My Bundle Of Joy: Part Seventeen

This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 738 words.

The next morning, Rosa arrived at the same time as the health visitor. She got on with tidying and cleaning after a brief look at Leah. “I hold her later, yes?”

Doreen was a smart looking nurse who told me she was originally from Antigua. She gave Leah a detailed once-over, and asked me quite a few questions about how I was feeling, whether I was tired, and how my moods were. She was pleased to hear that Leah was feeding okay from the breast, but suggested that I express some milk later, so that Olly could do some night feeding and I got some sleep. When she measured Leah’s head, I asked her how long it might retain the obvious cone shape.

“Should only be a few days, darlin’. Though some stay like that for a few weeks. This don’t look so bad”. While I had her attention, I asked her why Leah hadn’t cried to be fed. That seemed to interest her. “No crying at all? Not for soiled nappies, or feeding? Not even to be picked up?” I shook my head, and asked her if I should be concerned. She gave me a reassuring smile, and held my hand briefly. “That crying should come soon. Might just be the fact that she had a hard time coming into this world. I will be around to check on you for the next few days, and you can let me know when she has cried”.

When she left, Rosa appeared, excited to hold the baby. She didn’t have any children, but was hoping to once she went back to Poland to get married. She spoke to Leah in Polish, and sang her a little song. Then she handed her back, asking “Why her head like that?” I told her about the vacuum delivery, and she went over to her bag in the hallway, returning with a small box. “This is for her. Good protection”. Inside was a tiny silver cross, on a chain. Olly and I were not religious, but I was touched by this kind gift from someone who was just paid to do my housework.

Mum phoned twice that afternoon. Once to ask about the shape of Leah’s head, and the second time to tell me her friend Barbara knew a woman whose baby had been born with the same shaped head, and was fine after less than a week. I imagined her and Barbara having a good gossip about Leah’s head, but I didn’t let it get to me. She was only trying to do her best to make me feel alright about it. One thing I soon found out was that everyone knows someone who had either a worse time than you, or had some advice about things you hadn’t even asked them about.

After Olly got in that evening, he said he would go back out in the car and get a Chinese takeaway. I had completely forgotten about preparing any dinner, probably because I had stuffed myself with biscuits and cake all afternoon. Or I was already suffering from what my mum called ‘baby brain’. Over dinner, I asked him how it had gone at work. I was very aware that Leah had fast become the only topic of conversation, and I didn’t want that to change our previous relationship. Olly thought that doing the bottle feed at night was a good thing, and said he would go to bed early to make sure he was up and about in time for it. But when the vibrating alarm went off, I stayed awake anyway. Might just as well have let him sleep, and fed her myself.

Doreen’s visit the next day was brief. She was pleased to hear that Olly had done a feed, and wanted to know if we had heard her crying yet. I shook my head, and told her that she made small gurgling noises, but still had not cried. Then Doreen took Leah and checked her hearing. She turned in response to noises made either side of her head, and Doreen wrote something down on the record sheet. Then she checked her eye movement, and wrote something else down. I asked her if it was all normal, and she smiled and nodded. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to believe her.

She had only been gone for thirty seconds, when I felt an overwhelming need to start crying.

Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

Random Thoughts.

Usually when I wake up on a Sunday, I am thinking about something specific. That wasn’t the case today, so I decided to present my collection of random thoughts instead.

One.
It was very cold this morning. Cold enough to make me want to stay in the warmth of the bed for a while. That made me think about how much colder it used to be when I was a boy. No central heating, no double-glazed windows, and the whole house heated by one coal-fire in the living room. I often wore extra clothes to go to bed in, rather than getting undressed. The risk of waking up to frozen water pipes meant that my mum would fill saucepans and a kettle the night before. Then at least she had water to make tea, and to heat up so we could wash.

How soon we become accustomed to the luxuries of progress.

Two.
I thought I should get up, to let Ollie out into the garden. Then I started to think about how Ollie would feel if I died of Covid-19. (Or anything else for that matter.) He is so dependent on always being close to me, I feel sure he would pine badly, and be inconsolable. I concluded that it would be best if I outlived him. But then I would be the one grieving. It’s a tough call, either way.

Three.
Writing my new serial was on my mind. I am sure I am making errors in trying to write it from the perspective of a young woman who has just had a baby. I have never been a woman, had a baby, or even fathered a child. More so than anything else I have written, it feels like a challenge to get through each episode. Then I reminded myself that I have never been a serial killer either, yet I have written stories about them. Perhaps real serial kilers languishing in jail somewhere are reading my stories online, and noticing errors?

