It's now been nine weeks since Oscar was born, and I realise that I have become somewhat of a recluse. After our usual early five am start one morning last week, I resolve to change my attitude and get out of the house. I'm going out with the baby, I think, and repeat it to myself like a mantra.
Despite the fact he needs a nap every two hours, rather than be discouraged and give up after two false starts, I determinedly ensure firstly that his bag is packed – nappies, rattle, dummies, muslins, breastfeeding cover, hand sanitiser, baby wipes, change of jumpsuit, socks, plastic bag.
After the third false start (by this time it's after lunch), I am poised like a cobra ready to strike as soon as I hear the cry from his cot.
I scoop him up, perform a lightening fast nappy change and quickly dress him in his trousers, socks, jumper, coat and beanie. I resolutely ignore his protestations as I wrestle with him to get his mittens on, and bundle him into the buggy, which I had cunningly packed with the aforementioned supplies while he was asleep.
Front door open, I see it's started to rain, so on goes the buggy rain cover. I scrabble for an umbrella next to the front door, shrug on my heavy coat and grab my handbag and suddenly we're outside, walking down the footpath, high street bound.
It's only a trip to the post office to send my sister a parcel but I'm exhilarated to be outside, on my own with him. He seems pretty content so far, watching the world go by from the snug comfort of his warm and dry seat. I don't even care that the drizzle is getting on my hair, and as we approach the high street I start to feel a tiny bit proud of myself and my small victory.
My morale is still riding high as I push the shop door open, then it deflates like a popped balloon when I witness the length of the queue that snakes back upon itself inside. All manner of society is in here, from elderly ladies, to business people and other mothers with babies plus some rowdy toddlers in tow.
I join the line with resignation as the door opens and shuts, and two more people stand behind me. "Cashier number SEVEN please," shrills the automatic voice recording, and I spend the next few minutes smiling and making faces with the baby, who is showing his sweet and charming side, flirting with the woman behind me in the queue. Suddenly his face changes, and I recognize the unmistakable change in his demeanour. He starts to grizzle, and I realize with a pang that I have made a fatal error. I have forgotten to feed him before we went out. I know how this is going to play out – once he decides he is hungry, there is nothing to be done to appease him until he is given the breast.
I start to sweat a bit under my coat as his cries get louder, and I grab the rattle (after nearly having to tip the bag upside down – it's right at the bottom) and shake shake shake it in front of his face. He ceases his outcry immediately, but as soon as I stop rattling he starts again. Three people ahead of me, I think, what should I do? There's nowhere to even sit here even if I did want to get my boob out, which I'd rather not do. Two people now, COME ON! The rattle is starting to lose its power as Oscar's crying gets exponentially louder. One person, then, "Cashier number THREE please" That's me. I thrust the parcel across the counter only to have the clearly bad tempered clerk snap at me to put it on the scales.
Three minutes later and we're back outside. It's now windy and raining, and I make the judgement call to just get us home. It's wet, it's cold and no place for me to have a quiet breastfeed on that uninviting damp bench by the bus stop. I jog and splash back home with the buggy skittering along the pavement, the baby really wailing his head off by the time I get back through the front door.
As we settle down on the sofa in our warm living room, Oscar contentedly feeding now, I smile to myself. I did it! Tomorrow, we might even make it to the supermarket.