I was feeling smug carrying a sleeping Rachel Marie in a sling snuggled close to my chest and pushing Madeline around in one of those hybrid shopping cart-race cars, especially after a woman said, "Good for you for getting out already!" Both girls were cooperating. Madeline was pretending to drive us around the grocery store while Rae cooed peacefully. But somewhere in the middle of the produce aisle it all fell apart. Madeline started hopping in and out of the car and I kept having to tell her to stay by me. "Wanna help, Mommy," she insisted while reaching for a piece of produce that wasn't on my list. If I hadn't been living on about four hours of fragmented sleep, I probably would have been touched by her kindness even though it was misguided. Instead, I snapped, "No, you're not helping. Get back in your car or I'm not going to buy any pretzels." Pretzels had been her only request to add to our grocery list. She immediately climbed back in the car and proceeded to tell an elderly woman who was smiling at her that she wouldn't get any pretzels if she left her car. I felt like a loser mommy.
We left the produce aisle and I thought peace was restored until Rae began to squirm. The squirming soon turned to wailing. The child had never uttered more than a few squawks or an occasional wail and now she was screeching and rooting all over me. It hadn't even been two hours since our last feeding, but this babe was hungry. I bravely put a nursing cover over my neck and released my aching boob from the nursing bra with one arm. Rae immediately latched on. "Okay, I can shop while a baby sucks my boob, a toddler asks me over and over again where the pretzels are and all the senior citizens in the metro Atlanta area, who are getting their senior discount on this designated day, stop to oohhh and ahhh over my children while I try to hide the fact that my baby is latched onto my breast..." Only the angle isn't quite right for Rae and before too long she's squirming and screaming again. So I take her out of the sling and cradle her to my chest. "Shhhh...Shhhh...Baby. Mommy's here."
"Mommy, where are the pretzels?" Madeline asks.
"Oh, excuse me. Can we see your baby?" An older woman hovers close to me with her young granddaughter gaping at Rae. My boob is still hanging out. Fortunately, it's concealed by the nursing cover, but I'm afraid I'll start spraying milk all over the place and traumatize this young girl for the rest of her life.
"Well, I'm actually in a hurry. The baby's hungry and..."
"Oh, just quick peek," the woman insists. Rae is wailing. Is this woman deaf?
I lift her face from my chest.
"Oh, she's so beautiful."
"Mommy, where are the pretzels?"
"Oh, you have another one."
No, I just like the look of the shopping cart with the race car attached to it.
"Wow. You have your hands full," she observes.
Yes, I do. Now can I please continue shopping?
Admittedly, I'm a little rude. I just walk away at this point and grope at my nursing bra behind the cover. I tuck my dripping boob back away but keep the cover on to hide the milk stain on my shirt that oddly reminds me of the shape of Great Britain. Rae has finally settled down, but I still need milk (as in cow's milk; I've got plenty of the other stuff) and pretzels.
We finally make it out of the store after dodging other well-meaning admirers and also getting some help from two women who look at me knowingly ("I've been there," their eyes say to me). One helps me unload my groceries onto the belt; another asks if I need any help. I say I'm okay, but she kindly tells me, "You should still be in bed, but no rest for the weary or the mommy." I smile at her with gratitude.
After I dump the groceries into the van with a very helpful toddler (Madeline really is an amazing little girl; she never left the shopping cart car again except to help me put groceries on the belt for the cashier and to unload them into the minivan), I give Madeline a generous handful of pretzels and buckle her into her carseat. I take Rae into the front seat with me and start nursing her. Ahhhhh... I inhale deeply and begin to relax. I snack on a few pretzels. A car pulls in to the parking space directly in front of me. A pretty blond teen is the driver and she's accompanied by an Asian male companion with a shaggy haircut. I assume they're here to shop (it is a grocery store parking lot, after all), but they surprise me by reclining their seats and beginning a makeout session. It's a little before noon - in other words, it's broad daylight - and the car's windows aren't tinted. I don't know where to look, so I try to fixate on how Rae's ear wiggles when she sucks. Madeline starts to ask why I don't start driving. "When are we going bye-bye?"
Not soon enough, I want to tell her. As if being stressed out with a crying infant, a leaky boob, a hungry toddler and too long of a grocery list weren't enough, now I have to watch two horny teens get their moves on.
Just another day in Mommy Land...