I Had No Choice
When she was born I didn't see it, not right away.
Her birth was pretty horrible. An endless litany of staff marched through my room, each with a different technique to "help" me. I was supported leaning over the bed, sat on a birth stool, forced to lie on my back. Numbed up, cut up and fucked up by the time they lay her on my stomach, bloody and screaming.
At first I just thought she was a bit ugly and strange.
They wanted me to nurse her, I had wanted to nurse her, but somehow her demanding hungry screams and cavernous clamp of a mouth intimidated me. I tried, I did, but it hurt so much and she was never satisfied. "Let her nurse until she's full and sleepy," they said, but she only got hungrier and angrier at the breast, never full or sleepy.
Her head was a weird long shape at first, "just moulding," they said, "it'll resolve, don't worry, she's fine." She looked like a little alien to me. A stranger. At night I would lie holding my jiggly empty bump and wondering if she was REALLY my baby, or if she came from some alien lady's belly.
The nights, the nights were the worst. She woke every hour at first. Even when I put my useless breasts away and gave her bottles instead she woke all the time. "Just catching up," they said, "she'll be hungry for a bit until she catches up on the growth chart" - I had been starving her to death with my sad attempts to nurse her. Every time I nodded off she woke me again. I got so jittery in the end I couldn't fall asleep at all any more. I just lay in a state of mild panic, waiting for her to make a sound, unable to let go and drift myself.
She got a terrible nappy rash. "It's probably just the switch to formula," they said, "try to keep her really clean and it will all heal." So even deciding to finally feed her properly ended up being wrong. The reddened skin on her bum blistered then cracked and bled. Every nappy change was a nightmare of her screaming and flailing, coating her heels and then everything nearby in thick greenish-yellow shit. I did try to keep her clean and dry, I did! But she pissed or shat every fifteen minutes! I was washing her every hour at one point and the more I washed her the more her skin dissolved and bled.
They all looked at me with fake sympathy and used jolly voices, but I knew what they really thought. Useless. I was useless. A complete failure at birth, breastfeeding, motherhood. A complete failure.
She was about a month old when I suddenly realised what was really going on. She had been asleep in her cot, I had had another sleepless night and was at the kitchen table with a bottle of formula warming in a jug beside me and a strong black coffee in my hand. She began to squeal straight from sleep. She was always like that, demanding of me every second she was awake. I went to pick her up and saw it. Just for a split second, just as I was reaching the cot. She had her face turned away from me and I saw her veins standing out, reddish black under a waxy-looking complexion, she turned her head towards me and I gasped at the expression on her face. Her little mouth was twisted into a snarl, her forehead was furrowed with malicious rage, her eyes were bloodshot and narrowed with hatred. As she saw me the look evaporated and she was a normal looking newborn again. I stood like an idiot blinking at her until her crying cut through my stupor and I lifted her up and took her through to the kitchen for her bottle.
For the rest of that day she seemed like a normal baby, but I found myself looking at her sidelong when she wasn't looking at me, trying to catch her out again. It wasn't long before I did.
That night, at about 3am I was lying in the semi darkness of my bedroom watching her sleep. That sounds romantic but in fact I was feeling resentful and angry in the knowledge that she was going to wake and I was going to have to feed, wind, change and re-settle her. I was twitching with rage when I noticed something moving under the cover she was under. Ar first I thought it was her foot but then the moving thing snaked out from under the edge of the fleece coverlet and I saw what it was. A tail! I jerked up and back in revulsion at the sight, it was like a donkey's tail, but naked and pink with a sparse tuft of dark hair to match that on her head at the tip. My jerking away woke her up, for a split second I saw the red gleam of her eyes opening, then her mouth opened and she began to cry. With that she resumed her innocent-baby appearance. It took me a while to muster courage enough to feed her but eventually I did.
The health visitor came the following day. She of the "just keep her really clean" nappy rash advice. She asked how things were. "She doesn't seem normal to me," I said, "she's not really normal is she?" "Oh," I could hear the platitudes marching in, "they're all different my love, her belly aches and nappy rash will soon settle, you mark my words." After that I wasn't going to mention the tail.
That afternoon, at 4pm on the dot, just like every other 4pm since she was five days old, she began to screech. She screeched every day continuously from 4pm-9pm. She would have a brief pause around 6.15 to hastily guzzle a bottle, but had always resumed her screeching by 6.40. "It's just colic," they said, "give her fennel tea." I tried it. She choked on it, refusing to swallow and screaming all the louder. "Just hold her," they said, "she knows you're there for her." When I held her she arched her body away from mine, rigid with fury, until I put her down again. I had tried leaving the room but she typically vomited from the exertion of the screaming. "Don't leave her alone for more than a few minutes," they said, "she could aspirate her vomit and die!" Mostly I just sat numbly next to the cot looking at her.
At about 5pm that day it happened, I was looking at her and I saw her whole face change again. That pallid waxy complexion revealed itself, the dark veins snaking about underneath it. Her tail curled round her leg and writhed there. She glared right into my eyes with cold, evil hatred. I saw rows of tiny pointed teeth, like those of a shark, were advancing through her gums, blood dripping and staining her lips. I was both horrified and mesmerized by her. She didn't change back, just went on staring at me with her horrible twisted features and screaming and screaming and screaming.
At 6.15pm I took her bottle from the warmer beside me and leaned over the cot side to give her it. She went quiet and LEERED at me and then began to drink. She kept stopping every ten sucks or so to give me another knowing leer. I felt sick with horror and revulsion.
When she finished the bottle I lifted her out to change her. Her nappy rash was worse, so much worse. Even before I got her nappy off I could smell the claggy odour of decay. Yellow-brown fluid had seeped right through her nappy onto her sleepsuit. I wrinkled my nose and carefully removed the sleepsuit and vest, and then with some trepidation opened her nappy. I was confronted with a gigantic festering wound where her rashy bottom had been. Pus, greyish and bloodstained, ran down and dripped onto the changing mat. I steeled myself and plucked a few wipes from the packet. As I gingerly wiped at the pus streaked mess a whole layer of skin peeled away, revealing a teeming nest of maggots, all squirming over one another, jostling for position to eat the decaying flesh.
I screamed myself then, and backed away from the changing table frantically rubbing at my hands in case any maggots had gotten on them. As I backed away she looked right at me again with her narrowed leering eyes. She spread her bare legs apart, exposing her genitals more, and ran a reptilian tongue lasciviously around her lips. I had no choice then.
I knew it. I had no choice. So I filled the bathroom sink and drowned the little demon. That fixed her, when I lifted her out she was dead, yes, but she was a normal looking baby again, her nappy rash was just reddened skin, her gums were pale and pink and toothless. Yes, the demon in her was gone. I had no choice.
I called the health visitor myself, I had to leave a message, they never answer their phone. "I had no choice," I said, "she's back in the sink now, but she's not different any more. I had no choice."
"Post partum psychosis," they said, "we should have seen the signs," they said, "every risk factor in the book," they said. They took her away and buried her somewhere, and brought me here. They give me pills on the same schedule I gave her feeds on, isn't that funny!?
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