It was a dark and stormy day, in the middle of January no less, when I packed my car with five carseats and a booster cushion and headed to Kidsafe for my fitting. With four weeks before Baby Number Three arrives, it was time to succumb to the inevitable, and try and squeeze a third carseat into the back of my car.
It’s not like I am the first person to ever have three children, or try and fit three seats into the back of a car. But just like being pregnant for the first time, the world suddenly revolves around you, and your eyes are opened to challenges that had previously never occurred to you.
The Kidsafe lady had a look in the backseat, where there was a booster seat for The Blonde Bombshell (4 ½) and a carseat for Miss Curly Mop (2). Squished in between, in the space the size of a tissue box, was a booster cushion which we used for the Bombshell if we were ferrying another child.
Her expert eyes ignored the half eaten biscuits, the endless Dora merchandise, the petrified banana peel. ‘What else do you have?’ she asked. Like a drug dealer, I took her around the back of the car and flipped open the boot to display another booster and a baby capsule. She nodded in appreciation.
‘There’s more, ’I told her leading her to the front seat, where yet another carseat was perched inexplicably on top of a potty. She rubbed her chin. ‘Let’s get to work,’ she said.
Our mission was to fit three seats in the back of the Forrester that were age appropriate, safe, legal and we could still close the doors. Despite the endless possible combinations, for most of the morning it looked like we might only get three out of four. I suggested I put the new baby in the glove box. She only looked half amused.
‘It’s not forever,’ she told me philosophically when she presented the final arrangement. Neither is a jail term, I thought, thinking I would end up having some serious anger management issues wrangling the Bombshell’s seatbelt on a daily basis.
Let’s be clear. Just because you own a SUV or 4WD does not – for a minute – mean that there is any extra space inside the car. On the contrary, so much of the space is taken up with safety features such as the 87 air bags and superlocking seatbelts that there is no longer any room for passengers. And don’t even get me started on the superlocking seatbelts.
Things looked good for The Mop. Not only did she get to stay in her possie behind the driver, she was upgraded into a new carseat we had pinched from Hubby’s car. It afforded her extra side protection from the grabby hands of the Bombshell, now closer than ever as she had been moved into the centre spot. Remember that tissue box space I mentioned earlier.
As she is both tall and hefty, the Bombshell was no longer eligible for the sanity-saving internal baby harness. Now she has to be restrained by an adult seatbelt, located about a foot behind and below her seat, about the same distance as my forearm, now bereft of skin and flesh as I am forced to push it between bits of plastic and metal to buckle and unbuckle the Bombshell’s seatbelt. Every. Single. Time. For the next two and a half years. MINIMUM*.
The baby will be located behind the passenger seat, which means that unless I am ferrying around Munchkins, the passenger will have to walk, because the front seat is now so far forward it is actually located in the glove box. My husband with his long long legs is going to love that.
Luckily the Bombshell loves her new position in the car. I did sell it pretty well though, pointing out the excellent view and the fact she was right in front of the airconditioning vents. Unfortunately, it now means that she is no longer able to unbuckle herself and get out of the car. More work for Mum.
After 90 minutes of watching the poor women battle with various seat combinations, speaking with her supervisor about the legality of various options, and work up a sweat despite the rain, I was beginning to wonder whether it was too late to change my mind on Baby Number Three.
I decided that the whole thing was a conspiracy to make me walk more, and I wasn’t impressed.
But she did it, somehow she found a combination that would work. Of course I can’t see out the back window and the baby will have to sit on the footpath in its capsule for 10 minutes while I battle with the Bombshell’s seatbelt, but she did it.
When we finally made our way in to complete the paperwork, I leaned against a wall and sobbed that I hadn’t been grateful enough over the past four years for the relative ease of managing one or two carseats.
Then I saw a young mum wheel a two year old girl in, accompanied by an occupational therapist from the adjoining children’s hospital. Both legs were in casts and her hips were splinted so the little girl’s legs were splayed far apart. Her arm was in a cast too. ‘She’s being discharged from hospital today,’ the OT told the Kidsafe people. ‘But her current carseat won’t accommodate the splint.’
As a team of people got to work finding a solution for this brave little girl and her Mum, I felt seriously ashamed at my massive over-reaction to the slight inconvenience of a squishy backseat full of kids. Healthy kids.
It put my non-issue in perspective.
* The child restraint laws changed in October 2010 in response to the high number of child injuries and fatalities on Australian roads.
Ask yourself this: 'are you 100% positive that you have your child in the correct seat for their age, height and weight, and are you 100% sure that the seat is fitted correctly?'
If you are not 100% positively, absolutely, entirely certain, then do yourself (and your kids) a favour and get them checked.