It had been four days since I left the house. I had a wedding coming up in two days. My no-chip manicure had officially started to come off… on its own. I looked at my four-month-old son and thought—I think he could handle a trip to the nail salon with me.

As soon as I walked in I was comforted by the fact that another new mom had her daughter in a stroller. Granted she was 15 months old, but she even breathed a sigh of relief when our eyes met. Saying she didn’t feel so bad now. Rather than sit through an entire pedicure I asked the nail tech to just paint my toes and do a color change on my hands.

While she was putting the foils on my fingers I stared at the car seat…an elderly lady walked up and said she wanted to check and see if there was a baby in there. Since you know, I like to just carry around a 15-pound piece of hardware while getting my nails done. Unfortunately, while the quick polish change was going on, I could hear a rumble down there from my little guy. Oh wonderful… a number two diaper in the middle of a tiny nail salon. This should be fun.

I was taken to the back room where they do the waxing and eye brow tweezing and quickly changed my little one on the table, feeling guilty that I put us in this predicament… and thinking that the table where people lay to receive services doubled as a place for me to lay down a blanket and change a diaper.

I walked back out with him in my arms and there were now three older women, possibly of great-grandmother status all looking at me with judge-y eyes. Once we started the no-chip manicure my son started screaming. It wasn’t just a little whimper, but an all-out tantrum. I kept him on my lap and tried rocking and bouncing him, while she awkwardly tried to paint my nails as quickly as she could. The ladies kept staring at me in disbelief. Rather than have an attitude or respond with a cold demeanor, I tried to make light of the situation. I laughed and made comments like, “Well, after four days cooped up in the house, Mama needed a break” and “Just when you think you’re going to have a relaxing experience you have to hear a baby crying,” etc. The peanut gallery was not having it.

The nail techs started speaking another language and I was told one of the male employees would hold my son for me. I was not ok with a complete stranger holding my baby. So, I said thanks, but no thanks. I let them know he’s drooling like crazy and would get them all gross. I ended up apologizing and a girl mostly likely in her early 30’s getting a pedicure said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. He’s a baby, that’s what they do.”

With that I went from being on pins and needles, feeling like I was being shamed for trying to take a break and do something for myself to feeling like what was going on was no big deal, and not to worry. I walked out of the salon with pretty nails and a renewed sense of self. It may be awhile until I bring my son to the salon with me, but it’s experiences like this that help you learn and grow into motherhood.

Natalie Hayden

Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden, 36, is a former TV news anchor living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in July 2005. After several hospitalizations, countless medications and flare ups she underwent her first surgery in August 2015. Natalie and her husband have two children, Reid and Sophia.