Tracy kicked at the comforter and wrestled satin sheets. Swinging her feet over the side of the bed, wriggling toes searched for missing wool slippers. Oh that dog, she thought. The baby wailed from her daughter’s room. Stumbling in the dark, she yelped as her toes split around the bedpost. Hands groped for a switch and the hallway blazed to life. Peeking into Jessica’s room, she scowled.
Jessica lay sprawled across the bed; a quilt coiled snugly around one leg. Textbooks peeped from under sheets. Papers peppered the floor. Sheets billowed and slumped with each inhale and exhale.
“Jessica, wake-up,” she commanded over the baby’s cry.
Tracy noticed thin white wires snaking from her daughter’s ears, the music drowning the baby’s cries.
“Jessica,” Tracy snapped again, yanking out nesting ear buds.
Jessica moaned. Bleary eyes squinted making out mom’s form, hands on hips. Jessica jerked the sheets over her head and morphed into the fetal position.
“Uh, uh, young lady,” mom scolded, pulling the sheets to the floor. “This baby is your responsibility. Now get up and take care of her.”
Jessica thrashed at the sheets and tumbled off the bed. She struggled to her knees and buried her head into the mattress. “I just can’t do this any more,” she cried.
Tracy shuffled across the room and thumped down on the side of the bed, exhausted. Jessica rested her head in her mother’s lap. Tracy gently stroked her daughter’s hair and caressed her cheek, discovering tears. “It’s ok, sweetheart,” Tracy said, softening.
The baby’s cries crescendoed to shrieks, but both mother and daughter remained motionless.
“I just can’t do this anymore,” she choked out the words. “How can I keep up with school and take care of her?” she sobbed. “I’m beat. How much longer do I have to do this?”
Tracy patted the side of the bed and Jessica struggled to a seated position.
“What day is it honey?” Mom asked.
“Well…two more days then,” Mom reminded.
“I can’t believe this is a school project anyway. She’s just a doll,” Jessica pouted. “It’s silly I have to carry this baby around all day…to every class. I want to shove her in my locker.”
Tracy smiled. “Honey, this is a five day snapshot of what having a newborn is like. And it’s not even a true picture at that.”
“What do you mean, Mom?”
“Jessica, I remember the day I brought you home from the hospital. You slept right next to my bed in that old crib that’s stored up in Granny’s attic. I seldom slept. At night, I listened for your breathing. On one occasion, I thought you stopped and I leaned over and screamed your name. Your daddy nearly fell out of bed,” she giggled at the memory. “Of course you were fine," she smiled. "This assignment is just the tip of the iceberg. There are diapers to change, doctor check-ups, well-meaning guests dropping in when the house is a wreck, loads and loads of laundry and…”
“Ok, Mom,” Jessica interrupted. “I get the idea.”
“Jess, I don’t know that I’ve had a good night’s sleep in sixteen years.”
“Why?” she asked surprised.
“Well, we had your little brother and then your little sister and the whole process started over. Now that you’re sixteen, I don’t rest until I hear the garage door close with you safely inside.”
Jessica pushed to her feet, walked to the drawer serving as a makeshift cradle, and cuddled the baby in her arms. The baby’s cries slowed and then stopped as Jessica waved a magnetic bracelet across sensors embedded in the baby’s eyes.
“I wish that would have worked for you,” teased Tracy.
Jessica smiled. “Is being a parent worth all of the work and the sleepless nights?” she asked, stooping to settle baby into her sleeping quarters.
“Jess, it’s one of the greatest blessings of life. I can’t imagine life without you or your siblings. Now, let’s get some sleep. Pancakes for breakfast?”
“Sure,” Jessica said, scrambling into bed. Tracy tucked her daughter in, pulling the blanket to her chin. With a light peck on the forehead, Tracy hurried to the door.
Tracy glanced over her shoulder, preparing to cross the hall. “Yes, dear?”
“I’m learning a lot in health and you don’t have to worry about my dating relationships. This assignment is the best birth control of all.”
“Good night, sweetheart.”
Thank you Jesus, she whispered.
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