Today I went grocery shopping after I dropped the kids off at school. I was leisurely perusing the aisles when I heard that sound. That sound a wailing newborn makes when it cries, and it made all the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I remember that sound – that unmistakable cry. And it reminded me of the first time I took my older son grocery shopping when he was a newborn and the feelings came flooding back like some kind of warped post-traumatic stress syndrome.
My son was about six weeks old.
All the visitors had long gone, my husband was back at work and we were running low on our frozen food stash, so I felt it was time to go grocery shopping. After all, we were in the swing of things by now and had the makings of an okay routine. It was time I got back out there in the real world and got us some food, dammit!
So just after lunch I put on my clean yoga pants and t-shirt and made myself a list. “Look at me go! I was already killin’ it!”
I decided that I would nurse my son just before we left so he had a full tummy and the trip would fall right around his nap so he’d probably sleep through the whole thing. “Damn, I’ve got this mom shit down. Look at me plan!”
I got my reusable grocery bags because God knows I need to save the planet after all those desperate drives around the block to get him to sleep – I’m sure there’s a polar bear sitting on an ice cube saying, “Gee, thanks, Lady”. I pack the baby carrier, a diaper bag with clothes, diapers, etc. (just in case) and my list. My son is fed with a dry bum.
We are ready to roll!
It’s mid-March so it’s still cold here in Toronto. There’s snow on the ground but it’s a beautiful sunny day so I walk down the street to where our car is parked – today was meant to be! I snap him in the car seat and we’re off.
The baby falls asleep on the way and I feel a smug smile wash across my face. “Mwahaha! Just as I planned. Why was I so worried about this? This is easy!” I take one of those parking spaces for expectant & new mothers – as I’m quite certain I qualify – and I get out of the car.
Hmmm. Okay, now I have a decision. Do I leave him in his car seat and put him in a cart, or take him out and put him in the carrier? The cart return is really far from the parking spot. Damn. Okay, well that doesn’t really sound safe anyway. Carrier it is!
I decide to take off my winter coat and strap the carrier on then put my winter coat back on so I can cover up the baby, as it’s still pretty cold out. He’s sound asleep in his car seat so I gently lift him out trying not to wake him. No luck. He instantly gives me one of those “What the fuck?!” looks when you wake someone out of a dead sleep and starts fussing. Okay, okay. This isn’t a problem. He’s tired and loves the carrier so he’ll just fall back asleep. In he goes and I wrap my winter coat around him as tightly while making sure his hat is on okay and we set off for the store. I grab a cart at the door, dig through my purse to find the list and head for the produce. We’re in!
The baby is checking out all the sounds and lights and seems generally content with the new environment. Great! I get some bananas. Some bread. We get to somewhere around the canned soup aisle and my son decides, “Yeah, that’s enough” and starts fussing. I instantly do the mom-bounce-and-walk saying “shhhh, shhh Mommy’s almost done” and he calms down a bit.
A little old lady comes up to me and says, “Aw, how old is your baby?” “He’s six weeks.” I proudly say getting a little hot from the bounce-and-walk. “Is he a good baby?” she says gently taking his hand as I wince slightly at the thought of her touching him with the hands she’s been using to touch a dirty shopping cart, pick her nose, draining the anal glands of a dog…I don’t know, but I’m scanning her like the Terminator thinking of all the things she could be contaminated with. Old people get shingles! I bet she’s giving him shingles!!! She says something else which snaps me out of my scan, “These are the best days of your life. Cherish every moment” I assure that I will and move on to release my baby from this cyborg’s death grip without saying “Are you Sarah Connor?!”
We lost a little time but you mustn’t be rude to old people (no matter what you accuse them of in your head) so I pick up the pace to get everything I need. This is when my son decides it’s time to leave and starts that cry. That “I’ve had it” cry and the bounce-and-walk just ain’t cutting it. Okay, okay, let’s go. I abort the plan to get milk because it’s way at the other end and I know I won’t make it so I grab a few more random things off the shelf and head for the cash.
I get to the front and there is ONE cashier and a line-up from here to Spain. My son’s cries are starting to ramp up from “Let’s go” to “Bitch, are you deaf?” and can be heard echoing throughout the store.
Stay cool. Stay cool. Don’t show you’re flustered. You can handle this. Freaking out isn’t going to help the problem, plus, this is grocery shopping. Who the hell can’t grocery shop?
The man ahead of me turns around and says, “Aw, she must be hungry”. I don’t what about this wailing banshee in a blue sleeper said “girl” to this guy, but I didn’t want to go into a long explanation and simply said in the most chipper voice I could muster, “He’s just tired.”
