No one tells you how mentally exhausting the hard days are when you have a baby. Or maybe they do, but you think, “Oh, I can handle it.” And you can, depending on your definition of “handle.” I suppose it’s hard to explain the desperation you feel on days like that.
Nolan is all smiles and cuddles and coos, sleeps through the night, and hardly ever cries. Until he goes through a growth spurt and all he does is eat and eat and cry because he wants to eat some more. I spend the day practically topless, perfecting the art of one-handed typing while holding my child to my breast with the other. In the brief moments between feedings, I try to tidy things up, take a bathroom break, and find something to eat, because I am quite ravenous myself.
I intend to go to the grocery store in the evening when his father comes home, but the baby just keeps eating, and I am not willing to use up the pumped milk because I have plans for going out later in the week and why waste it when I am right here? I would send my husband, but I have very specific needs for baking and sometimes just get inspired by what I see. I can’t trust him to get inspired for me. When Nolan finally falls asleep at 9:30, I head out to get food, at last.
But the store near us doesn’t have challah, because apparently the degenerates in my neighborhood don’t have much need for it. So I get back in my car and drive to the other side of town. This particular store, at 10 PM, is filled with nothing but young men. The only other females I see are grocery clerks, not shoppers. For some reason, I feel very uneasy about this discovery, like I have accidentally wandered into a secret club meeting.
I try to shop quickly, but I am notoriously bad at grocery shopping, always forgetting something and having to double (or even triple) back. I spend an inordinate amount of time staring at wine selections because I can’t find my favorite Albariño and there isn’t anyone working that area this late at night. It is eerily quiet in the wine section, and I am the only one there, skulking through the bottles, my eyes lingering on each label to try to decipher the words.
In the produce area, I am inspired to pick up quinces and am glad I didn’t send my husband to the store in my stead. Toward the end of my trip, I shove a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream into my cart. I overhear another shopper make a comment to his partner about how some people should be required by their jobs to lose weight. It isn’t directed at me, but I feel self-conscious and glare at him defensively, almost involuntarily. I hear him say he wants to get “the eggs that say ‘cage free’ on them,” and I resist the urge to tell him that that particular brand isn’t very humane, despite the labeling. I feel that by withholding this information, I am getting back at him for his insensitivity.
When I arrive home, my husband has already gone to bed, and I am irked, even though it makes no sense for him to stay awake on a weeknight just because I insist on grocery shopping until 11 PM. I make two trips to the car to get the groceries, then decide I will try to cry since that sounds cathartic and it was a stressful day. I scrunch up my face and make a light sobbing noise to get things going, but I’m fairly certain that all the liquid in my body has been turned into milk and there is nothing left for cathartic crying, so I give up.
I put away the groceries, then grab a spoon and dig directly into the pint of ice cream without bothering with a bowl. It’s a habit I spent two years in counseling trying to eradicate, but it still rears its ugly head sometimes when I am alone and feel overwhelmed. I can’t muster the whole pint, so I dump the rest down the sink and head up to bed without hiding the empty ice cream container in the bottom of the trash like I used to. (Progress.)
Since I still have the fear that my son will stop breathing in his sleep, I tiptoe into the nursery to feel his chest rising and falling. The corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly at my touch. I smile, too, in the glow of the nightlight, then sneak out of the room, avoiding the creaky spots on the floor so he will stay asleep. As I settle into bed, I am comforted by the thought that tomorrow, I will have my happy little boy back and French toast for breakfast.
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup (240 mL) whole milk
- ¾ cup (180 grams) pumpkin puree
- ½ cup (115 grams) light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon bourbon (or vanilla extract)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 loaf challah, cut into 1½-inch slices
- 1 cup (100 grams) pecans, chopped
- Maple syrup, for topping
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs lightly to break up the yolks. Add milk, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, melted butter, bourbon (or vanilla), spices, and salt and whisk to combine.
- Dip each slice of bread into the custard mixture, then place into a 13x9-inch baking pan, staggering and stacking if necessary. Drizzle with remaining custard, then sprinkle with chopped pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Remove the baking pan from the refrigerator to sit at room temperature while your oven preheats to 350°F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until custard on the bottom is set but not dried out. Serve immediately with maple syrup.