Is there anything more exciting than a story passage presented completely out of context?
Hee hee, enjoy.
Carol began to gasp and moan in her sleep, whimpering the words, “Don’t … take me …” before Lambert managed to shake her awake. She was thoroughly drenched in a cold sweat, and still confused as she frantically asked, “Where’s Henry? I can’t find him!”
“He’s there, right next to you in his crib,” Lambert answered soothingly, and waited for her to pick up their four-month-old son before pulling her into an embrace. “Everything’s fine. You had another nightmare.”
She was quiet, and he suspected that she had dozed off again. He kept her pressed against his chest, however, feeling her clammy skin underneath his hands as his mouth formed a straight line. He had hoped that with time and emotional support, Carol’s struggle with postpartum anxiety would resolve on its own, but instead it was growing worse.
The baby woke and began to root, so Carol shifted to breastfeed. “Sorry about this,” she murmured, completely awake. “Could you get out another pajama shirt for me?”
He nodded, but remained still. “Carol …” he began, and she stiffened from his tone. “It might be time for you to go see a professional.”
“I don’t want to,” she answered slowly.
“You’ve been having nightmares every night for awhile now. It might be best to get you on medication to help you through this.”
“I have you.”
Lambert felt Carol move to curl up around their baby, and for a moment he debated whether or not he should drop the subject all together. He got up to rummage through the dresser in the darkness, found one of the over-sized shirts that she liked to sleep in, and handed it to her.
“Cognitive therapy isn’t making any difference,” he said quietly. She remained silent, so, he pressed on, “You’re a good mother, and it’s natural to have some feelings of anxiety with a new baby …” he began, and the therapist’s intonation that he had slipped into grated against his own ears.
“Would you mind holding Henry while I change?” Carol interrupted, her voice slightly higher pitched than usual. She had recently discovered that he couldn’t argue with her when she spoke that way, and utilized it whenever she wanted him to back down. It was enough to make him cave and give up on his line of reasoning.
Lambert didn’t know what to do. For the most part, Carol was still Carol. They went fishing together on the weekends, and he came home every evening to dinner and a clean house. As long as she had their baby pressed against her in the carrier or in her arms, it was as if nothing had changed. The car trips were almost endearing, with the way she frequently checked the mirrors to ensure that Henry was still breathing, and needed the occasional reassurance that he wasn’t going to be stung by a bee or bitten by a spider while he was in his car seat.
But the nights were different.
Lambert had purchased a special crib with one side that clamped onto their mattress to help her feel closer to Henry, but it couldn’t overcome the mental separation of sleep. There were times when she had startled awake with the baby in her arms, crying about how she couldn’t find him. Recently, she had begun to fight against the fear of being taken away herself, but once awake she always claimed that she could not remember what she had been dreaming.
They had talked. And talked. And talked. Lambert had accepted the military relegating him into a paper-pusher role after the war had ended, because it enabled him to be home every night, and he didn’t dare leave Carol to sleep alone. He had even quit drinking for the most part, so he could maintain his vigilance and be there for her the moment the nightmares began.
After four months, he had reached the end of what he could handle on his own. Carol needed something more than talk to help her, and as a defunct psychiatrist, he was no longer qualified to provide it.
2 thoughts on “TSS – Nightmares”
Completely out of context, but still engaging! I’ve known friends who struggled with postpartum. It’s no joke and this short passage shows a bit of that. Well done.
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I wrote this scene for a sci fi novel, but I think it’s important to include relatable elements from real life, no matter what the genre is.
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