“Pierced” by Mina MacLeod
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Mina MacLeod is thrown into parenthood.
It cut through me like a knife. Not a sharp one—quick and hot and over immediately, no. That would have been too simple. Jacob’s first meltdown was more like a dull, rusted blade that sawed its way back and forth over my heart. Barely a day old, Jacob had decided that the outside world was not to his liking and was making his opinion known throughout the birthing center. Naturally, the first tears fell not ten minutes after his father had left to attend to some errands, leaving me alone to hobble about the room while attempting to soothe our firstborn son.
Babies cried, I knew, and newborns cried a lot. But this wasn’t crying—these were the sounds of an inconsolable, dying creature that pierced me like all the spears of a Spartan phalanx. He wailed, he shook, and he turned the deepest shade of red I’ve ever seen. The shrieks echoed through the hospital wing, but no one came to our aid. Not that I blamed them; the night before, we’d heard someone else’s newborn having a similar existential crisis and had thought, Thank God that’s not us!
What they don’t tell you is that your baby can read your emotions like Deanna Troi, so unless you sneak into the room with all the calm confidence of a Jedi Master, your baby is onto you. Jacob knew I was a fish out of water, and he made me pay for it. I’ve broken him, I thought. This was a test, and I had failed. Any minute now, I expected a nurse to show up and take Jacob away. “You’re not ready, young grasshopper,” they’d say—or maybe, “We’re all very disappointed in you.”
By the time my husband came back, I’d tried everything. Jacob had eaten, he’d been changed, he’d been cuddled and rocked and sung to, and anything else that came to mind. Still he continued to shriek and shake, and my husband set down the celebratory pumpkin spice lattes he’d brought and came to help.
Of course, now it was just two amateurs banging on the same TV and hoping for reception. The hours ticked by, and we wondered why on earth we’d thought we would be good parents. The lattes grew cold on the tray table, untouched.
In the wee hours of the morning, Jacob finally cried himself to sleep. Though exhausted, there was no rest for us; the hospital’s idea of family bonding was to cram all three of us in a stuffy sardine can. It was a long night, as every noise Jacob made had us on high alert.
That sardine can turned out to be the culprit. As stuffy as the room was, it was hiding a draft that only fully alert adults could find. Jacob had been cold, despite being dressed for what we felt was appropriate for the room’s temperature.
Trust me: letting down a helpless infant who relies completely on you is the worst feeling in the entire world. “All we had to do was keep him alive,” my husband said. “And we barely managed that.”
All you can do is try to do better. At the very least, being subjected to that piercing shriek will ensure you will endeavor to never again provoke it. As an added bonus, enduring the worst meltdown right away ensures all future ones are almost pleasant.
. . . I’m being facetious, of course; they’re all terrible. But at least you’ve proven that you can handle it.
MINA MacLEOD has been published by LT3 Press, and has contributed to Mischief Corner Books and Crossed Genres. A giant geek from Montreal, she got a degree in literature so she could have an excuse to read even more books. She lives with her husband and son and can be found at www.minamacleod.com and on Twitter @MinaMacLeod.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 10, 2015
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