Lungs of steel. That’s what we should have named her. “Abigail” is far too refined for my little bundle of energy and noise. But Bradley insisted his daughter should have a family name, and I never could say no to that man. When he rolled over this morning and put his hand on my hip…well, if he’d asked, I just might have succumbed. It would have been our first one since becoming parents.
The night still weighed heavy on my eyelids. Those tiny nubs of teeth poking through Abbie’s gums caused havoc in every part of my daily life. I can barely feed her, I can barely sleep, I can barely hear myself think. Her pain is my pain, in every way. But when she screams and I’ve hardly slept, I just want to put her in a soundproof room and chug booze straight from the bottle. I eyed the pantry. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d had a drink this early, but I hadn’t done it in years.
I held my little caterwauling cutie, and bounced her in my arms out of habit more than hope. I desperately needed it to be nap time. She was tired, for sure. She hadn’t slept any better than I had. But she was still going strong.
Desperation won out and I laid my little noisemaker in her crib. She pulled herself to her feet and stared me down balefully. Abigail could always make herself clear, even though she had no words yet. Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, mommy?
I scanned the room, looking for her pacifier. It wasn’t on the changing table, where I always leave it. A spider of panic stretched its legs through my belly.
As if sensing my distress, Abbie screamed a little louder and grabbed my finger.
“Oh, sweetie. Give mommy two minutes. Please.”
I pulled loose from her desperate grip and scuttled out to the phone, dialing Bradley’s number as I hurried back to Abbie’s room.
“Charles Electronics, Richelle speaking.”
“Hi, Richelle, it’s Teresa. Can I please speak to Bradley, please?”
“Sorry? I can barely hear you. Is that a fire engine?”
“No, it’s the latest club mix. All the kids are getting down to it. Can I please speak to Bradley?”
Richelle sighed and muttered something I wouldn’t have heard even without Abbie’s noise. I almost wet myself with relief when I heard Bradley’s voice.
“Charles Electronics, Bradley– woah. My little girl’s really got a head of steam going, huh?”
“So’s your big girl. I need to know where you put her pacifier.”
“In the trash.”
“She killed it. You know we can’t use it once it’s torn.”
“Oh, fu–…uh, phooey. That was the last one.”
“I’ll get out at lunch and pick up some more.”
“And a quart of tequila.”
I closed Abbie’s door, just to get a tiny break from the wall of noise. “Bradley, I don’t know how much longer I can take this.”
“I don’t mean just this morning. I mean…” I was scared to finish that sentence.
“How long’s she been going?”
“Since just after you left. You must’ve woken her.”
“Well, there’s no way I’m going to work without saying goodbye to my baby.”
“Maybe next time, you should take her with you.”
As if she could sense her missing daddy on the phone, Abbie started squawking like I was murdering her. Even with the door closed I had no hope of hearing Bradley.
“Babe, I’ll have to call you back. When my headache goes to sleep.”
I hung up without waiting for a reply. Times like this I wish I’d taken him up on his offer to stay home, and let me go back to work.
Abbie kept squealing, each note of pain shriller than the last. I slapped my hands over my ears and squealed back at her, which made me feel better in a very childish way. Of course, all Abbie heard was a challenge to her position as head screamer, and cranked it up another notch.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” I usually avoided swearing around her, but I reveled in the fact that, for a few more months at least, I still could.
I slapped Abbie’s door a couple of times. “Cry it out, sweetie.” So far, Abbie had won every battle, but maybe this time…maybe.
My own tantrum in full swing, I stormed off to take a hot shower.
The white noise of hot water cascading over me was more beautiful than a symphony. Just because of what it was blocking. It was rare for me to shower this late in the morning. Usually I squeeze in a quick one between when Bradley wakes and when he leaves for work. Not today.
It suddenly occurred to me that since I was committed to leaving Abbie alone until she dropped off to sleep, I didn’t need to just hose myself down and then run. I could take my time. Then the memory of Bradley’s hand on my hip lit a tiny fuse inside me that I’d almost forgotten was there.
I decided to skip the bar of soap, opting instead for the gel. I didn’t want anything getting between my fingers and my skin.
Just resting my hands against my breasts felt like an indulgence. Treating my body like more than just a feeding, carrying, caring machine – like it was okay to receive as well as give – was absolutely luxurious.
I bit my lip as my fingers dripped southwards, slow as molasses, and warm as regurgitated breast milk.