Family, Fiction, Melbourne, Parenting, Writing

Harriet and Rose

Harriet is staring at her baby in the cot. Rose is snugly wrapped, eyes closed and asleep; her breath loud, defying her size.

At only four weeks old, Rose is beguiling. Harriet, despite a bone-aching tiredness, the likes of which she’s never before experienced, is besotted and spends a good portion of her days just watching this miracle. The jerky arms and legs, the wide toothless mouth, open to scream, cry, yawn and search for food. It’s all new, frustrating, overwhelming and yet, so natural.

Rose snuffles and moves. Harriet’s heart almost stops beating—it took fifteen minutes to get Rose down—but she backs out of the room quietly, and gently closes the door. Harriet creeps to the kitchen and surveys the mess: dishes in the sink, piling up since last night, cold toast on the cutting board, butter and Vegemite on the bench, along with two stone-cold cups of coffee.

She begins to load the dishwasher, rinsing the plates from last night. Throws the toast into the bin, and the coffees down the sink. Once it’s done, she presses start and the dishwasher—the world’s best-ever appliance—starts its cycle. Harriet then puts on a load of washing. How does such a tiny baby go through so many outfits?

Her mobile phone vibrates. ‘Hello?’ she asks, not recognising the number on the screen. ‘This is Harriet.’

A person launches into a well-rehearsed speech, something about energy prices and how wonderful this company is.

‘I’m sorry,’ Harriet interrupts. ‘I’m not interested. Your wasting your time and my own.’ She hangs up, feeling only a smidge guilty about ending the call so abruptly. But she sinks into her plush sofa and pulls the blanket over her body, closes her eyes. It’s heaven, this silence.

Her body jolts. To Harriet, seconds have passed, but a glance at the clock tells her it’s been forty minutes since she lay down. The washing machine dings its end-of-cycle tune; the dishwasher is still in full wash mode, and a cat is screeching somewhere.

Harriet sits up.

It’s not a cat. It’s her baby. Rose is awake.

Harriet almost jogs to Rose’s bedroom. In her cot, she’s come unwrapped and her arms and legs are doing their jerky dance moves again.

Hush, baby girl,’ she says. ‘Mumma’s here.’

She picks her up, lowers herself into the rocking chair and unlatches her maternity bra. Rose’s mouth is wide; her head already turning.

‘It’s OK, it’s coming,’ Harriet whispers. With one hand supporting Rose’s neck, Harriet guides her to the nipple; Rose latches on and all that Harriet hears is gulping, snuffling. And contentment; she’d never have thought you could hear feelings, but it’s there, just in background.

Harriet smiles. Rose feeds.

Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash


4 thoughts on “Harriet and Rose”

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