I would take Joshua in my bedroom with me when I needed to calm down or when I suffocated on thoughts of his father and couldn’t breathe. His skin was smooth to my touch and of course he had that new baby smell that could calm even the shoddiest of nerves. I’d swaddle him tight, rock him in my arms and sit by the open window. I remember the bottom of my sheer curtains would blow against my foot like an extra calming touch, like a spirit was there rubbing my feet, telling me everything would be alright. It was our ritual, well, my ritual. Taking the baby in the room, shutting the door and rocking him until I calmed down, instead of him.
Even when he was still in my womb, I knew he’d be my peace. As soon as I found out I was pregnant nothing made sense until I’d rub my belly, feel him kick and remind me I wasn’t alone, that I never would be again.
And then he betrayed me, but of course he would, he was just a baby. And everyone betrays you eventually.
“What do you mean, betrayed you?”
“That peace that only he could give me, he took it away eventually. I’d put too much pressure on him, I’m sure. Who turns to a new born baby for peace? One day he woke up in the morning and started screaming. He didn’t stop for three days straight. It was as if he was telling me he was quitting his job as peacemaker. I figured I’d do the motherly thing and return the favor for my baby. He’d held my hand, one finger at a time and led me away from the ledge so many times, right there in that room. I would do the same for him. I was his Momma, after all. So I took him in the bedroom, closed the door and rocked him by the window until I gave him the calm I’d depleted from him.
I sat down but that only made things worse. He screamed until I stood. I walked away from the window and paced the floor, sang him a lullaby, told him to hush, not say a word, promised him a diamond ring and a mocking bird. But it didn’t work. He screamed so loud that I worried for his lungs. I can’t even remember where my parents were. It was just Joshua and I in that room for three days of screaming, him out loud, me silently throughout my whole being. I rocked him until I shook him but he wouldn’t stop. In my mind I’d picture tiny snipers in the corners of the room. I’d actually look up and image them with one eye closed, the other looking through the scope of a gun with a laser between my eyes. The thought of them was my only comfort at that point.
On the third day I put Joshua down on the bed and stepped away from him. Maybe he needed space from me. Maybe my sadness rubbed off on him too much. I let the cool breeze flow over his body but it didn’t calm him down.
I moved him up on the bed, closer to the pillows, right between the pillows, actually. I climbed on the bed and hovered over him, my sweet baby boy that betrayed me. My hand picked up a pillow but my eyes stayed on him. I couldn’t bring myself to look at that pillow. I wanted to know what it would be like to change my life. So, I covered his face with the pillow, just a bit. I didn’t press down or anything. I watched his arms and legs move and wondered what it would feel like to see them stop. I watched them for one moment, maybe two, more than anyone should.
Next thing I knew, my mother was behind me, asking me if I’d seen the remote control. I took the pillow off of his face and fluffed it up back in its place then fluffed the other one like that would negate what I’d just did. I looked down and Joshua and saw his little body gasp for air, a sound he’d never made before. But his breathing went back to normal right away. He stopped crying, that’s for sure. My mother looked like she’d seen a ghost but she didn’t say anything. To this day, she’s still never mentioned it. I can’t blame her. I swore to myself I wouldn’t address it if she did and I swore I’d never tell anyone.
“Why are you telling me?”
“I have no idea.”