Getting around with a pram in Istanbul is frustrating and more than once I’ve been the crazy lady crying in the metro when yet again an elevator malfunction leaves me with the choice if abandoning my journey or balancing pram containing baby precariously on an almost vertical escalator. Stations with no lifts between platforms, pavements blocked by recycling containers and sidewalks to narrow to fit a pram alongside are daily complications when taking baby out and about but right now, that’s where I am – with a baby and a pram – because as Bump grows, at 23 weeks pregnant, carrying M for any period of time is too uncomfortable. If we’re going a short distance, getting on a bus to just get off again or running to the market up the road, I still wear him – I miss wearing him! – but given that to just get to the bus stop and back is a 20 minute uphill walk, popping in and out again is often not such a simple, easy task. For much of the past few months, between snow, rain and backache, we’ve been home bound, pretty much, so now the sun’s out, we’re going out – but that means Istanbul, baby, pram!
In most decisions you make there’s a compromise of sorts. My decision to have kids here means compromising on many aspects of the way i raise those children. I’ve accepted that getting them involved in playgroups and swimming lessons and pre-school activities will be less likely and more pricey than in the UK, I’ve accepted that we’ll be limited in our school choices and when buying shoes but i find it really, really, really hard to accept that having a baby here should limit my ability to take them out and about. As Bump grows bigger and M grows heavier it’s impossible not to think about how I’ll manage once Bump’s born, without a car in Istanbul.
I used to think I’d manage with babywearing Bump and putting M into the pram but the past few weeks as I’ve navigated further afield with the pram by ourselves it’s become strikingly clear that’s not going to work. Carrying a baby on my front and lugging a pram up and down isn’t safe or practical. The only way to do it would be to keep M on my back and put baby in the pram: Both realistically, and ideologically, that just doesn’t work for me. So I’ve moved thinking towards double-prams and a whole other host of complications arise. In Turkey, prams are expensive and limited and the one double I’ve found to suit my requirements…that Bump can lie down, M can sit up, neither are in car seats and can both turn to face me…is in excess of 3500TL! We have family visiting often so we can order a better pram for less from abroad, but we’re lucky in that respect – why does it have to be so hard?
Why should Turkish women be restricted due to unadapted buses, impassable pavements and extortionate priced prams? Why do they accept it and stay at home with their kids? Why does society, in general, allow such monetary divides to arise between what’s available and accessible for kids and Mums and why aren’t I screaming about it at the top if my lungs? It’s not just families with prams it affects, it’s disabled people and elderly too, but again, same (unacceptable) apathy. In a country -developing or not- where people are willing to stand up and protest the depedestrianisation of a street, why oh why are we not hearing a fuss about this?
It’s changing, slowly of course. A few more buses each month are swapped out for those with wheelchair/pram access, and with changes to transport infrastructure such as new metro links, journeys will get easier, just not quickly enough to impact our lives. I cannot use a minibus with one baby, let alone two, there is only one bus option to get to my in-laws, we’re going to have to ask my parents to bring across the sea our pram, and there are friends homes I simply cannot reach.
And all of that means the one aspect of our lives, me and the boys, which I didn’t want to compromise on, I have no choice but to. It’s only for a few years, right?
Still, every society has redeeming features and today, on the last leg of a six-hour round-journey just to visit a friend and collect some Romanian-imported parsnips, it was the people who made up for the ridiculous traffic and unsympathetic minibus drivers. The couple behind on the bus, themselves with two kids, who handed over chips and allowed M to gurgle away to someone who wasn’t his Mum. And the man next to us who let M grab his finger before retracting it, over and over again, or the woman who sat down when he left for not batting an eyelid as M’s crumb-covered, cheese-and-onion scented fingers explored the texture of her cream-coloured coat.
Six hours for parsnips. That’s kind of insane, huh?