I spent Sunday afternoon wandering the aisles of the grocery store with my six-week-old snuggled closely to my chest. It was pure bliss. While the older two darlings stayed around home with dad, I grabbed the opportunity to grocery shop with only one child in tow - the easy child. Strapped onto my chest and sound asleep, my son made roaming the four aisles of Aldi seem like a luxurious getaway. I scanned some new products, read a few labels, and even retraced my steps back to aisle one when I forgot hamburger buns. He slept peacefully the entire time, those chubby cheeks pressed into my chest as strangers oohed and ahhed.
“I should do this every Sunday,” I thought to myself.
Cue foreboding music.
The following week I decided to take him grocery shopping again after Sunday lunch. I grabbed my bags and the baby wrap as I hurried off, eager for another therapeutic getaway disguised as an errand.
That darling boy fell asleep during the five-minute car ride to Aldi. I slowly lifted him from his car seat and positioned him gently into the baby wrap. He let out a few baby grunts as he arched his back, but settled in quickly as the warm breeze hugged his chunky frame; he was asleep again by the time we reached the entrance.
The air conditioning hit us hard as we entered the store. Maybe it was the transition inside or maybe the Lord just needed to keep me humble, but the moment we entered the store, he awoke with a cry. Before we even passed the nuts and dried fruit, he had worked himself into a wail.
I knew this feeling. This was my third child, after all, and each one before him has stopped me with the What am I supposed to do? terror. The first time my daughter began wailing in the grocery store, I felt like all eyes were on me, watching and waiting to see my next move. I remember the panic. Do I abandon my full cart? Just keep going? How do you hold an infant and push a shopping cart?
But today was different. Instead of paralyzing terror, I felt a calm confidence. I left my cart in the aisle and walked back outside. I strolled down the sidewalk, past Jo-Ann Fabrics and the Asian Market. The movement and warm air lulled him back to sleep, and I reentered Aldi, my abandoned cart waiting where I’d left it. Unfortunately, this same scene repeated itself two more times.
I couldn’t continue this absurd sequence all afternoon. I weighed my options: go home or plow through with a screaming baby. I didn’t like either of those options. I began wishing my children had taken a pacifier, but none of them did. They all preferred the boob.
So in the middle of aisle one, out came the boob. I readjusted the baby wrap so my son’s screaming mouth lined up with my nipple; seconds later the wailing subsided.
Now, I have breastfed all three of my babies. I am a supporter, even an advocate, for breastfeeding, and I certainly don’t adhere to the notion that a mother must hide herself in a private back room, missing out on sunshine, conversation, or dinner in order to feed her baby. I have nursed my children in all sorts of unusual places - Chick-fil-A, church pews, formal New Year’s Eve parties, and an Eli Young Band concert. More often than not, it is my personal preference to use a cover up, but desperate times called for desperate boob-exposing measures. I wasn’t about to go sit in my hot van for 30 minutes to nurse a baby. This mama ain’t got time for that.
I proceeded to shop as the suckle, suckle, swallow sound drowned out the cart’s squeaky wheels. I casually scanned produce and peeked inside an egg carton, acting as if this was my norm. I’m just the kind of mom who goes on about life with a baby attached to her nipple for all to see. No big deal. At first I avoided eye contact with other shoppers, particularly with the middle aged man who happened to need the same tub of Greek yogurt at the exact moment I bent over to grab mine. When I saw him lingering near the sweet potatoes and sneaking glances, I pulled down on my son’s chin, attempting to widen his latch and hide more of my breast. His mouth slipped off for a moment, and I’m pretty sure the man saw my boob. Welcome to motherhood.
But a funny thing happened by the time I reached aisle four; I felt confident, almost proud. I felt like a mom. As it turns out, the past five years have produced a mom who knows what she’s doing every now and then.
Sometimes I’m a hot mess mom. I shower four times a week, and when I say four, I really mean three. A messy bun is standard, and I often wear the same pants I slept in. I eat standing up and drink iced coffee when I should be drinking water. I shut down at 8:30 pm, and the last movie I saw in the theater was The Hunger Games. But even more than my haggard appearance, physical exhaustion, and lame social life, I feel a mess inside - like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making a million decisions each day, aiming for the best interest of these darlings while also grasping for my sanity. With so many of these choices I wonder, “Was that the best decision? Did I do that right? How will this turn out?”
In the midst of second guessing and constant learning, I forget how far I’ve come from the day baby #1 screamed in that grocery store. Maybe I think too much about my shortcomings, dwelling on the times I’m frazzled and clueless instead of giving myself props when I ace it.
There are moments I stay calm and think clearly rather than panicking about what those around me are thinking. There are moments I say just the right thing at just the right time. And there are moments I know exactly what my children need. I know when they need to cry it out for ten minutes in a crib and when it’s better to fall asleep on my chest. I know when I should call the doctor and when I should wait another day. I know when they need space or a nap or a granola bar. I know when they are lacking confidence or feeling embarrassed. I know when they need a pj day around home or when they need to get out and run those little legs. I know when they need a break and a hug and an extra dose of compassion.
And as it turns out, I know when they need me to whip out my boob in the middle of Aldi.
Guest post written by Joy Becker. Joy is a wife and mama living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She recently resigned from a 12-year career as a literacy coach and first grade teacher to become a full time stay-at-home-mom with her three young darlings. She is a lover of new notebooks, October, and goat cheese, and a hater of traffic, scary movies, and overcooked asparagus. You can peek even further into her love for Jesus, food, motherhood, and friendship at 44 & Oxford and on Instagram.