How high is too high?
January 9, 2010 7:30 AM   Subscribe

The good news is that my wife is 3 months pregnant! The bad news is that we live at the top of a 6th floor walk up in NYC and have to move. Please tell us what is the highest manageable floor we can live on in our new apartment and still be able to reasonably deal with our small dog, the pregnancy, and then the baby and stroller.

We have found some great affordable apartments but they are all on the 3rd or 4th floor of apartments in Brooklyn. We are going to look at one today that looks perfect 2 floors above the parlor level of a brownstone. Is it crazy to live on that level? Is scaling the 3rd floor peak manageable for my pregnant wife and later on with a baby, dog and stroller? Any vertical advice and stories from families would be very appreciated to help deal with our apartment lust and nesting issues.
posted by avex to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I grew up in both a 3rd floor and 5th floor walkup. From the kid's perspective, the fifth floor was a bit much but the third floor was fine. I did notice lots of people parking strollers under the stairs, etc - is there a bike room or anything similar where you could stash an umbrella stroller? If not, you'll want to get the lightest stroller you can - perhaps a Maclaren techno (which can be used for newborns).
posted by true at 7:36 AM on January 9, 2010

Why do you have to move? People have been climbing steps while pregnant for a long time. She should just take it easy and work at her own pace. No, I myself haven't had to do it, but googling "climbing steps while pregnant" comes up with a lot of anecdotal data in support of stair climbing.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:37 AM on January 9, 2010

Climbing stairs while hugely pregnant is totally possible, and also horribly annoying. Climbing six storeys worth of stairs is really a lot to ask. (I had to climb subway steps every day several times while 9+ months and it sucked. My knees hurt a lot. People behind me got impatient. I swore. It didn't make me go into labor, or give my baby a third eye, it just sucked a lot, several times a day.)

Keep in mind that in three years you will have a toddler going up those stairs, as well. Tiny, short legs. "Uppy, momma!" Sitting down in protest. You don't need to live on the ground floor, but definitely minimize the stairs.

(3rd floor will be half as difficult as 6th floor. (OK, 2/5 as difficult.) The lower the better.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:00 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

What you are forgetting about is groceries. Babies increase grocery-shopping intensity dramatically. Getting up two flights above the parlor floor -- three flights really after the stoop -- with a stroller, diaper bag and groceries is going to be horrible. Look for a lower floor -- maybe even try to splurge on an elevator building (or just move to Astoria or Hoboken!)
posted by MattD at 8:07 AM on January 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I live in what is essentially a third-floor walk-up & I'm due with my first in about two weeks. As long as I can take a break on the landings, I'm ok (although I do curse the stairs out pretty regularly, b/c MAN am I tired of stairs!). I work on the fifth floor at my work, though, & I started taking the elevator about two months ago b/c it was a little embarrassing to be panting at my desk for several minutes every time I had to go somewhere & come back!
posted by oh really at 8:10 AM on January 9, 2010

What you are forgetting about is groceries.

Which is why God invented Fresh Direct. :) (or the husband shopping)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:11 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Been there. 3 kids under the age of 3 in a 3 story walkup. (No dog) I think the only consideration is you and your wife's level of patience. You will not fly up the stairs to grab something you left. You will plan your trips to bunch together errands and the like. You will learn to accept help when offered by neighbors. Of course, by definition, living on the ground floor would be easier. But, that ain't no picnic either with infants and toddlers. The lower the floor, the easier it will be, but it is relative only to the higher floor. 3rd floor is easier than 4th floor, but you will encounter the same logistical issues on both floors, just have 13 less steps to contend with.

If you like your apartment and your wife can do it physically during pregnancy, I would not move because of the floor.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:13 AM on January 9, 2010

My husband and I lived in a second floor apartment and honestly, we rarely tried to wrestle our stroller up the stairs. We left it in the car in front of our apartment. I don't think I could have gotten the baby, the stroller, the diaper bag, and a dog up one flight of stairs, let alone two or three. The pregnancy isn't the huge concern here, it's the baggage you'll be carrying once the kid is born.

