Mother and Child

She cradled the still pink child in her arms, dangling the babe as she looked over her husband’s shoulders. The husband looked up from his work to smile at his wife and child. The child, embarrassed, buried his pudgy face deep in his mother’s breast, so deep he could feel her heart beating against his cheek. She drew in a sharp breath. It tickled her to feel him nuzzling her chest. She looked down at her 2-month-old seeking shelter from the world in her bosom. The husband smiled at this almost Rockwellian image. The wife looked up at her husband again, sheepishly as if she should be embarrassed for providing such comfort to her child, as if it was somehow wrong or perverse. Without saying anything, the man laid her fears to rest with a simple grin, before returning his gaze to the blueprints.
He spent many sleepless nights looking over these designs with his wife by his side. She couldn’t sleep alone in the bed made for two. Besides, she didn’t get much sleep with a 2-month-old baby in the house. The baby’s brothers and sisters were furious that the baby was getting more attention than them and even more upset that they were losing sleep because of him. The wife and husband had explained to them time and time again that they didn’t love the baby more or less than their other kids; it’s just that he was still new. He couldn’t fend for himself. He couldn’t pour his own cereal, a point of pride for the 2 older boys and the older girl. The children showed that they understood this, even felt sorry for the new child because he was unable to do such things. Still, they could not deal with the fact that they were being woken up by his constant cries for help.
It had gotten to be too much, though, when neighbors both above and below, left and right began to complain of the infantile cries that woke them in the middle of these nights. The walls were poorly insulated, so sound carried throughout the building. The couple soon learned that people cared very little about the welfare of this child when it disturbed their sleep. It wasn’t that they lived in a terrible neighborhood where crooks and pimps and whores were their neighbors, although it’s fair to say that some of them were. It’s just, sympathy only goes so far and most people felt that since this was their fourth, their sympathy was not needed; but rather, the neighbors simply needed their sleep.
So, due to lack of space and the neighbors’ complaints, it was time to move. This was the reason for the blueprints. The blueprints promised a better life than this for his wife and his youngest to grow up in, and his other three that were already well on their way. He was planning their escape from this urban decay. He could see it now. Leaving behind the three rectangular rooms, each smaller than the last, that he had been forced to call “home”. He couldn’t live like this. He couldn’t let her live like this. Most importantly, he couldn’t let his children live like this, growing up without other children to play with or even a yard. It was time to leave the aging wallpaper that curled at the corners from years of leakage, the yellowing paint that seemed to have aged from the purest form of Angel-white to more of a shade of curdled milk. This wasn’t their home; and, he shouldn’t have to call it such. There was nothing homey about it. When you walked through the door you didn’t smell freshly baked cookies, you smelled the distinct odor of mildew. His neighbors weren’t the type you’d go to borrow a cup of sugar from. Instead, they were the kind of “neighbors” you’d go to if you wanted a certain problem to disappear. These weren’t salt of the earth people. They were scum of the earth people, the kind of people he worried about his kids picking up things from.
So it was settled. They were moving, leaving behind the drab apartment life. Now all that was left was to decide where. The husband and wife spent many of these sleepless nights with research: which area was in their price range, which had the best schools, so on and so forth. Even during her days, the wife, who still worked less because of the baby, would often drive around certain areas that the family was interested in. She would do a general survey of the land, looking for how close the school was to their potential building ground, look for other children for her older boys and girl to play with—small things—but, important nonetheless when looking for a new home. This was how she filled her days and kept herself from feeling completely useless. Of course, it was hard to feel completely useless with a 2-month-old child that depended on her to feed and clothe him, but still, not quite as useful as she had been when she was working. She simply missed her job; but she had a new job now, to take care of her newborn and to continue the search for the perfect place while her husband was preoccupied with his own work. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t jealous. Being out of work on maternity leave for the fourth time while he went about his average workday, any woman would be. She wished she wasn’t, that she was a better woman than that, but she secretly hated him for it. Not just because he didn’t have to take time off work, she was madder that she was alone in this. It takes two to get pregnant and she subscribed to the philosophy that if it takes two to get a woman pregnant, then it should be two that raise the child.
That’s why these nights were so important to her, leaning over his shoulder. It felt like a family to her, and if these sleepless nights meant a better place for her children to grow, she was willing to sacrifice sleep. She would pace the room, many of these nights of hard work, bouncing the baby in rhythm with her steps. Every so often, she would brush back her dark hair to keep it out of her eyes and the baby’s mouth. This was a recent discovery to her, that her baby boy loved her hair. On some nights like this, she would hold him close to her chest, swaying back and forth, rocking her child into a passive state. Every opportunity that the boy got, he would grab her hair, as much as would fit between his fat, little fingers, and pull it closer and closer to his open mouth. As you can imagine, this didn’t hurt her too much, the grip of a baby, but she thought it best not to encourage him. She would simply extract the clumps of hair from his mouth and return his head to her breast, continuing to rock him to sleep. Now and then, after the baby had fallen asleep she would look down at the blueprints, unable to make sense of them for the most part, but she felt a sense of comfort at the sight of the plans for their new home. She would whisper little suggestions or ideas in his ear, so as not to wake the children and the baby in her arms, just simple things that she had always looked for in a home. White picket fence. Garden. Backyard. More often than not, he wouldn’t respond, he would just make a note of it to talk it over with the architect. She was fine with him not responding. She was fine here in this moment.


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