Then I couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so got up.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.

For most of the night, I had stayed awake. Every time I felt my eyes closing, I jumped, trying to wake myself up. The baby monitor was making no noise, and there had been no crying. Olly was dead to the world, but I didn’t need the vibrating pad under my pillow to wake me up.

I went into Leah’s room more times than I can remember now. If she was awake, I sat in the nursing chair and fed her. If she was asleep, I sat staring at her, wondering if she was alright.

When Olly got up to get ready for work, I had just gone to sleep. But I dragged myself up and went to check on Leah. Olly could have probably got away with taking the day off, but they had been very understanding, and he didn’t want to take advantage. He made me a coffee and brought it up to me, tactfully not asking me if I was going to be alright on my own that day.

Not that I had much chance to be alone. Mum and dad turned up just after nine, with my brother in tow. They had made him take the day off to see his niece, and he grinned as I opened the door. “Where is she then?” Mum was carrying two huge balloons, one with ‘Baby Leah’ printed on it, and the other in the shape of a pink unicorn. Dad handed me a bouquet of pink roses, and they both brushed past me in their eagerness to see their granddaughter.

My brother looked over their shoulders, and one glance was enough. He sat on the sofa and said “Tea and toast would be nice, sis”. I told him he knew where the kitchen was.

Mum was already fixating on the shape of Leah’s head, and she was multi-tasking as she told dad to find a vase for the flowers in the same breath. I kept my temper as I watched mum examining my baby as if she was a pedigree piglet she was thinking of buying.

“Green eyes. That must come from Olly’s family. Nobody on our side ever had green eyes.
Does that mean she will have ginger hair? I hope not.
Mind you, she hasn’t got much hair to speak of at the moment anyway.
Does she feed alright?
Did she keep you awake all night? You look terrible.
Why don’t you get some sleep while we are here? I will look after her.
How long before her head looks normal?”.

Her words were tumbling out like the sound of a machine gun, leaving no pause for me to answer. I just sat on the sofa and let her get on with it. Then the smoke alarm went off, because Ronnie had burned the toast. Dad put his arm around me as Ronnie flapped a tea-towel at the ceiling.

At least my dad understood.

It got to almost one in the afternoon, and they showed no sign of leaving. I decided to take executive action, and told them I was tired, so could they go and let me rest. Mum looked very miffed, and pushed her lips together in an expression I knew all too well. But Ronnie was pleased, and took my words to mean he could leave immediately. He was on his feet in seconds, reaching for the car keys.

They managed to drag out the departure for another twenty minutes, Ronnie standing by the front door jiggling the keys as mum made her last checks and asked her last questions. I took Leah up to her room and fed her, stretching out in the new nursing chair, cuddling her close. I hated appearing to be unkind to my family, but if I didn’t get some rest, I would be good for nothing.

I should have known I would go to sleep, and of course I did. It must have been some kind of instinct that stopped me dropping Leah, because when I heard Olly close the front door I was still holding her tight. He had got off early, but I had still been asleep for almost three hours. I thought I should feed Leah again, and Olly sat on the floor of the room watching me, listening to my story of the family visit. He asked if it was alright to call his sister now, and she would be busting to hear the news. I had forgotten about her, and felt guilty that it was all about me, and my family.

I could her her screams of pleasure as Olly told her the news.

Dark Paranormal Horror

More giveaways! This time in the Paranormal/Horror genres. Once again it features one of Stevie Turner’s books.

Stevie Turner

There are 41 FREE paranormal horror books and samples to download in this BookFunnel promotion which runs until March 8th. You can find them all by clicking the link below:

https://books.bookfunnel.com/paranormaldarkhorror/s3k5sey7j3

My novella ‘Finding David’ is part of the promotion, and there is a free sample for you to read.

When Karen and Mick Curtis attend a demonstration of clairvoyance for the first time, Karen is singled out by the medium, Rae Cordelle. Rae has a message from Karen’s son David, who passed over to the spirit world many years before. The message shocks Karen and sends her on a journey of discovery, rocking her previously happy relationship with second husband Mick, David’s stepfather.

