Dear New Mom We Scared at Walmart Today,
I am sorry. You were sporting your brand-new diaper bag over your shoulder, packed neatly. It zipped completely closed and most likely didn’t have a single stray Goldfish cracker in it or smell of spilled milk. I imagine that your spare sleepers and receiving blankets were folded perfectly inside it and you completely unpack it and pack it each time you leave your house. Your significant other was pushing your super, cute brand new baby boy who was wearing an adorable brand, new hat and sleeper in your brand, spankin’ new stroller with the spiky pieces of rubber still on the tires and all kinds of clean, new gadgets hanging off of the handle. You were having a sweet, little family outing to print your baby’s newborn photos you probably just picked up from your photographer. I think it’s fair to assume that you are going to print a set for each of your family members, wait while they print then go home, write on the back of each one of them and deliver them to each family member before your sweet new baby’s umbilical cord has even fallen off.
You walked into the photo area of Walmart and were alarmed at the heinous sounds coming out of my shopping cart. My 5 month old son was screaming his head off. I realize it sounded like he was badly hurt, violently ill or starving to death. He wasn’t. He was just tired and is going through a phase where he needs to be at home, in his cradle to fall asleep. (Who doesn’t prefer the comforts of their own bed?) He has achieved a new level of awareness which is incredibly awesome when he recognizes me, his father and his sister and can grip toys and follow my hand motions when I play with him. He reacts with giggles when I make a funny face or sound and smiles at his sister when she mimics me and does the same. This same level of awareness also makes it so he now knows he is tired and isn’t at home. There are bright lights, loud and unfamiliar sounds, smells and voices and even though he is so tired, there is no way he is going to fall asleep here cuddled up with his favourite blanket, in his comfy car seat inside my shopping cart. Nuh-uh.
The other high-pitched sounds you heard that were enough to make your significant other give you the sign that he was going to walk your sweet, new baby elsewhere before he was startled and awakened was my 16 month old daughter screaming at the top of her lungs with huge tears coming down her cheeks. Again, it may have looked like she had just been seriously hurt or was starving to death but she has actually just reached a new milestone: walking. It took her a while to get the hang of it but she is walking and walking well. Walking has given her a new sense of independence. She wants to walk everywhere. She wants to walk around stores, our neighbourhood, our house and anywhere else she happens to go. However, at 16 months of age, she is in this incredible discovery stage. She wants to touch, eat and climb everything. She is also not yet at an age where she understands to stay close, come back or not to touch. When we go on outings just the two of us, she walks around and I follow her and make sure she is safe and not destroying things. When it is just me with both babies, she has to stay in the cart. I know this because I have tried a few times to let her walk while I chase her and stop her from pulling things off shelves or getting run over by other shopping carts while pushing my son in his stroller. It’s not fun and it’s not safe. I only have two hands and two eyes. If I have to chase after her then I am not giving my son my full attention. It’s a crazy world out there. It’s not worth the risk. So, just so you know, she is relentlously screaming at the top of her lungs because she wants out of that cart and to walk around. And, yes, I may have cut this quick outing a little too close to naptime. It happens. It happens a lot because it seriously takes me 3 years to actually pack and leave the house to go anywhere. (Oh…and they very rarely nap at the same time!)
You were at the photo machine next to me and pulled your CD out of the front pocket of your diaper bag at the same time as I shoved the disc I had just finished with into my purse. We made eye contact as you opened your case and inserted your CD into the machine while I pulled my next CD out of its paper envelope only to realize that the paper is stuck to the CD because it somehow got wet and the envelope adhesive is stuck to the top of the disc. How is it wet? Oh right… after cleaning up an explosive baby sneeze in the parking lot, while loading up my cart with babies, I did not close up my container of baby wipes in my purse and they managed to magically moisten the envelope just enough to make this experience a little more complicated than it was already. We chat friendly, small talk chat as much as we can over my crying babies as you select your photos and I peel pieces of paper off my disc so it won’t jam up the photo machine when I try to insert it.
You’re scared of what the future holds and I’m sorry for doing that to you. It’s usually not this bad. In fact, I’m quite confident you had the unfortunate luck of seeing us at our absolute worst. Even when it is this bad, it’s really not as bad as it looks. If my midgets were crying because they were sick or hurt, it would be bad but they are just singing the songs of their people to let me know that they just aren’t happy. My son, because I disturbed him from the nap he had started on the car ride here and my daughter because she sees a million things she wants to touch and can’t from her seat in the cart. Let’s face it. We’re running errands at Walmart. Who is happy? If it was socially acceptable for me to cry hysterically, I would too. (And if they keep this up much longer, I just might. But it’s okay. I’ve come to accept that occasional crying is okay.)
You show me one of your newborn photos and tell me that your son is now 3 weeks old. I show you the maternity shot I’m printing from when my 16 month old daughter was 8 months old and my 5 month old son was in utero. Yes, I’m a little behind schedule to say the least. I also had the disc from my babies’ last photoshoot in my purse but I think we both know why I decided to finish up here and print those ones another time.
