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Pregnant, 45, and Learning to Drive
Comments () | Published June 14, 2012

It turns out Peter isn’t very familiar with Virginia’s roads. I decide to take the same route Karl and I take to get to our sonogram appointments in Rockville, but I immediately make a wrong turn off Rock Creek Parkway (another check off my challenge list) and land us on Route 66 instead of the GW Parkway. We’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I look over at Peter, who smiles at me and stares happily out the window. I have no idea how to get us back on track, but his relaxed state reassures me.

“I guess we’re having the real DC experience now,” I say.

Sitting in traffic allows us time to talk. When we inch by some construction near the exit for Glebe Road, Peter looks at the men in their orange vests and says, “That was my first job when I moved to Washington. I held the stop sign, moved cones, drove a truck, whatever they told me to do.” He lasted until the temperature dropped. “I don’t like the cold,” he says.

He next took a job doing inspections at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Besides being a pastor in Nigeria, he had also been a mechanic, and his new job suited him. His coworkers, however, did not. “I didn’t like the way they treated customers,” he says. He opened his driving school in 2007 and left the DMV the next year. He typically teaches three students a day. “Any more,” he says, “would be too much.”

Especially when one of his students gets lost in Northern Virginia. Eventually, we see a sign for 495. “I knew I could find it!” I cheer, and we head north toward Baltimore. “Am I on the inner or the outer loop?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says, craning his neck around, maybe hoping for a sign, either physical or spiritual.

“I think I’m on the inner loop,” I say. I begin to feel like I’m in the greatest buddy movie of all time. The pregnant lady and the Nigerian pastor try to find Rockville and end up in Maine. Instead of panicking, I enjoy the comedy. I’m on a loop after all—whether inner or outer—so I’m bound to end up back where I belong.

After a while, the road divides and I see a sign for I-270. “I did it!” I shout. “This is how my husband and I get to our sonogram appointments. I know where I am!” Though I’ve been driving in the slow lane, my heart is racing.

“Can you get us back home?” Peter asks.

I can. And I do. But first I want to cross one more thing off the challenge list.

Back in town, I head to Wisconsin Avenue and pick up Massachusetts by Washington National Cathedral. After the challenges of finding the Beltway, getting to Spring Valley Pediatrics is a breeze.

“That was easy,” I say, turning around in the parking lot and heading home. I can finally see myself driving my baby here for checkups, and I even take note of a few nearby cafes where I can imagine us enjoying an afternoon cookie.

“So,” Peter says when I pull up in front of my building, “what other challenges do you have for yourself?”

I’ve saved the ultimate test for last. As I give up the driver’s seat to Peter, I shake his hand goodbye and say, “Do you think you can teach me how to parallel-park in two hours?”

I’ve saved the ultimate test for last. As I give up the driver’s seat to Peter, I shake his hand goodbye and say, “Do you think you can teach me how to parallel-park in two hours?”

I’d like to say that after my last lesson, after returning to where it all began in the Carter Barron parking lot, after Peter gave me a visual demonstration using three empty Tic Tac boxes, after I slammed into the orange traffic cones he set up to represent parked cars, and after I took an ungodly amount of time trying not to hit the Mercedes, I can now parallel-park like a champ.

But that would be a lie.

I am still a terrible parallel-parker. I have no feel for it, as evidenced by how often I found myself parked three feet from the curb.

“Straighten your wheel,” Peter told me more than once.

“It is straight,” I’d say.

Then he’d lean over, grab the wheel, and crank it as if tightening a vice.

But by the end of my time with Peter, parallel-parking wasn’t really the point. The fact that I was no longer afraid to try it was. Actually, there were a lot of things I was no longer afraid to try.

As I drove us back to my apartment, I asked Peter if he had any advice.

“You overthink things,” he said. “You tell yourself, ‘This place is dangerous’ or ‘I’m scared of this street or that street.’ But once you actually get there, you realize that the fear that worried you is not the reality you meet.”

Hugging him goodbye, I realized the same could be said about motherhood.

Leo was born on August 1, and—to use another vehicular term—I’m finding motherhood just like riding a bike. Sure, I’ve fallen a few times. Or rather, Leo has—once even on his head. But just as Peter wisely noted, the fear that worried me didn’t follow me home from the maternity ward.

I’d like to say I drove home from the hospital that day. It took me just as many months to get back behind the wheel as it did to carry this child. But when I did, agreeing to drive us back from the pediatrician’s office if my husband drove us there, I can tell you this: We all enjoyed the ride.

Contributing editor Cathy Alter (cathy@cathyalter.com) is the author of “Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over.”

This article appears in the June 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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  • JacksonsMom

    First let me tell you I am so happy I decided to take driving classes with Peter Dibiaocha. I have had my full driver's license since I have been 18 and I am now 29 and I was terrified to drive until I took classes with Peter. I think he's by far the best instructor in the DC metro area compared to other reviews I have read. He is calm, encouraging and patient. His classes are well worth the money. If you are extremely scared to drive, please do not hesitate to reach out to Peter!! I now feel confident to drive!! http://rockdrivingschool.com/

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