Last October, my son was born at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago, right off the Magnificent Mile. Right from the get-go, this was different than my childhood. In my rural Michigan town, expectant mothers have one hospital at which to deliver their babies. Living in Chicago, I got to choose.
My son is now approaching eight months old, and I can't help but notice that I'm raising a baby in a metropolis. At first, I questioned if having a baby in the city would be good for a child, not to mention a nervous new mother. In the small town where I grew up, it's safe for kids to run around all day, and it wasn't uncommon to take off on my bike without any plans. There were streams to wade in and woods to get lost in.
Chicago, I knew, would be a different kind of childhood for my son. Now, months into this adventure, I can see that we made the right choice.
In my hometown, everyone drives everywhere. Here, we're a family without a vehicle and I'm a "stroller mom." We pop on and off the CTA buses and trains without hesitation, and we've put many miles on the stroller. My son was eight days old when he got on the CTA for the first time, and he loves it. (For a while, the Brown Line was one surefire way to get him to take a nap.)
Chicago is an incredibly diverse city, but it's also a very friendly one. Every time I take my little boy for a walk, people of all ages and races and differences smile and wave at him or stop to say hello.
When I moved to Chicago fresh out of college, I did it for the opportunities the city held-cultural institutions, new people, new experiences.
Before my son turns 1, he will have visited museums, aquariums and multiple zoos. He's growing up in a Lakeview apartment, so he may not have a backyard to play in-but in a way, Lincoln Park (and its zoo) is his backyard. How many kids grow up with a rhino within walking distance?
I feel fortunate (and excited) to be able share all of these things with my little dude as he grows up an urban, Chicago baby. I can't wait until he's a little older and we can go to some of the wonderful children's theater shows or he can learn about dinosaurs by visiting Sue at the Field Museum.
Of course, nothing is perfect-including Chicago. Crime and safety are always in the back of my mommy mind, and something I consider before heading anywhere.
Also, we're far away from our respective families. My parents live in Michigan, and my husband's family is from Texas. We're making the best of it, though. Thanks to modern technology like texting and Skype, we keep in touch as much as possible. I also started a blog so our long-distance family and friends can see my son's growth day by day.
Raising a baby in Chicago is an adventure every single day, and one I'm loving. The city might not be for everyone, but it's just right for us.
Jamie Prahl is a freelance writer living in Chicago.