It's a hot summer day, and I'm sticking to my seat as I hoist myself out of the car. The mad dash to the grocery is on again, and I'm not alone. I feel like an ant staring down a long path to the cool air and automatic doors of the grocery store. I can make it, I tell myself. As I waddle down the length of the parking lot, people stare. You'd think they'd never seen anyone pregnant before. Of course, it feels like I'm the only one who has ever done this before or been this huge before. My feet are swollen. I'm sweating like a dog. Ah, if only I'd gotten a closer spot. I just imagine what it will be like lugging the groceries back after I'm done shopping…
Okay, maybe I've taken a bit of dramatic license, but not much. In fact, in my case and many others, add a couple of kids who only want the free cookie at the store and the fire truck rides, scrambling and pulling to get in the building, or perhaps a small one in arms.
The proponents of so called stork parking or stroller parking, say that pregnant women, or women with small children need the convenience of these designated spots that are often very close to the door of stores. While not all stores or all cities have stork parking, those that do say that it's very popular. Where I live we have some stork spots, the ones I can think of are at the local Red Lobster, the Home Depot, and oddly enough, a huge sign hangs over some parking spots at a local hospital that says "Women in Labor Park Here!"
"I loved it (stork parking) when I was pregnant. Our malls also have close parking for moms with small children - that is nice too - the spaces are wider so that you can get a stroller out and set up without being in the driving lanes," says Rachel, mother of one.
This issue of safety with small children is also a big theme for advocates. Being able to safely get your children in and out of the car, in seats, strollers or carts is a huge plus. Though not all parking is for new mothers, some specifies expectant mothers only.
"Most of the time, I don't mind walking from the parking lot into a store. These days, however, I'm very glad my local grocery has stork parking. Walking very far in 97 degrees at 9 months pregnant is not pleasant. In general, I think it's an okay idea. I like the "Parking for Mom's with small children" spaces we have even better. Walking through a parking lot with a toddler or preschooler makes me nervous," offers Robin, mother of one and one on the way.
The whole proposal sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Who could have any arguments about something so simple and straightforward? Actually, it's a very heated debate.
The opponents of stork parking point to pregnancy as a normal physiologic process, that doesn't require special parking passes. Many say that the exercise is great from walking and that it should be encouraged.
What about moms with special situations? Some doctors point out that moms who can't walk that far shouldn't be shopping or leaving the house. There is also the option of actually using handicapped parking for women with special medical conditions that preclude walking long distances.
Another question brought up is how to police the spots. Some women are pregnant, but don't show for months. Does someone say something? Do you ignore it? Issue tickets as you might for Handicapped parking?
There aren't any clear-cut answers to the questions brought up by stork parking. It's obviously helpful to some expectant and new mothers, while others don't care for it.