Title: Silently Screaming

Summary: She thought she could do it all. Be a wife and mother, go to school, be happy. She was wrong.

This story deals with the theme of post partum depression. If this is a subject that you are particularly sensitive to, thank for you taking an interest in my story but I suggest that you don't read any further.


She listens to her husbands shouted goodbyes as the door closes and she does what she's taken to doing at the same time each day. She opens her eyes from their feigned sleep and is greeted instantly with the blue bars of the wooden crib, and her son's sleeping body inside, his little bottom pushed up, and his face snuggled sideways against the mattress. She knows the child is beautiful; she knows it, but she doesn't feel it. He whimpers a little and she pushes herself into auto mode, picking him up and rocking him silently. In these moments when she's alone with him, when it's just the two of them she doesn't look at him. She doesn't talk to him. She vaguely wonders in the back of her mind if her lack of conversation with him will hinder his speech development later; she wonders, but she doesn't care, and placing him down again she knows it doesn't matter. She knows he deserves better.

She knows he's noticed – her husband that is, and probably the baby too now she thinks about it. She's read all the books; she knows her son is at an age where he'll pick up on the emotions of people around him. Her son - if she wasn't present birthing him she wouldn't believe that to be true. The maternal instinct she'd always found around young children doesn't seem to have stretched to the blue eyed chubby cheeked little boy who is gurgling happily mere feet away from where she's stood.

He'd asked what was wrong last night, it wasn't the first time and she replied the same as always, she was tired. He offered to skip morning practice. Promised her his coach would understand and she could sleep a little more before she had to go to classes. She told him to go, she was fine, it didn't matter. It really didn't, she'd have been awake anyway, she doesn't sleep much. She waits until her family are asleep and she creeps out of their bedroom and into the small living room of their tiny apartment. She sits in the window seat and watches the world passing her by. She thinks about crying, but decides against it. Crying never helps, and there's always the chance it could wake them.

The clock chimes loudly, and she's broken from her thoughts and back into her daily routine. She picks up the baby, silently bathes and dresses him and gathers the bags she'd packed the night before. One for him, one for her. Bag A contains diapers, bottles, wipes, changes of clothes and more. Bag B text books, papers, pens, she thinks maybe a lip gloss rolls around the bottom. Not that she bothers with that kind of thing anymore. She never did much, and the little things have long since faded into the background.

Handing her son over to the pleasantly plump day care assistant she nods her head and forces a smile as she agrees she's blessed when complimented on her quiet, well behaved baby. She wonders as she gets back to the car if he gets it from her, the quietness. A year ago no one would have considered her a quiet person, she spoke a lot, she laughed, and if she had opinion she made it known, but not anymore. She didn't talk much, the effort too great, the worry of what might be said. Yes, she decided. It was probably her example.

She's stood in the middle of campus staring at a notice board when she sees him for the first time that day. He walks up to her and wraps his arms around her from behind, she stiffens. Not because she doesn't know it's him; even if she didn't know his smell and touch well enough, he'd whispered a greeting into her ear immediately so as not to scare her. She honestly tries to relax into his touch, she vaguely remembers how at home she used to feel in his arms, but she can't. She knows he senses her resistance, she knows because when it first started he stopped. He gave her space, any unnecessary touching had gone away, he'd even started to ask her before sitting next to her on the sofa. His only reward had been an accusation of cheating while she claimed if he didn't want affection from her he was obviously getting it somewhere else.

He asks her if she'd eaten yet and she nods claiming she had. So what if she hasn't? It was just lunch, and she doesn't feel like treating the student population to another round of watching her him treat her like a child. Apparently these days as far as her husband was concerned she wasn't allowed to just not be hungry. What difference did it make if her appetite had diminished a little? She had baby weight to lose after all.

She looks back to the notice board; she's supposed to be looking for a job. He has basketball, as well as school and the baby so they'd decided back when she still planned things that she'd be the first to look for employment. She looked, sometimes she even took down flyers, or numbers, or cut out adverts from the newspaper, but she never rang. She told him she had, that nowhere wanted to hire a twenty year old college student with a baby in tow. It was a believable lie and he hadn't questioned her, but the truth of the matter was when it came to dialing the number, to having to sell herself to someone she froze. How could she convince them that she was the right person for the job when she didn't believe it herself? These days she didn't think she was the right person, period. For anything.

She feels his arms slip from around her, and even though she'd felt suffocated by them, she missed them all the same. Turning she saw him talking to a group of boys she vaguely recognised a couple of feet away. Did they play with him? Maybe. She had no idea of their names either way. She remembers their wedding two years before. The perfect high school sweethearts getting married before they headed off to college together. She thinks of how many people had shown up to share in their day. She didn't talk to any of those people now. Instead she spent her time in her self enforced prison of an apartment, staring out of the window, and listening to the cries of a baby that claimed to be hers, asking her for things she didn't understand.

He calls her over and his friends ask after the baby. She watches as he beams and rattles off proudly about things she didn't even know. Milestones she'd apparently missed. She looked down at their entwined hands from where he gripped onto her, and squeezed her hand reassuringly. She blinked at the clasped fists, once, twice, confused. Sighing he said goodbye and pulled her away from the crowd. Tears pricked at her eyes at the angry tone of his hushed voice when he asked her why the hell she was acting the way she was. She blinked again and they were gone.