Review (5 stars) by Pete Springer :

What would you do if the person you are married to becomes a murder suspect? Not just any murder—one that involves her son, David. Karen faces this dilemma after…

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Short Film: “This Time Away”

My friend Antony sent me this delightful short film, starring one of Britain’s foremost actors, Tim Spall.

Set in the near future, Spall plays Nigel, a lonely and bitter widower. Retreating into a life of alcolholism, and determined to be alone, Nigel happens across a small robot that befriends him.

With a short running time of just thirteen minutes, and a delightful twist at the end, this is high-quality film-making that will leave everyone feeling better for watching it.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 726 words.

A different midwife came to see me after the morning shift came on duty. She talked to me about breastfeeding, which I wanted to do, and how a health visitor would come and make regular checks on Leah for a few days. She said I could go home that afternoon, and then asked me if I had any questions.

I couldn’t think of anything, it was as if my mind had gone blank.

Olly looked awful, so I told him to go home by taxi and get some sleep. I would ring him when he could come and collect us in the car.

Us. It felt funny to say that. Before Leah, ‘Us’ had only meant me and Olly.

Before the midwife left me to it, I finally managed to get Leah to feed. The feeling was both weird, and fantastic at the same time. She was hungry too. Although she still hadn’t made any noise remotely resembling crying, she did make some gurgling sounds that reassured me that at least her vocal chords were working. I had told Olly to ring everyone and ask them not to visit the house until the next day, at the earliest.

There had never been a time in my life when I had felt so tired.

Being alone with my little girl mainly made me anxious. What should I be doing? I spoke to her, kissed her and cuddled her, and didn’t let on to her that my belly and my lady bits were still hurting quite a bit. Once the anaesthetic had worn off totally, everything below my hips felt as if I had skidded down a tarmac road naked. Not quite enough for agony, but far more than sore. I hadn’t asked for anymore painkilers, as I didn’t want to ingest any more medicine than absolutely necessary while I was breastfeeding.

By the time I was allowed home and Olly was there with the carry-cot, I had started to feel like a mum. Millions of women did this every day, I kept telling myself. I had to stop over-thinking everything, and making such a big deal of it. We waited in the main reception while Olly went to get the car from where he had parked on a meter.

The cot fitted onto the car seat base in one slick movement, and he looked at me with such a look of pride on his face, you would think he had just constructed the Forth Bridge. I had been walking like John Wayne after a long ride on his cowboy horse, and it was a relief to flop into the seat.

As the car headed off into the early rush-hour traffic, I had a wobble. This was it. We were going home with a tiny baby, and it was all up to us now.

For the rest of our lives.

To give him full credit, Olly had done wonders while he had been at home. I doubted he had slept at all, as he had tidied up, prepared a basic meal for later, sorted out everything in Leah’s room, and had the nappies and wipes all ready downstairs. The machine for expressing my milk was there too, along with the bottles all sterilised, in case I wanted to use them. I thanked, him and told him I was going to try to stick with breast feeding. Then as if to prove a point, I gave Leah a feed while he watched. At least one of us would get some sleep later that night.

With Leah asleep next to us in her carry-cot, we sat and ate together. Olly said he had sorted out the baby alarm, and also the vibrating alarm that would wake me when I needed to feed her. He said he would watch her after dinner while I had a bath. But there was no way I was going to try to sit in a bath, and just stood there with one hand against the wall using the shower attachment. When I came down, Olly was trying to amuse Leah with a stuffed toy that had bells attached. But she wasn’t taking any notice. I suggested he wait until she was just a little bit older, and he laughed, saying he felt silly.

That was such a happy night, that first night at home.

Bad Night/Bad Dream

I have written before about my vivid dreams. They are almost always easy to recall, usually interesting, at least to me, and on a few occasions, have managed to fascinate me.

Last night, I went to bed at a reasonable time, and settled down to sleep. It felt unusually warm for January, but I eventually got settled, and went to sleep. When the stormy wind began to increase in speed, I was disturbed by the noise of swirling leaves, and small twigs and branches falling outside. But after turning over a couple of times, I finally got back to sleep.

Some time later, I was aware of a presence in the room, close to my face. I opened my eyes to see a male figure leaning over the bed. Behind him were three others, two men, and a woman. They were illuminated in the pitch black darkness by a strange greenish-glow that seemed to be coming from below them on the floor.

I recognised them all.

The woman in the doorway was my mother. She died in 2012.

The man in front of her was my friend Steve Greenwood. He died in 1988.