You noticed that I was shoving my disc back inside my purse that could barely close and politely ask how I manage to keep everything in just a purse. I know you’re thinking “You have two babies. Where is your diaper bag? Where is your stroller?”
Well, my diaper bag has a V6 engine, all-wheel drive, 6-speed transmission, dual exhaust and 305 horsepower. (If you’re wondering if I googled my mom-mobile’s specs for dramatic effect, the answer is “Of course I did!”) That’s right. Today (and a lot of days) my diaper bag is my car. My car is well-stocked at all times with a double stroller, booster seat, backup diaper bag filled with diapers, wipes, spare outfits for Miss 16 months, spare outfits for Mr. 5 months, Gerber sweet potato treats in at least 2 cupholders, cheerios, Goldfish crackers, nursing pillow, nursing cover, toys, blankets, change pad, extra wipes, receiving blankets, hand sanitizer and lots more… especially if you count milk splatters and look between the seats (Yikes!) With one baby, I could bring a diaper bag into a store with me and either push baby with one hand and hold a shopping basket with the other or I could put baby into a cart and pack groceries, etc. around her. With two babies, I am much more limited. I can’t carry a shopping basket because my double stroller is just too damn heavy to push and steer with one hand. Plus, I can only fit so much “stuff” in the storage basket under the stroller without hearing a request for a security surveillance scan come over the store’s intercom because I look like I’m shoplifting. So, I resort to my current favourite method: Miss 16 months in the seat of the cart, Mr. 5 months in his infant carseat inside the cart and purse, no diaper bag. Why no diaper bag? Because the only room I have for carrying stuff I actually want to buy is under the cart and strategically around the infant carseat that is sitting inside the cart (far enough away from baby boy so he doesn’t get crushed by grocery items yet far enough from baby girl so she doesn’t eat/crush/throw/suck on/break anything. This looks like chaos but it is well-organized strategic planning.
I know what you’re thinking. “What if one of them needs a diaper change?” The short answer: we go out to the car. The longer explanation: I do always have a diaper in each baby’s size and wipes in my purse for “just in case” purposes. However, public washrooms are nasty to begin with and it is physically impossible for me to change Miss 16 months as she flails like a dolphin out of water trying to touch, lick and grab everything in sight AND make sure that Mr. 5 months old is safe and also clean and not coming into contact without any public washroom nastiness. Reverse poopy babies and it’s even worse. I then have to try to change baby boy while baby girl attempts to bungee-jump out of the cart, reach out and touch everything, eat everything, throw all of our gear on the washroom floor faster than I could ever possibly prevent it from happening. *Shiver* I picture a swarm of bacteria covering us all just thinking about it. It is safer, easier and cleaner to just leave the store and change diapers in our baby-mobile. And when I say cleaner, I do not mean clean as much as I mean “just our mess and germs” rather than the world’s mess and germs. Public washrooms. Eww. Grabby, curious, hands with no concept of germs or “Please don’t touch that!” = Ewwwwwwww!!!!! I would basically have to hose both babies down and burn everything we had with us in order to come out of this alright. So, when a change is needed, we go out to the car where I can make sure both babies are safe. I usually pop the hatch-back trunk and lay them down there and get ‘er done. Yes, changing your baby in your trunk is weird but it’s safer, easier and cleaner.
So that’s why I have 2 screaming babies with no stroller and no diaper bag in sight. I’m not saying I’m not losing my mind at times but this is actually planned.
You continued to select your cute photos as I shoved my discs back in my purse and waited for the little receipt to print that you bring to the counter to order your photos. At the exact millisecond that I turned my back to grab the receipt, my daughter stopped screaming because she saw an opportunity to grab my discs out of my purse along with my car keys and throw them all over the floor. She laughed thinking this was hilarious! (See! She’s fine! Just bored and strong-willed!) When I picked them up, shoved them back in my purse and zipped it shut so she couldn’t reach them, the screaming started again. I apologized to you for all the noise again.
Just so you know, even though when I went up to the counter and the photo clerk told me that they weren’t very busy today so my one-hour service photos would be ready in 20 minutes, I took one look at the two screaming mouths and four teary eyes in my cart and ran out of that store as fast as I could. Don’t feel bad for staring and wondering what was wrong with my babies. Every single person we passed on our route out the door was looking and silently judging me too. It happens.
After we left the store and went out to the parking lot, I buckled both babies into their car seats and they were both fast asleep like little (silent) angels before I had even backed out of the parking space. And two days later, I still haven’t picked my photos up. Some day. Siiigh.
I am genuinely sorry for scaring you. You witnessed our most hectic performance yet and we’ve been taking our show on the road for a few months now. I’m sorry it had to be you. Enjoy your sweet little baby boy and every little moment you are able to kiss, cuddle and giggle with him. I wish you all the luck in the world. Some days are better than others. But even the bad days are incredibly worth it.