I can count the evenings I’ve had out since I had EB on one hand. Actually, one finger. One. One evening. It’s all rock and roll this mothering business. I’m not complaining. Really, I’m not. When you’ve been up half the night with a small baby and spent the day looking after baby and his older brother; making meals, packed lunches, ferrying to pre- school and back, completing a double dose of bath time and bedtime routine, the last thing you feel like doing is hitting the proverbial tiles at 8pm.
Last week however, was an exception. A friend was planning a ‘one night only’ visit to London and had requested my presence for food, drinks and merriment. I’d looked forward to it all week. A night out. A night with the girls; gossiping, laughing, catching up. I was ready for some fun.
By 6pm on the evening of my appointed night out, I was exhausted. Husband (aka the babysitter) texted to say he would be late. The baby was tearful and cranky. I couldn’t work out why. Pip wanted his milk, but I couldn’t find the special ‘milky cup’. One tearful disaster spilled into another as we approached bedtime. Why tonight? Why tonight? I silently bemoaned to myself.
I focused on getting the baby bathed and fed, knowing that Husband could manage Pip’s bath when he got home. Husband arrived flustered, and assumed his role of taking charge of all things Pip. Fussing a little more than usual, EB went to bed, and checking my watch (again), I had just enough time to express some milk, get ready and go. I was running a little late, but figured I could make up the time.
With Dumbo blaring from the TV, pump at the ready, I set about milking my galactagogos to ensure Husband was armed with the necessary ammunition should he need it mid evening. From this point on it all went downhill. Husband starting calling something out, loudly, from upstairs. "I can’t hear you", I shouted back, pump going at full blast. Dumbo and friends continued to dance in the background. Another inaudible bellow from upstairs. "Still CAN'T HEAR YOU" I shouted back. (Helpful, I know). Silently I prayed; 'Please come down, don’t make me turn this pump off now. I’ve just got the let down right and the milk is flowing nicely'. Failure to find the TV remote further exacerbated the situation, so Dumbo continued singing merrily, which meant the third time Husband's voice echoed down the staircase I still couldn't make out what he was saying. He clearly wasn't going to come to me. *Sigh* Detaching the pump I made my way upstairs. Time was ticking on.
‘He’s awake.’ Husband said pointedly. I could see that. He was holding the baby.
Baby did not want to go back to sleep. Perhaps he sensed Mummy wanted to go out, to venture beyond the front door. Without him. It took thirty minutes to cajole him into the land of nod. By which time I was even later and standing in a breastfeeding vest wanting to weep, aware that, by now, everyone else was probably supping aperatifs in the restaurant.
Determined to not give up on the evening before it had started, I took myself back to the business of pumping, but, whether it was the stress of being late, or the mind numbing gaiety of Dumbo enforced by the loss of the TV remote, only a few sorry drops now joined the inch or so of milk in the bottom of the bottle. More stress. 'What should I do? Not go? It’ll be fine I told myself, he’s had a feed, he should sleep until I get home. This is just insurance, there’s enough to tide him over if he wakes.' But even then, reasoning with myself, reassuring myself, I felt that perhaps I was being selfish, that I was wrong to go. I went through the motions anyway.
Make Up. I need make up. Where’s my foundation? I realised I hadn’t worn any for the best part of three months. Applying it to my ghostly pallor was a reminder that actually, make up can make you feel loads better about yourself. That I do look better with it on.
Clothes. What shall I wear? It had been my intention to get a little dressed up, to make an effort. But alas, lack of foresight (and looking after two children all day) meant that selecting an outfit now would mean entering my bedroom, turning the light on, rooting through the wardrobe, and potentially waking the baby. So instead I raided the ironing pile in the spare room. Note to self; select clothes in daytime and leave out for later.
Scarf. My favourite scarf. Oh no. On the chaise longue in the bedroom. Apart from the issue of waking the sleeping baby, I now had my boots on. I didn’t want to risk muddying the cream carpets if they were dirty and I didn’t have time to take them off and put them on again. No scarf then.
Hair. Washed that morning; thank goodness I’d made an effort to have a shower before Husband left for work. No mirror downstairs, so I simply released it from it’s pony tail and styled it via the reflection from the hall window. Look good? I couldn’t tell. By then I didn’t care.
30 minutes late, off I went. With a slightly chilly neck and a weighty heart.
A stone’s throw from the restaurant I received a text from Husband;
‘We need more full fat milk’
Being a mother, I already knew this, but unwilling to accentuate my lack of style any further, I had drawn the line at arriving on my night out with a Tesco carrier bag containing a pint of full fat for Pip.
It was a lovely evening. It was good to see old friends and catch up. They all looked so sparkly and glamorous. But I felt my apron strings tugging at me, that I couldn’t relax and let loose. I worried as I covered my wine glass to stop it being refilled; 'I haven’t pumped enough milk, I’m sure of it. EB will be hungry if he wakes.’
I bade my friends an early goodbye and headed off to get Pip’s milk. I wondered if I would ever relax on a night out again.
The trials of the evening were not over. Tesco Express had just closed. Checking my watch and seeing it was 11pm on the dot, I pleaded with the shop manager to let me in. "Just for a pint of milk, that’s all, I promise." The thought of Pip waking at 5am and refusing to go back to bed without his warm drink was too much to bear. Perhaps because I seemed so sober he took pity on me and let me in. As I queued to pay behind the last pair of shoppers, I noted that they were buying vodka and whiskey and planning a long night ahead. I was buying milk and looking at a long night ahead too, albeit with less of a party atmosphere.
I took advantage of the rare time to myself to enjoy the walk home. It was peaceful. The night air was cool enough to be refreshing but not enough to make me feel cold. I savoured the novelty of being alone, of not pushing a shopping laden pram or chasing after a run away scooter.
A panicky text from Husband cut through the silence.
‘He is awake. Has had all the milk from bottle. Chomping for more. Where are you?'
‘About 10 doors away’.
Almost exactly three hours after I’d left, I was home. I’d barely closed the door and Husband was down the stairs, plonking EB in my arms. Two minutes later he was feeding, and I was filling Pip’s ‘milky cup’ for the morning with finest blue top.
Everyone could relax. The milk maid was home.