Airhorn in a Library – Emma Scott
As I sit in my favourite coffee shop and sip my cappuccino, I stare blissfully at my baby boy sleeping soundly in his pram.
Even the hustle and bustle of a busy highstreet café hasn’t awoken him and at 12 weeks old he has finally begun to adapt to life in the big scary world. I am granted with a serene half an hour as he naps peacefully, to slowly savour the sweet caffeine. I feel blessed. It has taken a few weeks to reach this point, to feel confident and comfortable in public with my young baby, I allow my mind to wander back to a time when it wasn’t this easy. To a day that surprised me and not in a good way…
When my son was first born, I like many first time mums, thought I had won the newborn lottery. My angelic bundle of joy slept well though the night, loved cuddles with his mummy and very rarely cried. I was floating along in this naïve little bubble thinking I was the luckiest mum in the world. Relatives would ask me ‘is he good?’ (which now I think about it what a weird question to ask?! I mean I’m hardly going to say he’s awful am I?) and I would gush over how well behaved he is at such a young age. I remained protected in my perfect baby bubble for the first 6 weeks of my sons life, but then week 7 began.
Now during pregnancy and after you have just had your baby people just love to offer you advice, whether you’ve asked for it or not. Yet they all failed to mention one thing, growth spurts. A period of a week or two that can turn the happiest of baby’s into a screaming, crying spawn of the devil. Yes thanks everyone! It was during week 7 that my son seemed to enter ‘growth spurt’ stage, out of nowhere this seemingly contented baby was clingy, crying and a constant challenge. Of course this had to coincide with the week in which I seemed to have a list as long as my arm of errands that needed to be done. Fantastic.
I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant carting around this grumpy newborn, but I was completely unprepared for what was about to unfold. On the day in question I had to pick up a pair of glasses, an errand I could not put off as I am incredibly short sighted. So much so I’m pretty sure my son has better eyesight than I do! The opticians was a 20 minute walk away, a fairly daunting journey with a cranky baby. However I had a plan, as soon as he drifted off for his morning nap I would set off. Then pick the glasses up, stop in a coffee shop and feed him, then he would nap for the journey home. Simple right? I had done this journey solo many times before with success, what could possibly go wrong?
Spoiler alert…it went ever so wrong.
Well what I hadn’t factored in is that baby’s don’t care for plans. They couldn’t care less if you need to do the shopping or have just made the dinner, they simply know when they’re hungry and tired and boy do they let you hear about it.
So, the morning of the day in question began as I’d planned. My son was fed, changed and was just drifting off into a deep sleep. Perfect! I raced to get him strapped into his pram, and practically sprinted out the door. We set off and so far so good, not a peep from him. I relaxed my pace from a sprint to more of a long distance run. Mistake. Lesson number one, baby’s possess the ability to lure you into a false sense of security. I had made it just 5 minutes down the road when the crying started. It was all downhill from there.
As a new mum still finding my feet I was not immediately sure what the matter was and desperately tried to ‘ssshhh’ him, whilst praying the movement of the pram settled him back into a slumber. No luck. His cries were now building into screams, so high pitched I’m surprised dogs nearby weren’t howling. I still had 15 minutes of walking to do, I was too far on my journey to turn back, yet all that lay ahead was a long road and rows of houses. I could feel my heart rate begin to speed up, sweat beading on my forehead as I began to panic. With nowhere to stop and feed the baby I had no choice but to grit my teeth and carry on. I frantically tried to calm him down, but he was only interested in one thing, the boobs. The pushchair was now reaching speed and as people passed me I could almost feel their pitying stares seeping into my back.
Finally I made it to the highstreet and darted into the nearest coffee shop. With the fate gods already against me there of course was a queue. Now that the movement of the pram had ceased the baby volume reached max level. It felt like I was holding an air horn in a library. As I approached the counter to order I had to repeat myself three times over my son’s shrieks. I bundled him into my arms and frantically tried to pry my card from my purse one handed to pay. Thank god for contactless. I threw the purse into the pushchair and caught a glimpse of my fellow customers. Mums with older children threw a mix of pity and judgement my way, whilst what I can only assume were childless people and elderly looked on with disgust. I could hear their thoughts in my head, ‘she can’t even comfort her own child what kind of mother is she?’
I slumped in an armchair at the back of the café and felt defeated. But finally, with the chance to feed my son his cries ceased, yet I could still feel the silent judgement coming straight for me. I sipped my rescue coffee slowly and psyched myself up for the next part. I had yet to collect my glasses, and now could only hope the top up of food would settle the baby long enough to get through it.
I left the café quickly, hiding my face in shame.
Unfortunately my fears were realised and after a brief 10 minutes of peace, the baby proceeded to cry the whole journey home. Needless to say by the end of the day I was emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. All for a pair of glasses. (damn my parents and their bad eyesight genes!)
The experience was quite traumatic. It was everything a new mum who’s getting to grips with motherhood, fears could happen and go wrong on a solo outing with her baby. It was my first and certainly not last bad day.
But what surprised me about that day?
The first surprise came from myself, because I realised I cared more about what people think than I initially thought. I knew that my son was not coming to any harm and just needed feeding, yet why did I feel like I needed to justify his crying to strangers? I felt this intense pressure to prove I knew what I was doing, and that I could comfort my child with ease but with each cry I felt more and more out of my depth. I would even say I felt a little guilty for my sons crying, like I was somehow ruining the peacefulness of the coffee shop for the other customers.
As a mum of a now 12 week old, it seems ridiculous to fret over such trivial things. But at the time when you’re a sleep deprived, hormonal mess wearing baby sick on your shoulder, the approval that you’re doing okay off Mary from down the road suddenly means a hell of a lot to you.
The second surprise of the day was that no one offered to help. Each person in that café turned into Judge Judy yet not one person stepped forward and asked if I was okay. As I fumbled clumsily for my purse the person behind me in the queue simply watched. The mums with older children turned away like I was a car crash scene before them.
Every mum at one point will have this bad day, where nothing goes to plan and no one seems to be on your side and just to add a layer of humiliation, it will most certainly happen in public. You will feel judged and your patience as a mum and human being will be pushed to the limit. But remember it’s just one day and tomorrow is a new one.
In the present as I reach the end of my coffee, my son just beginning to stir, I am no longer rushed with a feeling of nervousness in case he cries. Baby’s will cry and people will judge, but that is no representation on how good a mum you are. It’s just life! And for every handful of people that turn away or silently stare, there will be one that will hold the door for you or offer to find your purse when your hands are full.
Although I wished for that day to end, I’m glad it happened. It has taught me to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others and when I spot a fellow new mum with her hands full I try to help in any way possible. Because like me, her blissful baby bubble has probably just been burst and she’s learning the hard way.
Oh and FYI baby’s have multiple growth spurts. Thanks again for mentioning that everyone.
Wish me luck as I head into the next one.