The Iron Writer Challenge #206
2017 Autumn Equinox Challenge #1
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Sarah Catherine, Geoff Gore
A colicky baby
POV of one of your parents
The baby was crying.
Jan rolled over in bed. Her husband snored peacefully next to her, oblivious to the infant’s mewling from the next room. She kept her eyes closed, willing him to wake up. Please, Dave. Just once. Please hear her. But his breathing remained steady. Jan sighed, and pushed herself up.
Three months, she should be used to this. But the midnight wakings got harder every day. Exhaustion sat like a rock in her belly, the weight like a prosthetic pregnancy. It tugged at her back, pressed down on her feet, pulled her into the ground. It crushed her, slowly.
“Shh.” The tiny face wrinkled, and it wailed even louder than before. “Shhhhh, Mommy’s here.” She fumbled at her maternity gown, trying to free a breast, wanting desperately to cease the piercing sound. Smother it. Make it stop. Please stop.
“Shh.” The baby latched and Jan sank into the rocking chair. So tired. She just wanted to sleep, uninterrupted, for more than two hours. Such a simple thing. It will never happen. I’ll die like this, so tired I feel sick. Sick and tired.
Jan’s skin crawled as the nursing child pawed and clawed at her breasts, tugged her hair, pushed with tiny legs into the soft flesh of her stomach. The latch broke. More wailing scraped at raw nerves. She hated it. She hated the sound of her baby’s voice. It tortured her. How can he sleep through this? How can he leave me alone to deal with this?
Tears welled in Jan’s eyes. She didn’t want to cry. She didn’t want to feel this way about her own child. She looked down at the writhing thing at her breast. Never happy. Never satisfied. I’m never enough.
The screaming reached a fever pitch. Jan drew the baby nearer; she longed for the sleepy cuddles advertised in maternity manuals. The baby kicked, pushing away with her feet and biting desperately. Tiny hands slapped at her; fingernails left red, ragged trails across her breasts.
“Shut up,” she said. “Please, just shut up.” Jan’s breast swelled as she pulled the baby closer. She watched the pale flesh spread out, covering the tiny mouth, tiny nostrils. She held the baby there a moment, waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
The kicking became less desperate. The pawing weakened. Still Jan held the girl tight against her breast. For a moment the pain and the anger faded. Then, in a sudden wave, nausea took over. Jan’s heart throbbed, she choked on her breath. Her hands relaxed, and the babe kicked once more.
When she was finished, Jan stared at the baby, hoping to feel some love for her, some sense of maternal protectiveness. But she watched her sleeping face and all she could think was, How long will I get this time?
One hour later, Jan stirred. Weak sunlight streamed in the bedroom window. Her husband snored next to her, oblivious to the sounds coming from the next room. Frustration coursed through Jan’s body. Anger. It made her feel heavy. Sick. No. Please. Not again. Please.
But, the baby was crying.
“Is there coffee?” Sandy stumbled into the kitchen bleary eyed.
“You’re up late dear. Sunrise was an hour ago.”
“Mom, why do you even insist on talking to me at this hour?”
“It’s the best part of the day. Anyway, I thought you’d be up earlier, especially for someone with parental responsibilities… and you look awful if you don’t mind me saying.”
“I do mind you saying, and did I ask if there was coffee?”
“There’s some in the pot. Why can’t you look after yourself?”
“Because I was up all night looking after Jake, that’s why.”
“You’ll spoil that boy.”
“Mom, he’s got colic.”
“You were a colicky baby too, and you turned out okay…I guess.”
“You guess…and what do you mean I’ll spoil him? Mom, he’s four months old!”
“Start as you mean to carry on, otherwise they’ll still be hanging off you at my age. You need to set boundaries. You need to be a strict parent.”
“Strict parents create sneaky kids, anyway what do you mean they’ll still be hanging off you…me…whatever, at your age?” Sandy sneaked a glance around her mother’s kitchen warily.
“Nothing, forget it. Anyway, you’ll never find yourself a man looking like that.”
“Mom, I did find myself a man, Mike, my ex-husband, remember? The guy you encouraged me to date. And where is he now? Shacked up with that bunny, what’s her name?”
“Her name was Jennifer. And at least she knew to look after herself. Still, I never really liked that Mike. You’re so much better off without him.”
“Better off? Look at me! I’m forty years old and living with my mother! Why did I ever listen to you?”
“Because I’ve done it all before dear, trust me I know what the world is like.”
“The world is different now Mom, trust me you don’t always know. Things have changed. It’s more complicated.”
“It’s not that complicated. I still don’t know how things work.”
“Oh really? What about that time you tried sexting Dad and sent it to me instead? Some things can’t be unseen Mom!”
“That wasn’t necessary dear.”
“Tell me about it.” She sipped her coffee. “Try for a baby you said. It might help you and Mike’s relationship. Nothing, brings a man back to his wife quite like starting a family together. Ha!”
“I’m here for you now if you need me.”
“You’re here now if I need you? Where were you when I really needed you? When I was seven months pregnant and my husband was out banging some bimbo. So much for marriage blinders. Thanks Mom.”
Sandy reached into her pocket, pulled out a marker pen and a pad of Post-Its, and began scribbling something down.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m writing this down.”
“So I can remember how annoying you were when I was trying to raise my son on my own, so that one day I can pull these out of a drawer and remind myself not to turn into you.”