After her baby was born she was afraid. Never had she been this afraid. Not even when she fell from the wall and hit her head on the concrete; not even when Karl tried to drag her to the churchyard; not even when the tide came rushing in and dry land seemed so far away.
They kept her in hospital for nine days. Her baby had jaundice. He had an infection in his belly button and the doctor prescribed antibiotics. The antibiotic came in liquid form, yellow like the sun.
It was stuffy in the hospital ward and hot in the streets outside–a proper Indian summer. She looked through the windows with a terrible longing, thinking this must be how a prisoner feels. Only the week before she swam at the Lido and the baby kicked when she entered the cold water and she had been certain she could endure anything. But her labour had not gone to plan and now she could hardly walk to the end of the hospital corridor. The stitches burned. She had lost a great deal of blood. She cried a little every day.
After they allowed her home she spent all of her time feeding the baby, trying to get him to sleep and listening to his breathing. On the third day she laid him down on the bed and he vomited up a thick yellow substance and she panicked and yes she should have held him upside down and patted his back and cleared his mouth with her little finger but she was alone and afraid and she panicked.
At the emergency department they aspirated his airways and checked him out and said he would be fine and they gave her a blanket to wrap him in because it was evening and not as warm as it had been earlier. She gave the blanket back to the hospital a week later even though she could not stop shivering.
The baby was always crying. No, not always. He cried in the long winter evenings and she would hold him and walk up and down and play reggae and sometimes her partner would hold him. To be honest, she didn’t really remember what her partner did–or did not. She just remembers the tiredness that would not go away and the four walls. And the park. Yes, there was the park with its mulberry tree, and the hush of snow.
Her baby grew, the stitches dissolved and the cut healed in its own way. But other things did not.
Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two novels and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash pieces have been published in a number of journals, both online and in print. She lives on the East Sussex/Kent border in the UK.
Photography by: Anita Jankovic