Going back to the nursery with a baby created a confusing emotional reaction in Derek. He struggled with memories of the past; all the excitement and love he had felt in this room while he was transforming it.
He stood just outside the doorway remembering every time he had come out of that room and closed and locked the door to keep it a surprise. Once Janet’s betrayal came to light, he had closed the door for good.
He used to sit here, in the hall with his back against this door drinking and crying. Sometimes he would pass out here on the hard floor. Eventually that turned into walking through the house drinking and shooting an occasional glare in this direction.
He took a deep breath and crossed the threshold. The room somehow felt smaller now; the shelves packed with baby clothes, too small for the baby here now, seeming to close in around him.
While he was coming to terms with being back in this room, the baby was getting impatient. She began a real cry now, not screaming yet but working up to it. He sat the car seat down and looked at her. She was scrunching her little face and clenching her tiny fists, threatening to explode if he didn’t do his part here; right now!
“Alright, alright.” He said to her.
He looked around and tried to remember what he should do next. There’s a whole routine that comes with a baby who has just woken up, after all, and he used to know it by heart.
Derek thought back to his own childhood. He was the second oldest of six children and often babysat and assisted with his four younger siblings; the youngest three were girls so it should only be a matter of memory to handle this current situation properly.
He remembered that his sisters had always been a bit more demanding and a little less patient than his brother; even as newborns. In short, he needed to get to the meeting of the demands of this little princess before she threw a royal tantrum.
Derek mentally made a short list to keep himself calm and focused; Diaper, swaddle, food, burp, cuddle, sleep.
He approached the baby and started to address her but stopped short when he realized he didn’t know her name. During his hesitation, he recalled that he rarely called his siblings by their names anyway, especially when they were babies; he had always referred to them by their nicknames. He would just have to give her one of her own.
“Okay princess. I hear you.” He said calmly as he unfastened the seat belt.
She brought her fussing down a couple of levels now that action was being taken.
Derek picked her up and held her at arms-length in front of him so they could get a good first look at each other.
“How’s that?” he asked. “Is that better?”
She seemed to be trying to figure him out. She was making a curious expression that he thought might be the mark of intelligence in a child so young.
“Hmm…so you’re a smarty pants, huh?” he asked.
She started to fuss again.
“Okay, I think I understand what I’m dealing with now.” He said. “A beautiful, intelligent, hungry and impatient princess.”
He looked at her expression again as he laid her on the changing table. He wasn’t sure what he expected from her, it wasn’t like she was going to tell him he had guessed correctly. She didn’t even have the expression of curiosity now, just that of a fussy baby.
“Look, I understand that you want to eat right this second, but we have a couple of things to check off our list first, okay?”
She apparently did not agree and she raised her fussiness level up again to let him know it.
Derek couldn’t help but to laugh at that. “Let’s just see if we can get through this before you hit the next octave, what do you say?”
He brought the diaper bag up to the changing table to retrieve a diaper and wipes. He knew the ones on the shelves were far too small and the wipes were probably dried out by now.
It was clear that the bag had been packed in a rush. There were unfolded clothes, diapers, bottles, binkies and other assorted items all mixed together. He was starting to feel angry at the situation again when a good kick from the baby brought his attention back to her.
He looked back at her. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” he asked playfully.
She made a face that said he better get back to work or else. “Alright, I surrender.” He said smiling.
Once the diaper change and swaddling steps were complete, it was time to move on to feeding.
“I sure hope your mom packed some formula, otherwise we might be in trouble.” He rummaged through the bag to find the formula and a bottle. “Thank goodness.” He said out loud.
He picked up the baby and headed to the kitchen, reading the instructions on the can as he went. “Not too complicated.” He remarked. “We can do this.”
He looked at the baby’s face to see that she was still feeling impatient but was at least content enough not to start screaming just yet. He found himself admiring the way her eyes seemed to take in her surroundings.
“Definitely an intelligent little lady.” He muttered.
Once the bottle was made, he walked back into the nursery and sat in the rocking chair. While he watched her eat, he realized that she reminded him of his youngest sister, Lauren.
She had been the sixth and final child in his clan and everyone had made a great fuss over her. She had been born nearly two months early and had an underdeveloped respiratory system. She had stayed in the hospital for a while and when she finally got to come home, it was with the understanding that she could not tolerate germs.
The situation was critical. The doctors had said that if they could get her through the first year things would get a bit easier. His family had read through that to see the meaning. Getting her through her first year would have taken a miracle.
His family had made their entire home into a sort of safe zone for her. Everything that could be stored, was stored to keep it from accumulating dust. They had gone through great lengths to sanitize everything.
They upgraded their heating and air to a central system so that the air could be filtered and put an air purifier in the nursery for good measure. They filtered and boiled the water to make her bottles; their mom had wanted to breast feed but was told that even that contact could be detrimental.
They had bought coats like the doctors and nurses wear and disposable gloves too. They had washed their faces and hands and covered up every time they needed to go into her room; it’s was like a quarantined zone. They had even made a plan that if anyone was suspected of getting sick, they were to go stay at his aunt’s house until they were better.
They had covered everything. The doctors had been impressed with the lengths they were willing to go, just to keep this tiny baby happy, comfortable and as safe as humanly possible; but it hadn’t been enough.
At two months old, Lauren had started showing signs of a cold. When they took her to the doctor, they diagnosed her with pneumonia and admitted her. Within a week, she had passed in the hospital crib, surrounded by her family.
Derek looked down at the baby in his arms. She was now sound asleep. He turned her gently to place her head on his shoulder and burp her. Once that was done, he stood and walked carefully to the crib. He found himself holding her an extra few seconds before putting her down.
As he watched her sleep in the crib he had lovingly put together for her, anguish caught up with him. He should be her father. She should be his princess. Tears flooded his eyes as he turned to leave.
*Thank You for reading!*
End of Story 5-Part 2
Copyright©2019 Jennifer Treece