My gaze went to my mother's strained, exhausted face as she tried so hard to exude strength and courage we both knew she didn't quite possess. I looked away quickly, unable to bear the guilt of her gaze, of dragging her into this horrible mess that left us both standing in silence at half past midnight. My eyes fell upon the gold doorknob on the front door, an ugly, ancient thing which long ago lost its luster and had consistently aggravated me every time I'd held it in my palm for the past two years. The simple lock was latched, though I knew the complete futility of the practice. It wasn't a knob meant for exterior doors, but a simple, cheap tab-turn model intended for closets or bathroom doors.
It would be so easy to just kick it down I thought, envisioning not masked thugs, but police officers, guns drawn as they scanned the visible square footage of our small home.
The mental picture caused the shaking to amp up a notch, my fear palpable through my every pore and hair follicle, and my eyes darted to the threadbare indoor-outdoor rug under my feet. I hated this rug too, though less than the doorknob because I actually had picked this rug, found on clearance at a discount store for just ten dollars. Its tan background with sage green, beige, and chocolate brown stripes pretty much went against every part of my design aesthetic, but after the paint color we'd picked for the foyer and stairwell turned out to be a muted mossy color akin to pea soup with milk instead of the warm greige I'd hoped for, it was easier to just go with it instead of repainting. So I bought things I usually never would in soft neutrals and earth tones in an effort to make it all flow, begrudgingly smiling as visitors both in person and to the small blog I'd begun earlier that month about our home renovation projects complimented the color choice.
It served a purpose until it could be rectified. Now, it appeared that such a decision was out of my hands.
The thought lit a small spitfire of anger and resentment in my chest, a flicker of my not-yet trampled spirit and resolve with bitterness creeping in on the edges that softened the tremors ever so slightly, reminding me that this outward stillness was of such a monumental effort, that if provoked I still was capable of emotion and tapping into my hot temper. The flash of anger presented me a brief moment of clarity and bravado, enough to lift my chin up to the stairwell to the darkness of the hallway above, leading to the room where my six-month-old son slept soundly, completely unaware of the maelstrom brewing below him.
That was my hesitation, waking him. He only recently had overcome failure to thrive, only weeks prior had begun to show signs of happiness and engagement with me instead of unrelenting screaming and general disdain for my presence. He was still so fragile, his belly half full of formula, half full of his medications, and waking him was a sharp roll of the dice as to which version of my child would greet me -- the happy baby or the screaming demon.
The screams were my trigger, the thing that often sent me over the edge and rendered me incapable of basic thought. Over the past six months, my mantra had often been put the baby down and walk away, just put him down and take a break because that's what the blogs and forums said to do if you felt overwhelmed.
I was constantly riddled with shame and guilt at how much I had to put him down and walk away, but I hadn't ever breathed a word of it until two days ago.
And now, here I stood, in my own home, my mother hyper-vigilantly watching my every move, trying to make one of the hardest, most shocking and unforeseen decisions in my twenty five years of life.
My eyes brimmed with tears as I sought out my mother's hazel green ones, hooded and swollen from the tears she wasn't letting me see her cry, despite us both knowing better.
"I have to," I choked out, voice stronger than I anticipated, yet still riddled with confusion and anxiety and defeat. "I don't think I have a choice."