I sit on the edge of the bed, my hands clamped over my ears. Matthew is crying again. I can’t listen anymore. He never stops. Never. I just…need some sleep.
Nine years, we tried. Nine long years. Every month I would let myself get caught up in excitement; maybe this month will be the month. And each month reality would hit me like a punch in the stomach and I would weep and sob and rage. I would sit in the bathroom, the drip of the tap mirroring the dull thud of my heart, while the fan would sigh with me. I would flush the toilet and it would roar in anger. And then I would pick myself off the cool bathroom tiles and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. Get back to the slow rhythm of my life.
Then one day it happened. Just like that.
Matthew was conceived, quite out of the blue, when I had long stopped thinking it was a possibility. I was 39 and Jonathon was 40. Our little miracle.
Nine uncomfortable months later, he was born, with dark, wide eyes just like his father’s, but with a soft jawline and fairer hair like my own. The desperate longing I had felt for nearly ten years was satisfied; I would never want for anything else.
And now, just two weeks later, I sit at the edge of my bed, with my hands clamped firmly around my ears. How can a creature, so tiny and beautiful, make that sound for so many hours a day? He’s hungry again. Or maybe he has wind? Or maybe he just doesn’t love me?
I don’t know what to do. I can’t hold him all day and all night. I need some sleep. I just…need some sleep.
Jonathon picks him up and hold him until his screams quieten to soft little mews.
“Sarah,” he says, tiptoeing forward to sit beside me on the bed, “I think he might be hungry.”
I reach for Matthew without a word. Let the bruise-coloured bags beneath my eyes do the talking.
Jonathon puts his hand on my shoulder and together we watch Matthew’s tiny mouth latch onto my nipple. He suckles furiously and I close my eyes.
“Once you’ve fed him, just go to sleep. I can watch him,” Jonathon says.
I shake his hand off me. “I’m fine,” I say. And I am fine. All I need is Matthew.
For the fifth time tonight (or is it the morning?) Matthew’s screams pull me back to consciousness.
I was having that dream again, or I guess it was a memory. Isobel and me on a night out in London eating at a restaurant overlooking Tower Bridge. She was telling me her plans, her hopes for the future. They didn’t involve me. Not the way I wanted to be involved anyway. I had started a row; how could she be thinking about these sorts of things without consulting me? Didn’t she want to be with me?
No, it turned out, she didn’t. Because when sweet, innocent Sarah had come along, she had pushed us together. Practically set us up. Sarah who wanted a football team of children and whose life plans involved making her future husband and children very happy.
I can see now it was the turning point of my life, that night at Tower Bridge. Had I not started the argument, who knows what would have happened? Perhaps Isobel and I would have stayed together, making each other miserable, each of us putting ourselves before the other. And Sarah and I wouldn’t have ended up together; we’d never have suffered through those ten unbearable years of what we thought was infertility.
I pick up my son. My beautiful, very noisy, little boy, and, for the first time after dreaming of that night, I feel no sadness that it happened at all. Sarah mumbles in her sleep and I brush a loose tendril of hair off her face.
I take Matthew into the living room and lie him on my chest.
“Ave Maria, Gratia plena…” I sing, and very soon, his whimpers become the snuffles of sleep.
Natalia Godsmark recently resigned from her day job as a Compliance Officer in an Asset Management organisation (but she’s a much more interesting person than that makes her sound). She has a one year old and is currently trying her hand at writing flash fiction and short stories. In April this year, she was longlisted for the OhZoe Rising Talent Award with two children’s story manuscripts.