And if you have more than one...well, good luck to you.

I'm sure people have done it, and you could manage, but having a lower apartment would make your life suck SO much less.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:14 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lived in a third floor walk up after my first was born. My husband had promised to help to make it easier but in reality I was the one that did 99% of the carrying baby, diaper bags, laundry and groceries up and down those hellish stairs.

For the sake of your marriage, get a ground floor apartment. If that is truly not an option, hire an au pair for every day and do the damn laundry and grocery shopping yourself. Why, yes, I am still bitter eight years later.
posted by saucysault at 8:40 AM on January 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

We did 4th floor for two years with pregnancy and toddler and only moved since we ran out of space (it was only a 1 BR). If it was bigger we would have stayed longer.

We were able to leave the stroller on the ground floor which made things easier.

It was nice to be above the street noise.

We did worry about the baby falling out the window though....make sure your windows are safe.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2010

the fifth floor was a bit much but the third floor was fine.

Before the elevator was put in we all walked up the stairs in my building, for decades. I'm on the third floor, and the general consensus of those above me was that the third floor represented some kind of threshold. This could be heard in the reactions of guests in the hallway, it was at my landing that they would say, "how much more?"

Our ceilings are 13 feet, so that might be the fourth floor on a lower building.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2010

From experience of living in a 5th floor walk-up during my pregnancy and then until that baby was 15 months old, it was not easy, but doable mainly because we were able to store the stroller on the ground level. Of course, now we've moved to an elevator building because, once the kid started walking, trying to juggle her, stairs and whatever else I had to carry was too much. Fresh Direct is great until you realize too late to place an order that you're running out of diapers/wipes!
posted by shinyj at 9:15 AM on January 9, 2010

I suggest making your life easier in the first few months and do without a stroller. Slings are sooo much better in the first few months. I live in Boston and rely heavily on the T, and I imagine living in NYC you'll be making lots of use of the subway as well.. The baby in the sling made getting around soooo much easier. I could even do light grocery shopping because I had two hands free with the sling, unlike with the stroller. Anyway --- we used a Maya Wrap until Baby Zizzle was 3 1/2 months old and stopped liking his feet bunched up, at which point we switched to a Baby Bjorn until he was 6 months old. At 6 months, we switched to a Kelty TC 2.1. We didn't get a stroller until he was nearly 8 months old and at almost 13 months old, we only use it on weekends --- he travels the mile to daycare in the Kelty. I really think wranglign a stroller around a regular basis in a major city is far more hassle than it's worth. I find it so much easier to just carry the kid.

As for the walk-up, climbing stairs in the third trimester is thought to be good for helping with the baby getting positioned correctly. I think your wife will most likely be fine and may get an added benefit from it. I wouldn't do more than 3 or 4 flights regularly, though.
posted by zizzle at 9:17 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

We're staying temporarily in a 3rd floor flat (which I think translates to 4th floor in the US as we have a Ground floor too?) with our 15 mo. I CANNOT WAIT to get out of here! The stairs are a daily misery!!

Anything more than a small handful of groceries is impossible to get up the stairs whilst carrying a wriggling 24lb toddler. We can't leave the pushchair at the bottom of the stairs (fire hazard) so it has to be stashed in the car and most of the time there isn't a parking space close by. Then there's the rubbish/recycling - no chute so that all has to be carried down (with toddler) too.

The flat is in a great location and has lovely views but I hate, hate, hate it with a passion.

Do yourselves a favour and find somewhere on the ground floor.
posted by dogsbody at 9:35 AM on January 9, 2010

Try different neighborhoods that have fewer walkups and more elevator buildings. It sounds like you're looking in hipster/yuppie Brooklyn, but other areas might better suit your needs.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:45 AM on January 9, 2010

I lived in a third-floor walkup in Queens from before I was pregnant to when my baby was almost one. It's manageable, but life became much easier when we moved to the first floor. Groceries, laundry, the kid -- so much lugging.

