"I retreat from the store, tears brimming in my eyes. I am overwhelmed by a crashing sense of failure" - Clover Stroud's new book is a must-read for all mothers - The Grace Tales

“I retreat from the store, tears brimming in my eyes. I am overwhelmed by a crashing sense of failure” – Clover Stroud’s new book is a must-read for all mothers

When I finish feeding Lester, I walk around the house with one of my breasts exposed, like a sliced grapefruit...

I don’t notice it, even when Jimmy walks into the kitchen, then leaves quickly, looking down. I only realize later, when I’m standing by the cooker, stirring onions, and I feel something warm and wet at my feet, as if the cat has left the insides of a small animal there for me to find. It’s milk, pouring out of me and dribbling down my bare feet. I am a blur. I cannot see myself any more.

Maybe this is because as I retreat into a separate world with Lester, I am gradually becoming an addict. Once the bleeding, throbbing agony of my breasts settles, breastfeeding is a flood of hormones like pure liquid heaven running through me. It’s a fix. There are moments when I imagine this is what injecting myself with heroin might feel like. It’s something like a distant bliss flooding through my veins, my ego obliterated.

I yearn for him. I don’t want anything else. It’s like being in love, the consuming physical passion and romance I’ve felt for men I have loved and wanted to devour or possess. It’s so physical, this passion.

I am also completely fucked.

‘Baby brain!’ exclaims the man at the supermarket checkout, laughing, when I put a trolley of shopping through the till before realizing I’ve left my purse some- where else.

At the same time I feel Lester uncurling, pressing his back against the carrier, nuzzling around looking for my nipple. My breasts feel heavy as udders as I start dancing gently on the spot to distract him as wetness soaks through my T-shirt.

The man is kind. ‘Don’t worry! It happens to ladies a lot with young babies, you’re not the first!’

I retreat from the store, tears brimming in my eyes. I am overwhelmed by a crashing sense of failure.

At a neighbouring till, another mother, better organized, calmer, cleaner, probably nicer than me, is chatting to her toddler in the trolley as she packs yogurts and bags of apples and oranges into a canvas carrier. She has a shopping list in one hand, and a neat biro line through everything on the list.

In the car I release Lester from the buckles and straps that hold him against me, pushing the seat back to fit his tiny body, juddering with hunger and his need for comfort, between me and the steering wheel. I grip the wheel as he latches on, and a thin, sour smell of spilt milk surrounds me; the front of my T-shirt is sodden in two big, milky rings. No man has ever been told he has a baby brain, I think, as Lester sucks and nestles and sighs, a dribble of my milk, sweet and white, trickling gently from his mouth.