May 18, 2012

Reclaiming My Worst Night: Ladies Pavilion then and now

Ladies Pavilion, Central Park. Source.

Flashback to September 2010. Picture it: Central Park. Sun setting behind the buildings, light dancing across the pond, clouds glowing pink and purple. A bride and groom say their vows at the ornate Ladies Pavilion, surrounded by friends, relatives, trees, rocks, ducks and flowers. A kiss seals their marriage and forever punctuates the best evening of their lives.

I get a text message from my husband. "I got there in time to see them kiss. Where are you now?"

I feel guilty saying it, but the best night of my friend Margaret's life was my worst.

I arranged to bring 3 week old Savannah to my friend's beautiful wedding ceremony in Central Park. It took place on a Friday evening, so Rob would meet me there directly from work. I felt very confident about everything - Confident that the 2 mile walk from my apartment to my destination 3 weeks post c-section was doable (It was. I gave myself plenty of extra time to accommodate my slowness). I knew I could time my walk such that Savvy wouldn't need to nurse again until we reached Central Park where I could comfortably sit on a bench to nurse and change her (I was right). I was confident that bringing the baby carrier in the basket of our stroller was a good idea in case Savvy needed to be held on the way home (I really should've just left the massive stroller with bassinet attachment home. Oh hindsight. Oh how I wish I was an expert babywearer at this point.) I was confident that I'd find my way to Ladies Pavilion, since all I had to do was get to the west side of the park and go down a few blocks. That's where I made my error.

I knew how to cut through the park from 85th Street with my eyes closed.

But Ladies Pavilion was at West 75th Street. So to make sure I arrived on time, I alternately walked crosstown and downtown based on the traffic light pattern from York to Fifth Avenues. I entered the park in the mid 70's and after nursing Savvy, walked to the northeastern part of the pond. Ladies Pavilion stood on the opposite side. Upon reaching the pond, I decided to head west at the northern edge, rather than walk several blocks out of my way by following a nicely manicured path. I asked a Boathouse employee if I could reach the pavilion heading that way and he didn't even know what Ladies Pavilion was. I pressed on. I figured I'd find my way using the buildings in the distance to orient myself.

That decision lead me smack dab into The Ramble, the closest to actual wilderness you get in Central Park, with maze-like trails, streams, small bridges, lots of hills, and the occasional mini waterfall. Oh dear. The sun was setting. I had 15-20 minutes to spare before the ceremony was to begin. I thought I'd get there 5 minutes early. Not so. I got so turned around under the thick forest covering since I couldn't see the skyline to help me determine my direction. At one point, I considered turning around but knew I'd be late for sure and could possibly get more lost. In the shadows of the trees, it was much darker than it was minutes earlier. Google Maps on my iPhone couldn't locate my exact location so I couldn't use it for directions. Savvy was starting to fuss in her stroller. Most of the tourists had left with the sunlight so there were few people to ask for directions and those that I did ask were totally clueless. My anxiety began to sky rocket, anxiety I had never known before motherhood.

Finally, someone told me which pathway to follow and which ways to turn. I followed their directions and ended up at a staircase too tall and steep to attempt carrying my gargantuan UppaBaby down, even with help. At this point, the witching hour, Savvy began crying in the bassinet and I followed suit and started crying and texting Rob that I was lost. The mix of new mother hormones and physical exhaustion had me convinced that Savvy and I would be spending the night out in the woods, while an NYPD search party combed the forest for us. I thought for sure our story would be the inspiration for the next Law & Order SVU episode. This was the most panicked I've ever been in my life. I was overwhelmed with "oh my god I am responsible for a child now and I'm totally fucking up" feelings, plus I hate being late and pride myself at being great at directions so I was all around pissed off at myself.

A man in a gray suit emerged from the staircase and saw me crying, holding a tiny baby. "Do you need help getting down the stairs?" 

"No, I don't want to bring the stroller down the stairs. Do you know how to get to the West side without stairs?" 

"I'm not sure, but I'll walk with you. You really shouldn't be in here alone with a baby. That makes you much more vulnerable." 

"I know. That's why I'm crying *nervous laughter*."

