The baby woke, his screams shattering the quiet calm of the night.
‘Shut UP,’ shouted Essie. I can’t take this anymore, she thought to herself. At 22, Essie was in no way prepared for the relentlessness of raising a baby. Derek, the baby’s father, up and left as soon as the words, ‘I’m pregnant’ fell forlornly from her lips. He had got up from the restaurant table, threw fifty dollars down and wordlessly turned on his heel. Essie had not heard from him since.
‘Fuck it all to hell,’ she muttered out loud, swinging her legs out of her bed. The bassinet was in her room, she walked over to it and looked down. Her baby boy, nine weeks old, was kicking his legs, his tiny face screwed up, angry and red. He gasped for air in between his screams. Essie had not realised that babies sounded this way. She’d thought, prior to his unplanned arrival into her life, that they were all sweet and perfect. Of course, she’d guessed that they cried. But this? This god-awful, ear-piercing trill. He sounded like crazed, coked-to-the-eyeballs magpie. If there were such a thing.
‘Shutupshutupshutup,’ Essie yelled as she bent to pick him up. The urge to shake him was overwhelming. His head was turning towards her breast. God, she resented this. She walked back to her bed, and pulled open her pyjama top. The baby’s face burrowed in, and finding her nipple, he attached himself. Despite her annoyance at her boobs being taken over by a tiny dictator, Essie felt peace every time he latched on. She looked down at him guzzling away; she felt proud, terrified, and filled with equal parts love and horror. She rested her head on the pillow, settling herself for the next twenty minutes.
Later, with the baby milk-drunk in her arms, Essie dozed in her bed. She had never felt such exhaustion before. She pried open her eyes to look at him again.
‘It might be time to name you, little man,’ she whispered. ‘How does Ollie sound to you?’ And damned if the little shit didn’t smile at her. She smiled back, tears slipping from her eyes. ‘We’ll be OK, Ollie, I promise.’