We didn't get a stroller until we were on the first floor, so I didn't have to deal with that, but it would've been very annoying as there was no place to park it other than our apartment (as I recall). If you're out with the kid and he or she falls asleep in the stroller, it's nice to be able to wheel them straight into the apartment.

If you have more things than you can carry on one trip up the stairs (e.g. you've gone grocery shopping and loaded up the stroller), it's a pain to have to run the child upstairs while your things (and the dog) are on the street, run downstairs while your child is alone and unhappy about it upstairs, run back upstairs with your stuff...

Also as the kid gets older, you'll be lugging things to the playground. Tricycles, wagons, scooters. More stuff to schlep up stairs, unless you have a storage spot somewhere easy to get to.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:05 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the sling while the baby is small. Life is easier with the sling, and most babies prefer it.

I had a really hard time with stairs when I was pregnant and only lived in first floor places. My sister lived in a 3rd floor with a huge Boxer while pregnant and she said the biggest pain was lugging groceries and laundry. Please don't underestimate the laundry of a newborn. You will have regular diaper explosions and spit ups, and you will need to do a load at least once a day.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:34 AM on January 9, 2010

Obviously in choosing a place you have to make compromises, just make sure all the compromises aren't your wife's. Being above ground floor is a huge compromise to ask of her and there should be big pay-off for her if that is the case.

Keep in mind too, the neighbourhood you choose will be different as a parent. When we moved to the third floor walk up the neighbourhood seemed great, little shops, restaurants, parks, close to the subway .... and then I discovered the little shops had a step that stopped me from bringing the stroller in (back issues, so no sling for me), we had no money or time for eating out with a fussy baby, I was too exhausted from lugging everything up and down the stairs to contemplate going to the park and one trip on public transit with a baby, bag and stroller scared me off for years.

You will probably spend more time at home than you do now once you have the baby; choose a place that allows one of you to sleep as far away from a fussy baby as possible. You need a 24 drugshop close by and a take-out you will enjoy eating a lot of. And storage. More storage than you can imagine (I am not an over-consumer but babies are magnets for THINGS).
posted by saucysault at 11:48 AM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

--Is scaling the 3rd floor peak manageable for my pregnant wife and later on with a baby, dog and stroller?--

Yes, by all means! We lived in a third floor walk-up (plus the steep stoop outside) in Brooklyn when I was pregnant with our second. Our daughter was 2 1/2, three when he was born, and I spent my pregnancy with her and a big dog in tow. Add to that every other day's worth of subway stairs and lots of walking around in general and that is tons of exercise which I honestly barely remember as such. (Patience on the landings with a tired or grumpy toddler I do remember being extremely important.)

That baby's delivery was the easiest of my four, possibly because I was in such great shape. Being 27 probably helped!) After the birth I carried him mostly in a sling (they were new then, actually, he turned twenty last fall!) then a stroller. If you can lift a sleeping baby in a stroller over the turnstile or onto the bus and make it all the way home, you can make it up the stairs. Good luck. P.S. If you're going for cloth diapers, use as diaper service, at least for the first few months. Always one of the best deals around. My daughter still remembers our diaper man, who did the same climb we did.
posted by emhutchinson at 11:52 AM on January 9, 2010

I'm different to the others here. But with my last pregnancy, I could not have walked up one flight of stairs in the last month. I was constantly breathless and struggled to walk to the kitchen from the bedroom. You can't know how your wife's pregnancy is going to progress... but try to encourage her to keep as active as possible for as long as possible.... that will help.

But she still may struggle.
posted by taff at 2:30 PM on January 9, 2010

Elevator building FTW. Seriously. You never know how a pregnancy is going to affect a woman. In the case of my wife, she started having severe hip pain late in the 2nd trimester - couldn't walk more than a few blocks. Stairs would have been impossible. Also I'm no fan of ground floor apartments for the noise/security/trash issues. If you can afford it, an elevator is the way to go. If not, 2nd floor.
posted by dudeman at 8:20 PM on January 9, 2010

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