Maternal Instincts | By Alex Kogl

We’ve all got a job to do.

Maternal Instincts

By Alex Kogl

For The Hope Springs Maternal Award


When I came in to check on Annabelle this morning, I found her diaper overflowing again. Next to her cot stood a bottle with formula hurriedly mixed in. You could still see chunks of powder floating on top of the liquid. Annabelle herself lay squirming in her cot, reeking; tear trails dry and white on her cheek.
I shook my head trying to swallow my disgust and anger and went about freeing her from her soggy prison. I wiped her down with a warm cloth, a task in itself, as the poo had run all the way up her back. I dressed her in her warm bunny onesie and threw out the formula offering her instead my warm, comforting breast. God only know what Ms. Lacey would have done had I not been nursing my own baby at home. Half an hour later, I sat on the rocking chair by the window; a single beam of sunlight warming the back of little Annabelle who lay fast asleep on my shoulder. I patted her gently, imagining Carlos in my arms wondering if he had had his mid-morning bottle yet.

Around lunch time, with the baby fast asleep in her room, I set about making lunch for myself in the kitchen. The sleek, stainless steel cupboards were mostly empty, containing only random items like a pack of straws, crackers and a half empty wine bottles. The fridge, with all its built-in television, didn’t offer much more: a couple of sticky jam jars, a few bananas and chunky milk. I sighed: Ms. Lacey had been too busy to do the groceries again this week. I resorted to dry crackers and sliced banana.

By 6 o’clock, Ms. Lacey had still not come home from work. My knee jumped nervously as I sat next to Annabelle’s cot, watching the second hand slowly jerk around in circles on pink flower clock face. Ms. Lacey was already half an hour late, and I was anxious to get home to my own little Carlos. Annabelle seemed oblivious to my distress. She was lying happily on her back, still giddy from the warm bath, her little tummy ballooning out after her feeding. She tugged at the mobil hanging above her head, giggling happily as the fuzzy pink horses jiggled above her. She gazed at me smiling and I couldn’t help crack a grin. Her smile was so much like my own Carlos’: barely a tooth in sight. Imagining him, let a new wave of unrest ripple through me. I had to get home. I threw the flower clock another glance and still the second hand jerked on casually. I gazed around her room, trying to distract myself.
An HD, Wifi- enabled baby monitor blinked quietly on the night stand. Right next to it, a life-size teddy bear sat grinning at me from the corner, its massive body covered in piles of stuffed giraffes, monkeys, horses and bears. I remembered when Ms. Lacey gave Carlos his own stuffed bear when he was born. It’s his one and only prized possession which, even now almost 6 months later, he never lets out of his sight. He was probably clinging to it right now in his crib back home.

The sound of rustling keys in the door revived me from my anxious daze. I stood up and heard the click clack of high heels approach the door. Ms. Lacey burst in, keys and briefcase still in hand. She looked frazzled and mustered up a tired smile, apologising for being so late- the board meeting had gone on longer than she expected. She hurried over to Annabelle’s cot, dumping her case right beside her and lifted her out. Annabelle seemed taken aback and started whimpering, eventually cracking into a loud wail. Ms Lacey bobbed her up and down on her shoulder, gently patting her back. Ms Lacey asked how “Anni” had been today, and as I spoke she rested her cheek on Annabelle’s head, closing her tired, dark-ringed eyes concentrating all her strength on comforting her baby.

I couldn’t help feeling resentment pushing up in my throat as I watched her; wondering what state I’d find Annabelle in tomorrow morning. I quietened my thoughts, said my goodbyes and rushed towards the bus-stop. My neighbour could only stay with Carlos until 7 and I desperately wanted to be the one to put him to bed tonight.