollers, which can easily collapse and carried on without much notice. And the reason there is a store like Metro Minis completely devoted to carriers. Just tuck your baby into a sling on your body and away you go. The Bugaboo Bee certainly tries to address the stress of NYC public transportation in the multi-paneled brochure. Is it the solution? I can’t say, but it seems that NYC is an extreme place to examine this whole stroller mystery.
Day 2 in the city, I wanted to knock out some basic baby needs first thing before heading off to more normal life activities, like walking around neighborhoods and eating food. I bought some much needed maternity clothes just a few blocks away from our hotel before heading off to Buy Buy Baby. I had heard of Buy Buy Baby from a few of my new mother friends, Taylor and Lauren. This is a Bed Bath and Beyond company, so you will instantly recognize the layout of floor to ceiling wares as soon as you walk in the door. Rumor has it you can also use the BBB 20% off coupons I have been hoarding for the last few years. That is great news! Unlike its big brother, Buy Buy Baby has yet to infiltrate the South. Northern Virginia is as far south as it gets.
Unlike my first trip to Babies R Us, I was relieved instead of overwhelmed walking around the store. It was the first time I had been able to see some of these products I had been eying online at BabyEarth. Henry pointed out that there is a 75% chance that I don’t want something that I find on the internet after seeing it in person. I think that quote came from the unsuccessful trip to Tyson’s and visiting Pottery Barn Kids. The curtains and the chairs didn’t trip my trigger.
We wound our way around the store down to the basement level. There in the center of the store was a hub of activity. Two young blond guys were poised and taking questions. Will I recognize them one day on a TV show or in a magazine? Possibly. These guys were doling out the information, popping open strollers, and answering questions left and right. One was wearing an strapped-on empty baby carrier. The couples weren’t only talking to the sales associates, but consulting one another. These strollers had gone through the rigors of testing and it showed. Many of them had teetering seats half-connected to their frames. They looked like they had come short of Dwight’s test drive on the Office. I did tell Henry about the models I recognized and even demonstrated the Orbit one-hand fold, which is the same stroller that Dwight destroyed, aka the new “it” stroller ringing up at a whopping $1200.
There was one ultra hipster couple, who had a newborn baby and their UppaBaby Vista packed to the gills. I am not completely sure why they were there. But I, along with another couple, took advantage of seeing the stroller in actual use. We were totally checking it out. The baby was up high and she had her over-sized purse hanging on the handle bars. Plus she had both of their winter coats folded up in the underneath basket covering a few shopping bags. I’m going to guess that the Vista can hold at least a dozen yogurt containers, which was the measure used in the New York Magazine article comparing nine strollers. (Although the UppaBaby Vista is not featured in the article.) They love their Vista… but weighing in at three pounds more than the Frog, I ultimately checked it off my list. I started thinking, I don’t carry that much stuff around anyway. I’m more concerned about being able to skip the mini-elevator in our lobby when I am in a hurry.
Next I really checked out the Bee. BJ, the sales associate, was able to show me how to close it one hand at a time. I still couldn’t do it. I especially could not open it with the extended toe on my boot. Any reasonable person would probably admit that is a bad sign. I guess I am just going to have to go for a rounded toe until I get the hang of it. Good thing I have a June baby. We had also accosted a new mother with her baby tucked inside of a Bee upstairs. She said that she really loved it and had never considered it until coming there. The baby looked sweet and not TOO far away. Plus he was facing her. And she seemed happy and maybe not someone who had obsessed needlessly over this purchase, like me.
But I still wasn’t certain. So I really stopped and considered the Frog. I mean, why not! It does drive better than any other stroller out there. There are a lot of perks of the height, carrycot, better colors. But then I asked BJ to show me what the stroller would look like collapsed. And that is where the decision was made. The Bee will collapse into a small one piece. But you have to remove the seat of the Frog first and you end up with two pieces in your hand. The Frog won’t even stand up on its own, which the Vista will do. I only have one closet in our home besides our clothes closets in the bedrooms. So storage won and I am going with the Bee. Even though it doesn’t have a carrycot. But, honestly, that’s one more piece I don’t have to store. Plus it fits in with my motto of “being light.” When you can’t decide, go with the lightest option possible. It hasn’t failed me yet.
We felt some resolution and left using the elevator in the back of the store. We recognized another couple from our caucus and asked what they had decided. They decided on getting the Micralite Toro. She said that she had been stroller shopping TWELVE times, many of which ended in tears. I just want to point out that this was only my second trip to check out strollers, despite my countless hours of online internet searching. I have since made a third trip to decide on the color, which include a fairly uninspiring limit of five colors. So we agreed on a basic black. Ike suggested that the baby might become a Goth based on this decision. I’ll take my chances. I’m not very worried.
After BBB, we walked down the street to purchase a snack from Whole Foods. As we stood in line to pay, I noticed two things. A woman in line seemed a little disgruntled with her large stroller. The frustrated mom made me realize that I really want something narrow and light to weave my way around that crowd and not have to huff as I pause for people to push their way through. Second, the Micralite Toro couple walked by looking completely beat down.
Henry pointed out this whole stroller experience has been quite strange. People are so open and want to give you as much information as possible. Most of the parents we encountered would probably not have been so generous over any other topic. But he proclaimed, “You could solve the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in the stroller section of a Buy Buy Baby.” True.
Monday morning, my pregnancy brain was kicking in pretty hard. I could not remember anything. Granted it was a 7 am train trip. But sitting in the Amtrak lobby, I realized that I had completely forgotten to check out the Valco Buggster. So I although I was 95% certain, I still had a nagging feeling that I just wasn’t sure. Plus I had taken the comment about the Bugaboo on my blog a little too seriously. It didn’t make me cry or anything like that. But it did make me think that maybe I am being ridiculous.
So the next day, I was on my walk debating how important the reversible feature of the stroller really is. I just wasn’t sure. And as I started to think that maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal, I was approached by a screaming homeless man, who continued to cuss the air out using a string of words starting with the letters n and f. All of the best of the best. Maybe that was a sign that, yeah, I probably don’t want to lead with my newborn through this unruly and unpredictable crowd that frequents my neighborhood.
Bugaboo Bee vs. Valco Baby Buggster
I came home to a quick search on the internet and found the answer to the Buggster vs. the Bee. Even staying true to my personal motto of being light, these pictures and videos answered any remaining questions. Thanks to Bradley’s mom for comparing two random strollers. She even mentioned that it was unfair to compare the two strollers and mentioned under her breath that The Bee was her favorite. Sounds good to me. Plus it sounds like she has also caught this stroller bug – maybe she could be the junior StrollerQueen (I think StrollerPrincess is taken by StrollerQueen’s daughter.). But I really just want one set of wheels.
Special thanks to Taylor for confirming that the reversible feature is the key feature for the baby’s language development. By the baby facing the mother, the mom talks to her baby more, which helps to develop language skills. Wow! Mayor Fenty, take note. Maybe a reversible stroller manufacturer would use DC’s low income moms as a test case scenario. And all you stroller engineers, just look at the potential of creating a low-cost reversible stroller. Certainly someone related to Target could pull this off. Get to work! As mothers, we all face the same concerns and we are ready for more innovation and options. In the words of the StrollerQueen: …keep in mind that there is no perfect stroller (which is why so many of us wind up with more than one!)
So Bugaboo Bee it is. Look forward to rolling it right up to your house for a visit.