Next to him was my dad’s older brother, Uncle Harry. I hadn’t seen him since the 1970s, and he has been dead for over thirty years.

By the bed was his son, my cousin Brian. I hadn’t seen him for over forty years. He was murdered by intruders in his home in Spain, over twenty years ago.

I felt unbearably hot, and threw the duvet off my body.

They all looked as I remembered them when I had last seen them, though their expressions were blank, and very scary. For some time, nobody spoke, including me. And then my mum said “We have come to fetch you”.

Then I woke up, feeling absolutely terrified, and shaking. I pressed the button on my tablet to check the time, and it was 03:17. That time has no significance that I know of.

It took me well over an hour to get back to sleep, as I was actually frightened to close my eyes.

That was one dream I never want to have again.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 748 words.

Some of the reading I had done told me what was going to happen next. Leah would be handed to me, put to my breast to suckle, and that would help expel the placenta naturally. Through watery eyes, I felt myself smiling, and opened my arms, reaching out to receive her, just as I had imagined I would.

But that didn’t happen.

What did happen was that a worried-looking Tanya walked away into the corner of the room, followed by both doctors. They placed Leah inside a plastic box that was on a trolley, and then turned their backs to me as they started to do stuff. Elizabetta came and held my hand. “Just checking the little one, dear. You will hold her soon”. Despite her reassuring smile, I sensed she wasn’t telling me everything.

Whe Tanya came over to connect a drip to the needle in my arm, she managed a grin that was completely unconvincing. I could hear the sound of air rushing fast, and knew they were giving Leah oxygen. Then Tanya stuck a needle in my thigh, and said, “Just something to help you expel the placenta, Angela”. I asked her what was going on with Leah, and she glossed over that. “The doctors are just checking her over. Won’t be long. I am going to give you a few stitches down below before the anaesthetic wears off, okay?”

It seemed to take forever until they had stopped fiddling around in the corner, though it might have only been ten minutes, for all I knew. Olly started to feel dizzy, and said he had to go outside for a while. The poor man hadn’t had anything to eat since yesterday’s lunch, and only one bottle of water to drink since he had arrived. He checked his phone. “It’s almost three forty-five, I won’t text your parents or my sister just yet, far too early in the morning”.

When Elizabetta brought Leah to me, cleaned up a little, and wrapped in something soft, she looked relieved. “Here she is, your bundle of joy. Be happy, mama”.

That was the moment that everyone talked about. That strange rush of emotion when I suddenly felt undying love for that funny-looking baby in my arms. I ignored the strange shape of her head, which looked like the hats worn by garden gnomes. I ignored her screwed up face, sparse hair, and the mucky white stuff still stuck around her tiny neck. I loved her more than I ever thought it possible to love anything. I would have willingly jumped to my death from the roof of that hospital if it meant she would be alright.

Tanya came over with a small hat that she placed on Leah’s head. “Dont worry about the shape of her head, Angela. That was caused by the vacuum device, and it will go back to normal soon. Get her on your skin, and let her feel your heartbeat”. I pulled up the gown and pressed her to my breast, but she didn’t seem to want to suckle. She was just lying there, tiny green eyes not focusing on anything. In case Tanya decided to disappear, I asked her my questions while I could still think of them. What had they been doing in the corner? Why wasn’t Leah crying? Could someone go and find Olly so he can see his daughter?

“The umbilical cord was tight around her neck, Angela. Don’t worry, that’s not at all unusual. But we gave her some oxygen to help with her breathing, and as you can see, her colour is getting better already. As for crying, some babies just don’t cry. I should know, shouldn’t I?” I didn’t believe her about the crying, but wasn’t in the mood to argue. I couldn’t stop looking at Leah, and finding it hard to believe she had just come out from inside of me.

Olly came back, still crying. Lack of sleep and food had made him more emotional than ever, and when I told him to hold his daughter, he cried even more. Not bad, for a man who had never said he wanted children. They fussed around me some more, and Elizabetta took away a bowl containing the placenta. Then they cleared up all the swabs and dressings, before leaving us alone with Leah.

I stared lovingly at my baby, watching every twitch, and the slight movement of her head.

But I so wanted her to cry.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 782 words.

People often use the expression ‘That was the longest day of my life’. I used to smile at that, and say that every day only has twenty-four hours in it. But by seven-thirty that evening, I knew what they meant.