He'd guided her to their class where they sat side by side in silence. He apologised for his earlier tone and asked her if anything was wrong, if there was anything he could do. She shook her head and pulled out her note pad, her eyes never moving from the board ahead of her, and eventually he gave up on trying to get her to talk to him. Half way through the lecture she felt a sharp pain in her side and turned, his elbow retracting from the side of her ribcage as he looked over at her, confusion clear on his features as he looked from the front of the classroom to her notepad and back. Scrunching up her forehead in puzzlement she followed his gaze down only to be greeted with a blank page save a few unintelligible scribbles. Had she done that?

She can feel him watching her as she drives them over to the day care centre, she doesn't turn to him. Not wanting to answer questions she knows he's going to ask. She sits outside and waits as he goes to pick up the baby, watching the mothers picking up their children, talking animatedly with them. Even to those who are too young to respond. She's seen them looking at her before, she wonders if their judgement comes from her age or if they know, if they can see that she's not the mother she's supposed to be. That she does it all wrong. Her husband comes out and straps the baby into the car, he's talking to him in the way she'd watched the other parents do. She snaps at him telling him to just be quiet, the baby can't understand him anyway. He opens his mouth as if to say something but stops, he sighs and she wants to hit him. She wants to pull the car over and hurt him for judging her, but she doesn't, she just drives. Parking the car and climbing out instantly, leaving him to deal with the child.

She puts his dinner in front of him and sits down with her own. She watches as he shovels the food into his mouth and rattles off the highs and lows of his day. She tries to be interested, she knows she used to be, but it doesn't really seem to matter that much anymore. She's picking at her food, pushing it around her plate and he asks her why she's not eating. She's not hungry she tells him honestly, big lunch, she adds on with a lie. He looks as if he's about to question her, but says something worse instead. He wants to go home this weekend. She shakes her head no. She doesn't want to go home. Home where people know her, people knew her. Where she'd have to watch her sister balance life and work and kids and a new baby with ease, while she can't get her own to stop crying. She doesn't tell him this though, she just says she's tired, and she has work to catch up on. He slams his plate down and tells her not to lie to him. She looks up at him blankly, she's not lying exactly. When you never do any of the work there's a lot to catch up on. It's not that she doesn't try. Every night she takes out her books and uses the methods she perfected in high school to try and learn what she's paying to be taught, but she can't. The words blur, the phrases meld, and in the end she gives up. Like everything else her education doesn't seem that important these days.

By the time they'd finished dinner they were both silent, and he doesn't say anything to her when he heads back to bathe the baby and put him to bed. The phone rings and she looks over before going back to washing dishes. She doesn't want to speak to anybody, and if it's important they'll leave a message. He calls out for her to pick it up, but she locks herself in the bathroom instead. Giving her an out for when he asks why she didn't answer it. She stares at herself in the mirror, she looks so hard that her vision blurs, but she still can't see the person she used to be. The person she liked.

When she comes out he tells her he's going to the gym. He says he won't be long and the baby's sleeping and she just nods her head, it's the same every night. He escapes, and she's glad to not have to try and pretend she's interested for a couple of hours. He kisses her forehead as he leaves, ignoring the way she flinches and she watches his retreating figure. She wonders what he'd say if she told him. Told him she's missing something. That she's lost. A failure. Dead inside.

He's gone barely twenty minutes when the crying starts, whimpers she first ignores turning into screams. She stands over the crib and wonders what to do. She tries to talk to him, the way his father does, the way the other mothers do, but it doesn't seem to work. She picks him up briefly, awkwardly jostling him against her rigid body, strained shushing sounds escaping her lips. He doesn't calm. Her desperation turns into anger and her pleas turn into shouts as she puts him back down in the crib and leaves the room slamming the door shut behind her and switching on the television.

She turned up the volume again, trying to rival the screams from the other room. The apartment now a mingling of the cries of a child, and the cries of the sirens on some real-life cop show that she isn't even pretending to watch. There's a thump on the wall, so loud it makes the walls shake and manages to be heard over the noise within. Instead of unnerving her, worrying her, she wonders what they used to make a bang so loud. She walks into the bedroom and picks up the screaming hiccupping baby. His face is red and contorted, his breath hitched. She screams at him, begging him to tell her what he wants, holding him at arms length his legs flail and his arms grab out for her, silently asking her to hold him. She tells him she can't, she says she's sorry but she can't. She can't hold him, she can't soothe him. She just can't.

Turning once she'd put him back in the crib she flees the room, down the hallway and out of the door which slams in her wake. The screams of the television and the child fading behind her as she runs, She's made it to the end of the street before she stops, she stops and realises. She realises and throws up. Right there in the middle of the busy street she vomits. She turns on her heels and runs, ignoring the people who'd stopped to ask if she was alright and the burning in the soles of her feet. She runs until she's back where she started, tearing open the door she leaves it swinging behind her as she literally trips into the bedroom, she lands on her knees before the crib. The crib where her silent sad baby is sweaty and tear soaked and gasping for breath, his jumper stained with vomit and she cries.

She cries for the first time in she doesn't know how long when she realises she'd allowed her child to cry himself sick. That she'd left him in the apartment as he gasped for breath fighting the state she'd allowed him to get into it. Pulling herself up she takes him from the crib and holds him close. She cries into his hair and rocks him back and forth, she curses herself, she apologises, and she says she loves him. She realises she does, she doesn't know how she didn't know it before.

She's still crying when her husband gets home, she's rocking a silent sleeping baby now, but she's still crying. Still shaking. She doesn't realise he's in the room until he speaks her name. Even through the matted bangs and tear filled eyes she can see he's shocked as he walks tentatively toward her. Kneeling before the pair he says her name again, and she breaks, holding his eyes properly for the first time since their child was born before saying the words he'd prayed to hear her say for weeks.

"I need help."