Baby Blues (A stranger comes to town)

Katie opened one eye and peered into the darkness. Her bedroom was completely still, but the noise was so loud it seemed as though its source was lying directly next to her ear. She glanced over at Mark. A dark shadow rising off the mattress told her he hadn't stirred. Sighing, she rolled over and dragged her body out of bed and into the next room.

As she approached the crib, Katie imagine that Owen's screams were actually getting louder. Perhaps he sensed her presence in the room, even if he couldn't see her. She leaned over the railing and looked down at her new son. Purple in the face and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he didn't even acknowledge her. She scooped him up anyway and settled into the glider next to the window. After a moment or two, he agreed to nurse, and the screams subsided.

As she sat rocking back and forth with Owen in her arms, Katie took in the room around her. For months, she and Mark had worked to turn the home office into a nursery for the baby. The desk and stacks of files had been replaced with a changing table and piles of tiny diapers. A brightly-colored alligator peered down on her from the opposite wall, and a basket next to the crib was overflowing with blankets and stuffed animals. Thinking back over all those months of preparation, Katie remembered how she'd spent the entire time feeling that the changes were only temporary--a sort of experiment in home decorating. She thought that once they brought the baby home things would finally feel real. The decorations and toys would feel normal when Owen was there to enjoy them. But now, sitting there in the dark, all she saw were reminders of a life that no longer existed.

There were the holes in the wall where the bulletin board Katie had tracked her writing assignments on had hung. The file cabinet where she kept all her tax records had left a permanent indentation in the carpet in the corner. And the lamp sitting next to the glider where she rocked had once perched on her writing desk and kept watch whenever she had to burn the midnight oil to finish a freelance assignment. These were the little reminders that Katie noticed whenever she walked into  the room. And instead of feeling like Owen belonged there, Katie couldn't help but feel like he was intruding on the world she'd worked so hard to build for herself.

Katie looked down at her son, who was warm and soft against her body. With his eyes closed and his small fist nestled against her breast, Owen represented everything Katie had fought to avoid--dependence and responsibility to someone other than herself. She sighed. Where was the motherly tenderness she'd expected to feel? The acceptance, the feeling that everything she was giving up was worth what she was gaining? All she felt was empty. She leaned her head back and closed her own eyes, willing her body to melt into the cushions. If emptiness was all she'd gained with Owen's birth, then emptiness was all she would give in return. 


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