Another lady in line tells me that the baby “is just precious” and how much she misses her kids at that age then decides to fish around for the exact change in her purse – “Did you say 67¢? Oh, I think I have that.” Really, Lady? C’mon.
It’s finally my turn. I start tossing stuff onto the belt. Bananas, bread, a bag of black beans (that are still in my cupboard – my son is seven now), some tuna packed in oil (crap, I grabbed the wrong one), a pound of hamburger, some fruit roll ups (WTF?) and a box of macaroni and cheese. Great, now not only do I look like I’m starving my screaming child, I look like I’m doing it in a dorm room with first year freshmen.
Thankfully the cashier sees the urgency of the situation and rings everything through quickly. She says something but I miss it over the screaming. “Bags?!” she says again. Shit, I forgot the bags in the car. “No, plastic is fine.” Sorry polar bears.
I pay, grab my cart and start running as calmly and competently as I can. I’m sweating profusely from my heavy coat, my running, and the heat my screaming son is generating, but I don’t care as my face hits the freedom and chill of the outside March air. Okay! The worst is over. We’re out of the store.
I get to the car and my son has actually calmed down a bit. Maybe he was hot and needed the fresh air. Maybe he was side tracked by the change of environment. Maybe he was done with his public humiliation of me to knock me off my smug pedestal in front of an elderly audience. I don’t know but I was just grateful for the break.
I decide to put him in his seat because I’m hot and he’s hot and the change seemed to calm him down even more. Whew. I put the groceries in the car and then realize I still have the cart. Crap. The stupid cart corral is half a football field away and the store is just as far. I don’t want to be one of those douches that leave the cart in the middle of the parking lot, no sir, I swore I would never do anything like that once I had kids. I must return it!
I don’t want to take him out again. That’s not an option. If I leave him in the car he’s safe and warm but what if I get run over and no one knows I have a baby and he’s left locked in the car?!? What if someone tries to steal him while I’m putting the cart back, like that old witch with shingles?!?!? Finally, I decide to leave the back hatch open to make it apparent that the vehicle’s occupant is coming back, plus, if anything happened to me, it would be open for people to hear my son’s cries. Then I proceed to lock the car so no one can steal him from the side doors, and wear the baby carrier so the paramedics would notice it strapped to my lifeless body in the event of a hit and run and go looking for a missing infant. Perfect plan!
I run to return the cart and run back. Wasn’t hit and killed. Yes! Success! My baby is safe.
Drive back home and my son actually falls asleep again. Good.
Park the car down the street because there was nothing closer. Hmm, okay same problem. Do I leave the baby in the car or take him first?
Take him first, I decide.
I’ll leave him on the covered porch out of the way and grab the groceries. I carefully unclick his car seat so as not to disturb him and place him on the porch.
I run back to get the groceries and start carrying them back. I’m hot, sweaty, tired and on the verge of tears but I did it. I did it, dammit!
My next-door neighbor is out sweeping her walkway when she sees me coming down the street. In her thick Portuguese accent she asks, “Where’s the baby?” I tell her that I put him on the porch while I got the groceries (pleased with myself that, despite the tricky outing, I still had the wherewithal to get the baby out of the car before the fruit roll ups.)
“Aren’t you afraid of BEES?!” she says.
“Bees?” I reply.
“Yes, the bees could get your baby! You just leave him in the open like that!”
I assure her that he’s fine but quicken my pace, “Jesus, why hadn’t I considered bees?!” All this shit about worrying about the carrier vs. car seat and I didn’t even think of what could get him on our front porch. I saw a documentary on Africanized bees killing Chihuahuas and here I left my baby out on the porch like some tender, perfect offering – tethered in a car seat no less! How the hell is this child going to survive with me as a mother?! I can’t even gather food and ward off bees!! Why aren’t there signs up about this? I knew I shouldn’t have gone out. This is what you get for being greedy and hungry and killing polar bears, a bee-attacked baby that probably has shingles!!
I sprint up the front steps to find him sleeping peacefully without an insect in sight.
I open the front door. Put the car seat in the bee-free living room, the hamburger in the fridge and collapse on the couch. When my husband comes home he climbs over the abandoned bags in the front hall and says, “Hey, you went grocery shopping. How did it go?”
“Bees. I didn’t consider the bees, Andrew, and I nearly killed our son. If you’re hungry, there’s a can a tuna and a box of fruit roll ups on the floor but you’d better enjoy it because I’m never, ever, going shopping again.”
For the record, you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles (if you have not had chickenpox before) but you cannot catch shingles from them – so don’t yell at old ladies in the supermarket that ask about your baby ; )