My brain chants this, over and over, as I sit in the backseat of my minivan, next to the car seat where my two-month-old daughter, Blair, is supposed to be, all strapped in and safe. But she is not. She is, instead, lying across my lap. My tank top is pulled up, my left boob is hanging out, and Blair is latched on. None of this would be a problem, except for one thing. My mother is in the front seat, driving the car.
Oddly, less than two hours ago, I thought Blair and I were having a good day. I actually said this out loud to my husband, talking to him on my cell as Blair and I drove to the Philadelphia airport to pick up my mother, who was flying in to help out for a week.
“We’re having a good day,” I said.
“You are?” he answered, clearly surprised. This was the first official “good day” we’d had since Blair was born. The jaundice, the colic and the relentless crying, the two minutes of sleep, the impulse to kill the dog and anything else that made noise, and the madness of figuring out how to breastfeed another human being (who just, kind of, appeared) had all left me feeling entirely out of control.
But, today? Blair woke up from a nap at two p.m., giving me precisely enough time to nurse her, get us both in the minivan, drive to the airport, pick up my mother and drive back home before she’d need to nurse again at five. All was going well. Until, on the way home, I missed the exit. And we ended up in rush-hour traffic. Crawling. On a four-lane highway. With no way to pull over. For two-and-a-half hours . . . so far.
For the past hour of it, Blair has been screaming.
My mother is in the seat next to her, rocking the car seat, which isn’t working. Neither is the air conditioning I turned on full-blast to create a “shushing” sound. We both know she’s hungry. And that, because she’s hungry, we’re screwed.
I try not to look in the rear view mirror, where I can see Blair’s face, all contorted into a massive black hole of a mouth, reflected in the mirror hanging on the headrest above her. My boobs are throbbing, but not as much as my temples are. From that sound. That yelping, alien baby sound.