Together, we found the way to the west side bike loop, and from there I exited the park several blocks north of Ladies Pavilion. I wasn't about to start heading downtown from within the park and risk getting lost again. At this point, I had learned from Rob that I completely missed the ceremony. I felt so awful for not being there for my friend, especially since I couldn't attend the reception. With Rob on the phone, he guided me from the west side park entrance that I should've taken in the first place if I didn't have pediatrician's orders to avoid the bus to the idyllic, tucked away Ladies Pavilion. The gorgeous bride, groom and guests were all still there taking pictures and talking, thank goodness, so I was able to offer congratulations, apologize profusely, pose for photos, catch up with my old coworkers, show off Savannah, and the fact that I had already lost 30+ pounds and could rock an old DVF dress.

Adam, Margaret, Me, Savvy and Rob shortly after their wedding ceremony. I don't know how the photo is so bright! I swear it was pitch black steps away in The Ramble.
You know you want to photo stalk their amazing wedding. Here is a link to their photos on the Wrinkle In Time Photography site. 

This part isn't relevant to Ladies Pavilion, per se, but part of the story nonetheless: Getting home was a hellish nightmare as well. (As a new mother, everything mildly hellish became majorly hellish thanks to nightmarish postpartum hormones. Or maybe that's just me.) I knew my post-surgery body couldn't handle the 45-60 minute walk home no matter how slowly we went. I was too nervous to have Rob push Savvy in the stroller alone and risk her needing more milk or getting lost without me, so ultimately I brought her on the bus with me, hoping she wouldn't catch some sort of virus, while Rob pushed an empty stroller home alone. (Rob had to help me put her in our Lillebaby carrier b/c I wasn't an expert yet - this might have been her first time in it, I can't remember. If you're reading this while pregnant, learn to use your Moby Wrap before having your baby! You can use it from day 1.)  

Well, Savvy began crying almost instantly. I knew she wanted to nurse. But I had stupidly put her in the carrier on top of my buttoned-up denim jacket so there was no way to access my boobs; also I was a nursing in public newbie and did NOT want to breastfeed on the bus. Her cry was quiet but it was making my entire body respond with desire to help her. I tried to keep a happy face while making small talk with people around me. Everyone was sympathetic. But her soft cries were tearing away at me. 

10 minutes later, we got off the bus and no sooner had I walked three steps, Savannah fell asleep. I shed some tears of relief as I powered on the last few blocks home. My extremely kind doorman greeted me with concern. I guess I didn't look so good at this point. "Are you okay? Is the baby okay?" These questions made me BURST into tears. I could barely choke out, "We're okay. Just emotional."

Rob arrived home as I was nursing Savvy. When she finished I needed a moment to collect my thoughts, so he took a crying-again Savvy into the bedroom. He was trying to get her to stop crying but eventually started making fun of her, parroting back "waaaah, waaaaah, waaaaaah". My ears felt like they were bleeding and my head wanted to explode from the sound of my baby crying amplified times 1,000 by the annoying sound Rob was making. Again hysterical, I begged him to shut up, yelling at him for making fun of the baby.  

And that was that. My vivid memory of the worst 3 hours of my life as a mother. Just writing the words brings me right back to those alien feelings of maternal anxiety.

Well, why did I write about this 20 months after the fact? Because Savannah and I returned to Ladies Pavilion this week. And had a lovely time. We reclaimed it! We climbed rocks, quacked at ducks, watched the rowboats. We even saw a wedding ceremony take place! Take a look:

Lots of algae

She found a Savannah-sized rock to sit on. Oh how she is obsessed with rocks.

That's The Ramble in the distance. More than 30 acres of maze-like forest.

Someone's hands are reaching for my hands.

Turtles on a log


They do too. Beautiful place for a NYC wedding.

I do feel quite lucky that by all standards, my worst night wasn't earth shatteringly awful. The anticipation of tragedy sucked, but nothing bad happened. Thanking my lucky stars that my life hasn't handed me anything worse.  

1 comment:

Megan, The Frugalista Diaries said...

Aw, that must've been so stressful, I'm glad everything turned out ok.

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