It's not that I want to abandon my darling son. On the contrary, I often feel I could happily hole up with him for days, just stroking his ridiculously silky feet (I have considered preventing him from ever walking on them, just to maintain that baby softness, but I fear this could lead to prosecution and imprisonment). That said, having a baby is quite a shock to the system - emotionally just as much as (or even more than) physically. You go from being one person, to two. It will never be just you again. And breastfeeding means you're physically attached to this new little being for a large part of the day (in Lumpy's case, pretty much all day). If you're not careful, you may never leave the house again.
I was determined for this not to happen.
Part one in bringing this evil plan to fruition was getting Lumpy to take a bottle of expressed boob juice. My google research had told me that this would be hideously difficult and quite possibly traumatic (how anyone fuelled their panic and paranoia before the Internet I'll never know. Thank god I don't have to live in those calm and backward times). I was thus convinced that we were in for hours of gut-wrenching screams, and that I would undoubtedly have to leave the house, and possibly the country, as there was no way Lumpy would take a bottle with me n smelling distance (and my smell is particularly pungent, let me assure you).
The day we chose to try out the magical bottle of child abandonment was Lumpy's two-week birthday. We'd asked various people for advice (midwives, health visitors, the milkman, etc.) and they'd said that you should wait for at least two weeks, but be sure to do it before six weeks, as after that time the little blighters start getting notions and can get all uppity when someone tries to replace their beloved boob with a nasty rubber teat. Not being ones to hang around, we got the bottle ready for the final feed of the evening. I'd been pumping for a week or so previously, to make sure we had a good supply, and was now a fully paid-up dairy cow, with a fridge full of creamy plastic bottles, a freezer full of white pouches, and the 'fuuump, fuuump' sound of the pump a familiar background to our evening's viewing. So keen had I become on the old pumping, that Mr Badger had ceased to be fascinated by the sight of his wife's nipple being sucked rhythmically in and out of a plastic funnel, and instead started suggesting I sell my milk on eBay, as his research had told him that it would go for £15 per 4oz (if you don't believe us, see the story here), and I already had enough stashed in the freezer to last Lumpy through to university. And anyway, he was never going to take a bottle, anyway, so we'd have to sell it off.
The moment of milky truth arrived, and Mr Badger settled himself on the bed, before I reverently passed Lumpy to him. I hovered in the ensuite, pretending to get ready for bed, convinced that Lumpy's outrage would soon shatter the evening silence. But there was... nothing. Just the sound of rhythmical sucking and a few contented squeaks and sighs. I snuck back into the room and saw that half the bottle had gone down already. Lumpy's eyes opened slightly and shifted in my direction. This would be it, surely. He'd get a scent of me, realize he was being conned, and start howling. But... nothing. His eyes closed again and he continued his contented sucking.
"Right. I'll go downstairs then," I said, and shuffled off, feeling somewhat unemployed.
Since then, we've kept giving Lumpy a bottle every night. We've shifted it from 11pm to 8pm, as he's tended to be so zonked at 11 that we often can't manage to feed him much at all. So the bottle has become part of the bedtime routine, with me taking charge of the bath, before handing over to Mr B for a bottling.
And then all we had to do was execute part B of the plan: the actual abandonment of the Lumpy. I had already managed this on a minor scale, with my mummy, Grandma Badger, watching the Lumpster while I dashed to the gym, so we knew that he wouldn't spontaneously combust the minute we both left the house. Grandma Badger was, probably to be trusted. We thought long and hard about what we would do on this first non-baby evening. What mature entertainments would we indulge in? The Opera, perhaps. Or a glitzy restaurant. And then it came to us.
We would go and see Toy Story 3. Brilliant.
And so, when Lumpy was around 3 weeks old, Grandma Badger bundled us out of the house before we could neurotically show her the location of the extra milk, spare clothes, nappies, or panic room for the fifty seventh time. I was only twitching slightly as we drove to the cinema, and managed not to check my phone for at least 15 minutes. The evening was almost ruined by a brilliant planning failure on our part, as we'd neglected to realize that Oxford United were playing Man United at home at exactly the same time as our film started. As the cinema and the football stadium share a car park, this led to completely jammed roads and no spaces whatsoever. It looked like we weren't going to get our intellectual adult night out after all. But the gods of child abandonment must have been smiling down on us, because as we sat just inside the entrance to the car park, watching the minutes tick away, and gazing sadly at the utter lack of spaces, a car began to reverse out. Quick as a flash, Mr Badger zipped into it, laughing manically at the poor sods who were still waiting, gridlocked and helpless, all around us. We zoomed into the cinema, handed over approximately £400 for the essential tub of popcorn and slushy blue ice drink, and waited for our friends, who had abandoned their cars to avoid the jams, and were now sprinting across Blackbird Leys, hoping not to be raped or pillaged on route. They arrived five minutes before the film was due to start, miraculously unmolested, and we all took our seats and donned our 3D glasses.
It was the perfect film for this first escape: funny, cute, and emotionally manipulative enough to cause a few satisfying tears, without inducing a embarrassing sentimental breakdown. I did check my phone about five times, just to check that there were no 'the baby's dead' messages, but this didn't entirely ruin the narrative flow and escapism of the whole experience. And of course, when we got back, the baby was dead... No, no, he was asleep, really, Grandma Badger having had the radical notion of putting him to bed in his cot after his bottle at 8pm. This was something we'd never thought of doing, preferring, for some illogical, new parent reason, to keep him downstairs with us, awkwardly laid out on nests of pillows, and waking every five minutes when we laughed at the TV or shouted at each other (this is, of course, exaggeration for dramatic effect. We never shout at each other. Or laugh).
Since then, we have escaped two more times, for dinner. The most recent escape was for our third wedding anniversary, and we were sat at a table across from a woman with a baby asleep in its pram. As she left, we asked how old he was.
"Three months," she answered.
"We have a seven week old," said Mr Badger.
"Oh, lovely!" she said. "Is it your first night out?"
"Erm, no," we answered sheepishly. "Our third, actually."
She looked suitably shocked before huffing off, mumbling 'evil baby abandoners' under her breath.
We looked at each other across the table, and chinked glasses.