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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Blue (10/08/09)

TITLE: Sleep, Sleep
By Jan Ackerson
10/13/09


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After the sonogram technician peered at her monitor and declared “It’s a boy, see?” Kendra and Paul went home and painted the nursery. Three walls took a pretty white shade with a whisper of blue; the label on the can read “Bubble.” The fourth wall they painted the color of a ripe apricot. On that wall, Kendra hung framed prints of her favorite book, matted in dusky cerulean, so the baby would be enchanted by the Wild Rumpus as soon as his little eyes could focus.

What to name the little fellow? Kendra searched through books of baby names, highlighting Rowan and Calder and Ulric. Paul, horrified, took his own pen and circled Michael, David, Timothy. No decision was made for weeks, but one day in the nursery (Paul with Allen wrenches in hand, assembling the crib, Kendra folding pastel receiving blankets) they glimpsed the matted prints at the same moment and proclaimed “Max!”

They called the baby “Wild Thing”, and Kendra searched online for a little wolf suit for his homecoming. When he twisted and kicked under her stretchy jeans, Kendra just smiled and said “Be still!” And when he was quiet in her belly, she whispered, “I’ll eat you up—I love you so...”

Weeks later, Max made an uneventful, if noisy, entrance. Paul tearfully kissed his squalling son and placed him at Kendra’s breast. She looked at the tiny creature and thought what have I done?

***

Kendra positions Max on a pillow and lifts her shirt. There is a moment of frantic rooting, and then Max settles in with a throaty sigh. Moist sounds, the opening and closing of tiny fists—Kendra looks out at nothing and whispers Moo. She watches the clock; ten minutes, twenty, and she detaches the baby from her breast. Holding him to her shoulder, she pats his back absently and is surprised to hear his quiet burp a minute later. She had forgotten that Max was there.

He is asleep; Kendra places him in his bassinet and hopes he will have a long nap. The dishes have piled up and there are mounds of little blue onesies and impossibly small socks to wash. She feels a frisson of irritation and another emotion she dares not identify: why must every outfit be blue? Snatching up one tiny sleeper (miniature dinosaur appliqués on each foot), she tosses it into the wastebasket, then covers it with an empty cereal box. The dishes will wait. She wanders to the living room and lies on the couch, eyes wide open.

Outside, it is raining, and it seems to Kendra that it would be a very fine thing to stand motionless in the rain, for hours perhaps. She is too sluggish; her intentions never reach her feet.

Surely it has only been minutes, but Max is stirring in his bassinet. He is not crying; his startling cobalt eyes are looking around with a slight jerkiness. Kendra stands up slowly and looks down at the bassinet, her arms stiff at her sides. Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep.

The baby is perfectly fine, no need to pick him up. Kendra walks to her bedroom and buries herself in meaningless noises from the television. When, after a while, Max begins to whimper, she thumbs a button on the remote. But whimpers turn to sobs, and Kendra slouches back to the living room and lifts Max from the bassinet.

***

Nighttime, and Paul puts Max in his crib, then settles beside Kendra, one hand resting on her hip. She pushes his hand away and turns her back to him, willing herself to sleep; another hour and the baby will be crying again.

But when she wakes, it is to a silent house and the suggestion of brightening indigo dawn in the still-dark room. She revels in the silence for a moment—and then her heart thumps alarmingly and she is running to the nursery, to Max, where surely there is something very wrong.

Paul stumbles in sleepily, just seconds later, to see his wife with Max in her arms. Kendra’s face is nestled at that warm junction of neck and shoulder, where Max smells sweetest. She dips him away from her kiss for the briefest moment, and her eyes meet Paul’s. Look what we’ve done, say Kendra’s astonished eyes, and she nuzzles the baby’s neck again. When finally Kendra releases her embrace and slips Max into the hollow of her elbow, his first smile is her benediction.
___

Note: The book referenced is Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. Harper & Row, 1963.


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This article has been read 854 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 10/16/09
I almost felt like an intruder on Kendra's private moments with her new baby as this story subtly came to life.
Sarah Elisabeth 10/20/09
Hmmm, this piece seems a little slow moving. The message for me was a little confusing...the mother swings from happy about having a baby to being lethargic. lol, of course, I've never had a baby, and from what I've heard, these are perfectly normal feelings.