Almost five hours had felt more like thirty-five. And the midwives were quick to let me know I could be in labour for another five hours, if not more. The pains came and went, and the gas stopped helping it. Olly looked as if he was going to fall asleep, jolted out of his dozing by the occasional scream from me. I told him to go out and get something to eat, walk around in the fresh air. But he was determined to stay.

And I had to get used to some new faces, once the night duty staff arrived. No longer red-cheeked Moira, or the girl with the surpised look on her face. It was now Tanya, a stunningly attractive young woman who looked more like she should be on the cover of a fashion magazine. The most unlikely midwife I had ever seen.

Tanya had a businesslike manner, and wasn’t about to take any nonsense from me. She was local too, and listening to her accent was like hearing myself talk. When she didn’t come to check on me, Elizabetta did. Short, dumpy, and Filipino, with a big smile and caring nature.

She told me she had three children. I told her I just wanted to have this one.

By eleven that night, I was starting to panic. How long could this take? Surely Leah should be out by now? The pains got so bad, I felt like I had a bowling ball stuck between my legs. I tried getting on all fours, and even got Olly to help me walk around and kneel by the side of the bed. Nothing seemed to help. Leah was happy where she was.

The noise of the screaming and grunting was getting on my nerves too. I was quite shocked when I realised it was me making it.

Olly was getting distressed to see me in such a state, and pressed the buzzer. Tanya listened to him rambling on about my intense pain, and then left the room. She came back with an Indian doctor who was wearing surgical scrubs, and she asked me if I wanted stronger pain relief introduced through an epidural needle in my back. I had been determined not to have that, but felt so exhausted, I just nodded.

When that was done, I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, and became worried I might not know when Leah finally came out. Then I actually went to sleep.

I had no idea how long I had been sleeping, when a strange noise woke me up. It was coming from one of the two monitors attached to me, and I didn’t like the sound of it. As if to confirm my suspicions, Tanya suddenly appeared, looking serious, but her make-up still perfect.

She ignored my panicky questions about what was wrong, then pressed the nurse call button. Olly still looked drowsy, but the urgency around me had made him recover his wits quickly. Elizabetta appeared, and exchanged a nod from the doorway with Tanya. Moments later, the Indian doctor came into the room, and had that same look on her face. I know I was asking all sorts of questions, but if anyone actually answered me, I don’t remember what they said.

The three of them began to rummage around between my legs like a team of mechanics trying to fix a car that wouldn’t start. I only heard bits of hushed conversations.
“Emergency section?”
“Not sure there’s a theatre free”.
“We could do it here”.
“Get the cord off her neck”.
“I’m going to try vacuum”.

With each snippet I heard, I fired a question back. But it was as if I wasn’t in the room.

Only the back of the doctor was visible as I saw her standing in the doorway talking to someone. Then a male doctor appeared, fully gowned up, and holding something that resembled a plumber’s plunger attached to a grease gun. He looked more like he had been disturbed whilst unblocking a toilet, than someone who should be in a Maternity Department delivery room. They all hunkered down between my legs again, and I heard a pumping sound of air, like when you pump up your tyres on a bike.

Moments later, Tanya stood up straight, holding a baby that was covered in gunk, and its skin a funny grey colour. Olly started crying, so I did too.

There she was, my little girl.

For Readers of Women’s Fiction and Romance/Suspense

Another book promotion featuring a book by one of our blogging friends, Stevie Turner. Romance and Suspense, so probably something for everyone on this occasion.

Stevie Turner

There’s a BookFunnel promotion running until the end of January that features 53 books and free samples for fans of Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Women, and Romance/Suspense. One of those 53 is my family drama ‘The Daughter-in-law Syndrome‘, and you can download a free sample by clicking on the link below:

https://books.bookfunnel.com/happynewyear/hcjnrb3n6h

‘The Daughter-in-law Syndrome’ won a Readers’ Favorite silver award when it was first published.

Description:

The Daughter-in-law Syndrome investigates the complicated relationship causing much friction between Grandmother Edna Deane and her daughter-in-law Arla. In addition it focuses on the sometimes tumultuous partnership between Arla and her husband Ric.

Arla Deane sometimes likens her marriage to undergoing daily psychological warfare. Husband Ric will never voice an opinion, and puts his mother Edna up high on a pedestal. Arla is sick of always feeling that she comes in at only second best to her mother-in-law, who much to Arla’s…

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