For some insane reason, I agreed to do the grocery shopping with my husband on Sunday.
I had firmly decided not to return to any busy shopping centres until after the Christmas holidays were over. With my anxiety rearing it’s ugly head at unpredictable times, I didn’t need to place myself among the throes of babies dressed in cute elf costumes, and kids high on sugar in the line to visit Santa’s grotto. But for some reason my husband really wanted me to go with him.
“Don’t worry, we’ll go super early.” he said eagerly. “The grocery stores open before the retail stores, so if we do the groceries first thing there’ll be no kids around.”
Sure enough we arrived just as the grocery store doors opened, and were pleased to find the car park mostly empty. I knew in half an hour the same quiet stretch of concrete would resemble a war zone, with people fighting to get parking spaces, blocking roads and blaring their horns at each other. The thought sent a shudder down my spine.
I stepped out of the car, gathered our swag of environmentally friendly shopping bags from the back seat, and started across the car park towards the entrance. That’s when I spotted her.
A friend from high school, toting her 8 month old baby in her arms. A friend who had been bugging me for months to come over and meet her precious bundle of joy. A friend who was so thrilled to be a mother she couldn’t stop gushing about her baby, even after I explained I was depressingly infertile. She had also just parked her car and was also heading into the shopping centre.
“Wait!” I hissed frantically. “Wait, wait, wait!”
My oblivious husband was walking a step ahead of me, so I grabbed the back of his shirt collar and physically dragged him behind a large cement pillar. He looked at me like I had sprouted a second head, but dutifully stayed where I had placed him.
“Why are we hiding?” he whispered.
“Because my friend Hannah and her baby are just over there.” I whispered back. “If she sees me she will thrust that baby into my arms and then try to take a photo of us together for her ever-growing Facebook photo collection.”
“Ok.” Doug said, understanding. “Stay here, I’ll peek around and tell you when the coast is clear.”
I was grateful that my husband was being so considerate, but also massively regretting the fact I agreed to come shopping. It had been a stupid, stupid idea.
More importantly, I could not even believe my life had come to this. I was hiding behind a pillar in a shopping centre car park. Hiding from my friend and her baby. Hiding behind a pillar! From a baby! It really put my life into perspective.
After a few moments, Doug confirmed that Hannah was gone and I slinked back out into the open. We were at one of the biggest shopping centres in the southern hemisphere, and there were five different grocery stores inside. I started to become paranoid that Hannah had gone to the same store that we were going to. There was no way to tell.
Keeping my head down, we ducked inside and I grabbed a basket. I did a quick sweep of the store from my vantage point at the entrance and thankfully couldn’t spot Hannah inside. I let out a sigh of relief and we headed down the first aisle. No more than thirty seconds later, I was grabbing a loaf of bread off the shelf when I felt someone come up behind me.
“Hey there! Fancy meeting you here!”
I turned around to come face to face with the realtor who sold us our house. Fantastic.
“Hi, nice to see you again.” Doug said, happy to do the talking for both of us.
“How’s the house coming along?” the realtor asked. “Have you started renovating yet?”
“Yes it’s all happening.” Doug replied enthusiastically. “The painting is almost finished, the tiling is underway and the floorboards will be finished today.”
“Wow!” the realtor said, clearly impressed. “Surely you aren’t staying at the house while all that is going on? Those fumes coming off the floorboards would be awful!”
“Yes the house is very smelly.” I finally piped up. “We’re staying with my parents for a few days.”
“Probably for the best.” the realtor nodded pensively. “The fumes wouldn’t be good for your baby.”
In a flash I remembered that during our third private inspection of the house, prior to purchase, we had been measuring up the space we’ve allocated as our future nursery when the realtor walked into the room and overheard us discussing where we would put things ‘once the baby arrived’.
At that stage I was in the early days of my second pregnancy, and armed with the knowledge that less than 2% of women under the age of 30 have two consecutive losses. He had asked if we were expecting, and I had this awful feeling that if I lied and said no I would somehow ‘jinx’ the pregnancy. So I had blurted out that yes I was.
I had told him I was pregnant. And now he was talking about the baby. But the baby wasn’t around anymore. There was no baby.
What the hell was I supposed to do? I didn’t want to tell this person, who was a virtual stranger, that I’d lost my pregnancy. Not in the middle of a damn grocery store!
“Haha, yes, the baby…” I muttered senselessly. “How about that. Yes indeed. Yep yep yep…”
Thankfully he didn’t pick up on my awkwardness and after a few more minutes of small talk he moved on to continue with his shopping. But I could feel the anxiety welling up inside me. I flexed my fingers a few times and tried to shake it off. I knew I could get through this wretched grocery shopping expedition. I just needed to keep calm and take each moment as it came.
Then I looked up, and Doug was gone.
Starting to panic, I could feel my breathing starting to turn shallow. I could not deal with this if I was on my own. Not knowing what else to do I started walking up and down the aisles, wringing my hands like a lost child.
I cursed my husband’s lack of height that made him harder to spot in a crowd. How had he disappeared so quickly? One second he was there, and the next he had vanished into thin air.
On my second sweep of the store I finally located him in the fresh produce section, filling a brown paper bag with mushroom cups. My relief was palpable and I rushed up to hug him.
“What the hell were you thinking walking away from me!” I snapped. “You know I have anxiety! You know I do!”
“Um, what?” he asked, perplexed. “I told you I was going to get some mushrooms and you looked right at me as I walked away.”
“Well I didn’t hear or see you!” I replied.
“Ok calm down.” Doug said. “It’s fine, I won’t leave you again.”
Doug was true to his word and didn’t leave my side for the rest of our shopping trip. He even tried to keep things light hearted. As we reached the end of each aisle he would jokingly push me up against the shelves and tell me I couldn’t pass around the corner until he checked to make sure no one I knew was in the next aisle over. I was thankful that he was able to keep me laughing and smiling in a tense situation.
I guess I learned two things from my experience:
- I can control my anxiety as long as I remain calm – I was so proud of myself for not having another panic attack.
- Stick to the original plan and stay the frig away from shopping centres!
Has anyone else been through an experience where someone hadn’t realised you were no longer pregnant? How did you handle it? Advice would be appreciated so I don’t act like such a bumbling idiot next time!