"what have we done?" Loved this line :-)
Carol Slider 10/20/09
I love the way you subtly weave the topic through the story (cerulean... indigo... cobalt...); but especially, I love the realism of it. The first time baby sleeps through the night is wonderful, and also terrifying. Oh, I remember that mad rush to the bedroom! Well done.
Leah Nichols 10/20/09
A very realistic portrayal, I'm sure! I thought it a tad weak on topic, but a delightful read.
Rachel Phelps10/20/09
I remember watching my sister go through this cycle with her baby. So spot on and realistic! I felt like the theme could have been elaborated on somewhat more in the middle section - in the first section it felt a tad forced... definitely loved it, though!
Sara Harricharan 10/20/09
Thought it was cutesy and loved the tense. Didn't get the title though...unless I missed something obvious, lol. ^_^
Mona Purvis10/20/09
I struggled a little with the emotions...maybe that was what I was supposed to do. The mother confused me with her throwing away the blue outfit. But, lots of hormones and more do affect new mothers.
Still, I was glued to the piece and it caused me to think about my early motherhood days.

Mona
Catrina Bradley 10/20/09
My heart is in my throat. Oh, those baby blues. You love him, you just want him to sleep, you just want him to go away, you adore him and never want to stop holding him. Well done on the emotion-wrenching narrative and the layered topic.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/20/09
I found the first part to be a little slow and dry, but the rest brought us right into the mother's heart and emotions. Well done.
Dee Yoder 10/20/09
Jan, I think this is a subtle, very compelling, story. In my thinking, the mom is suffering from some postpartum depression, exhaustion, and is just plain overwhelmed with her new mother's role. I understand every nuance of this, and though it is a bit scary when she is so removed from her baby in the beginning, I've seen mom's like this. It takes a while for some moms to slip into the role and make the fit comfortable. To me, this is a wonderful study of more than a few new mom's experiences.
Betty Castleberry10/20/09
I thought this was very realistic. It brought back some memories of my own. ;0)
Patricia Turner10/20/09
Kendra's emotional roller coaster is so realistically written - hormones, exhaustion, all the blues that go with those first days. Then that first night when the baby sleeps through - I remember being terrified - I couldn't go into my daughter's room.
Ruth Brown 10/20/09
Oh those sweet rough days of the first baby,so hard,but so rewarding. Absolutly loved it!
larry troxell 10/21/09
jan, excellent writing. fathers love to hold their babies too! so realistic. i liked the slower pace, with time to think about what the author is going to reveal next.
Yvonne Blake 10/21/09
ahhh...I can smell him! What a sweet baby story!
Joy Faire Stewart10/21/09
I enjoyed this different approach to the topic, and I could feel the mom's "blue" moments throughout.
Aaron Morrow10/21/09
Jan, I enjoyed the way that you wove different shades of blue throughout and think you did a great job of capturing the sense of both exhilaration and exhaustion of the MC.

It may just be because its early but I felt myself start to get engaged in the story, and I would stumble over a word (like cerulean or frisson), and the pacing halted. I kept feeling like I skipped a beat somehow.

There were also a few sentences that felt truncated. You may have designed that to give it more of a sense of the choppy thought patterns that come with exhaustion, and, if so, it worked well.

All-in-all well written, just a little tough on the thesaurus-impaired like me :)
Laura Manley10/21/09
I found this story moving with ease from one phase to another. I enjoyed it thoroughly. There were several lines (or part thereof) which brought a smile to my face. They are:
"her intentions never reached her feet;" "the suggestion of brightening indigo dawn;" "she dips him away from her kiss;" "his first smile is her benediction." All these were very descriptive with a freshness about them. I found your story very easy to read and I enjoyed the story line. What mother hasn't gone through what your MC did. Laura
Laury Hubrich 10/21/09
Oh sweet, Jan. But I would say it's not your best piece but oh so sweet:) If you're not on topic enough I'm certainly not! Love this story. Makes me want...never mind, won't even say it!
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/21/09
This well written piece took me back, mega years to my own feelings of euphoria to tired helplessness and back to euphoria. I even remember the wonderful feeling of looking at what our love had made. Thanks for making your story so real.
Kimberly Russell10/21/09
I had a hard time following this but I presumed it had to do with post partum, roller coaster emotions, and thoughts that go all over the place. Since I'm not familiar with the whole motherhood thing, it was unfamiliar to me, however, well written.
Kate Oliver Webb10/21/09
I enjoyed this very much! It was truly the atmosphere of a home with a new baby, a mom and dad who love him, and the occasional sense of panic that accompanies bringing a new life into the world. The blessed reward at the end ("his first smile was her benediction") is one for that mom's memory cells, for sure.
Joshua Janoski10/26/09
I think this piece accurately reflects the emotions of parents who are doing their best to take care of their first newborn child without any previous experience.

I had trouble following it in a couple of spots, but I think that was due to the nature of the story you were trying to tell. New parenting would be a restless but enjoyable experience.

Danielle Luaders10/27/09
I liked the roller coaster of emotions the mother went through--very true to life! (Sometimes mothers don't like to admit some of those feelings even to themselves!) Loved the references to Where the Wild Things Are! Nicely done!