When they put the baby in my arms, I know I have been given a fresh start. Everything will be different now. I trace my fingers over her tiny nose and puckered little lips.
“She’s perfect, amazingly enough,” the midwife mutters, not meeting my eyes. I hold her to me, feeling everything that I have lost drip back into me with each suck she takes from her bottle.
My stay in hospital is so much better than the other time. It’s summer and the curtains around our beds flutter in the breeze that drifts through the ward. I stare at this magical little creature I grew myself. I watch her hands open out like starfish andclose around my finger, clinging on. I call her Hope.
When we get home she doesn’t sleep too well but I keep giving her milk and bringing up her wind like they showed me. I doze on the sofa as she sleeps on my chest,daytime television lulling us both to sleep.
Midwives parade through the house every day, watching me closely. They ask me questions and I’m not sure what answers they’re looking for and worry they’re trying to trip me up. So I say as little as I can. Less each time. They keep coming. They ask me to strip her clothes off to weigh her and I wonder what they’re really looking for.
The sleep doesn’t get better. I’m tired and I can’t think straight. I wake from a nap to the sound of my phone ringing. It’s a midwife, she tells me I missed our appointmentthis morning and she’s just checking everything is ok. Hope is crying. I tell her we’re fine.
Hope cries more and more, howls all evening and into the night, a shout of desperation that I don’t know how to stop. There’s something wrong with her.
What have I done to her to make her scream like this? Even when she exhausts herself after hours of screaming I lie awake, worrying. What is wrong with her? Did I do this to her? Did it start when she was a tiny bud growing inside me and I didn’t even know she was there? I get up and walk downstairs.
I wake and Hope is crying. She is worked up as though she has been crying forsome time. My head hurts and my mouth is so dry that my raspy tongue makes me gag.
When I get downstairs there’s a half empty vodka bottle in the sink. Someone knocks on the door. I take Hope and hide, sitting on the floor in the toilet where there are nowindows. I rest my hand over her mouth as she starts to whimper, no one can know we’re here.
When it’s quiet, I walk back into the kitchen and grab the bottle from the sink as I putthe kettle on for Hope’s milk.
Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow will be a fresh start. Everything will be different then.