Orginally written for Gulf News: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/staring-at-the-brand-new-mum-1.1350633
Published June 2014
Wham! The milk bottle lands squarely on the floor right between the two isles. The person who threw it with such perfect aim looks only a few months (weeks?) old, and at the moment, appears to be in quite a temper. The woman that is holding the baby speaks in her best soothing voice and attempts to console her little one, but the baby throws her head back and begins a full-fledged, ear-splitting wailing.
The poor mum looks dangerously close to tears herself. Her shopping cart is now a few feet away from her, and I have a feeling she’s forgotten all about groceries.
I shoot a sidelong glance at the duo and with that I look at my own burgeoning tummy. With my youngest one now all of five years old I have completely forgotten what a brand new mother goes through. I’m used to the luxury of my children sleeping through the night, and I do groceries with gay abandon while they are at school. When I say gay abandon, it is of course a relative term. In my last trimester of pregnancy, when discomfort is a constant companion, groceries aren’t exactly fun, but at least I don’t have to deal with people yelling and hurling milk bottles.
I’m glad people don’t sue for staring because I am constantly watching this harried-looking new mother and wondering about when, only a few weeks from now, I will be in her shoes. She places a burp cloth carefully on her shoulder, which she extracts from a big, pink diaper bag — (yikes! Diaper bags! I had forgotten all about lugging around those unsexy enormous things along with a stroller). Then she attempts to burp the (slightly calmer) baby on her shoulder.
The baby, it has to be said, is gorgeous. She has beautiful pink lips, and lovely sandy brown hair that just about covers her scalp and tiny eyes that are lost in the layers of cheek.
She is still crying and I am still observing, riveted. (Incidentally, as a side note, when I do have the baby and if I end up doing groceries on a particularly rough day I would report you to the police for staring at me and my baby). But I digress. Ah yes, the burping. The crying baby manages to burp. I’m not standing close enough to hear the burp but I know it did happen because the baby just threw up all over the burp cloth, and of course the mother. Bless her — her top is soiled too. Typical.
I force myself to turn my grocery cart and look the other way. But as I do so, I can’t help stealing a last look at the mother’s tummy. She is wearing what appears to be a maternity top, and well, let’s just say she’s looking nothing like Kim Kardashian. I’m glad to report that she is perfectly normal and looks every bit a new mum, right to the circles under her eyes. I finally make the U-turn that I should have made a long time ago, but groceries are the last thing on my mind.
Hope, fear and dread
I can’t quite describe my feeling of excitement, hope, fear and dread all rolled into one. How is it going to be? Will the baby and I make it? Am I going to be a good mother? Do I (and we, as a family) have the emotional and physical strength to handle another child? Who will she resemble? Will my other kids get jealous? And most worryingly — will I ever fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans again? I probably sound a bit like a first-time mum, and would you believe I feel that way. Nothing — not even having children previously prepares you for the all-important event of having a baby, which brings with it a brand new rush of emotions (and hormones) every single time.
I finish my groceries in a bit of a daze, and when I finally get to the cash counter, right before me is a certain new mother, looking visibly more relaxed, this time accompanied by the baby’s father, who is pushing a stroller. Inside the stroller is an adorable baby sleeping calmly, without a care in the world.
The woman appears to be having a normal conversation with her spouse and I’m trying not to eavesdrop. Honestly. I look away and wait patiently (read uncomfortably) in line. Err… pun intended!