is Withersmith in peril?
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Baby Addison
by KJ Hannah Greenberg



Chet stared at the small human who lay swaddled in his arms. His face paled.


The midwife grabbed his elbow and led him to the rocking chair. She nearly had to push him into it. As long as a father was seated, a baby had less risk of falling to the ground.


Beryl Ryleigh Addison Tinsley had come into the world so quickly that Dorothy’s midwife, who had been hastily called, had missed the birth. Not so the squad of paramedics that Chet had summoned thereafter.


Immediately, the midwife shooed away those men and women trained to attend to unplanned, out-of-hospital deliveries. To actualize their departure, she had had to flash her formal papers at them and to remind them that no emergency had occurred.


Scowling, those bravehearts emptied dustbins and otherwise tied up Dorothy and Chet’s home before leaving. It was imperative to them that their quick flight in an ambulance had served some utility.


Meanwhile, having ascertained that Chet would rock gently so as to not drop the newborn, the private health professional set about attending to Dorothy. No stiches or other fixes were needed.


She led herself to the couple’s kitchen, searched for a particular type of tea and then set a kettle on the stove. New mothers need hydration, calories, and warmth.


Dorothy was cocooned in multiple blankets. The midwife’s assistant was enroute, having first stopped at the midwife’s house to load her car with some of the frozen casseroles that the midwife kept for clients. In the immediate future, though, the fledging mother needed just ample warm liquids and a shower.


A few hours later, after the midwife was satisfied that Dorothy could void as well as make use of her rear deck, and that she could nurse her baby, albeit awkwardly, the midwife and her assistant left. In the interim, the practitioner had made the acquaintance of Withersmith and Rutherford. Whereas Mr. Henry had jumped onto the kitchen windowsill from outside to ask for a sample of whatever was baking, he just as quickly left; the midwife had had an odd, herbal, medicinal smell.


Withersmith, however, had enjoyed the portion of casserole that the assistant had accidentally dropped. Rutherford, too, had nibbled at those fragments. Yet, Withersmith was somewhat miffed when the midwife had tasked him with “guarding the threshold” of Chet and Dorothy’s bedroom rather than allowing him in to sniff the new baby.


After she left, Withersmith sniffed. Rutherford wandering into the bedroom, too, but remained beneath the bed as their new family member was piercingly high pitched.


The casseroles lasted only two days; Chet served them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For some odd reason, his beloved wanted no part of his creative, ecologically-friendly cooking. He offered tofu burritos and chickpea loaf, but all that Dorothy was willing to down was slices of roasted turkey. As he hauled pan after pan of dead bird out of their oven, she inhaled the stuff while muttering about postpartum recovery and the soothing nature of tryptophan.


Nancy Lynn did not appear at their door until Dorothy was two weeks postpartum. As the young neighbor charged past Chet, she complained that her mother had made her stay home until “the baby built up immunities.”


All the while, Withersmith wagged and wagged at her reappearance. Mr. Henry sniffed her hands for treats, found none, and jumped back out the kitchen window to the relative quiet of the yard. Rutherford stayed behind the refrigerator.


“Oops, I forgot,” declared the little girl. She returned to the front door and fetched the picnic basket that Mr. Henry had already sorted (it was a short distance from the grass beneath the kitchen window to the front door.) The bite marks in the tuna casserole evidenced his work.


Chet sighed as he lifted the viands from their hamper. There must be an unwritten rule that postpartum moms needed white flour, white sugar, and sundry unhealthy forms of

“nourishment.” In addition to the partially tasted casserole, the trug contained an apple pie, a box of crackers, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, a box of chocolate chip cookies, and a cucumber of questionable worth.


“Did you find what I added?” asked Nancy Lynn.


Chet nodded. Surely, his young neighbor had baked neither the pie nor the casserole. Were the cookies her contribution? The sandwich makings? The wilted vegetable? “Thanks!”


“Hungry!!” shouted Dorothy from the bedroom.


Chet popped corn and warmed up one of the new casseroles. He tasted a cookie and then another. Whereas he hadn’t formed an “empathy belly” while Dorothy was pregnant, in the last two weeks, he had gained noticeable weight.


Sighing, Chet wondered if middle age spread was caused by living with a hormone-driven spouse or with highly dependent children. So far, at least, Addison’s diapers were passable and he hadn’t any feeding duties since their baby was exclusively breastfed. On the flip side, there seemed to be inadequate oxytocin in Dorothy and Adisson’s bond as his wife was almost always hangry.


While Chet plated the casserole, Nancy Lynn helped herself to popcorn. She got busy tossing a kernel at a time to Withersmith. The dackel politely kept down all of those corn seeds until after the Nancy Lynn left. Thereafter, he puked on the living room carpet, in the kitchen, and at the foot of Chet and Dorothy’s bed.


Dorothy only commented on the mess in their bedroom. She had yet to leave that space, relying on the en suite bathroom for personal needs and on Chet for all else.


By the time that Addison was a month old, Dorothy had moved her station to the living room sofa. She left the house for all of Addison’s well baby care appointments but otherwise had not crossed the threshold.


What’s more, the only bedroom activity that Dorothy wanted to engage in was sleep. Worse, when she didn’t position Addison between her and Chet, Dorothy sectioned off her half of the mattress with a wall of pillows.


Often, Chet would roll over so that instead of embracing his beloved, he slept with his back to her. On such occasions, if he forgot to fully close the bedroom door, he’d find Mr. Henry purring on his head and Withersmith and Rutherford curled up on his side of the floor (when Chet needed the bathroom before dawn, he had to be very careful not to step on the hedgehog.)


“Sweetie, maybe you should see a doctor. I don’t think it’s normal to be crying all the time.”


“Hormones! Mastitis! You can’t understand what it’s like to pass a watermelon through the eye of a needle.”


“Maybe, I should call the midwife, again.”


“Maybe, you should cook me an anchovy omelet.”


“Didn’t Addison throw up last time you ate one before nursing her?”


“That was the chocolate-covered spinach. I’m bereft without chocolate.”


“There’s always carob.”


“… and tofu and sorghum and goat milk. Enough with the health food store!”


“I thought you liked my lotus root curry and my teff pancakes.”




“Maybe, you’d consider supplements? You’re likely lacking in manganese and magnesium as well as lacking zinc and phosphorus.”




“Your midwife suggested that…”


“Stop calling her! She’s my care provider, not yours. Also take Withersmith away. He needs to go up for adoption.”




“The pound. The ASPCA. Wherever. I don’t care.”


“You’ve had him since you were an undergrad.”


“I’m done having him. For that matter, Rutherford, and Mr. Henry, too, need new homes.”




Dorothy burst into tears. “The only way I can escape thoughts about hurting Addison is to focus on getting rid of those companions. Any other private things you want to know?”


The midwife suggested a psychologist who specialized in the baby blues.


The therapist’s waiting room was full of photos of happy moms and their children.


Addison mewed as soon as the young family found seats next to the magazine racks. When Dorothy took her nursing blanket out of her pack to feed their baby, she began to cry. “All I do is feed her. Look at me! I haven’t showered in days. I sleep for three to four hours at a time, at most. Plus, I’m always hungry.”


“We could bottle feed, sometimes, so you could sleep. Doesn’t have to be formula—you could pump while nursing. I could lose a little sleep some nights so you can gain some.”


“Maybe. Thanks for sending our furry friends to the vet for a ‘vacation’ and not leaving them at a shelter. When I’m semi-lucid, I remember that I adore them.”


“I know.”


“You hate me?”


“Not at all. I just wish that I could cook lentil Bolognese or make another whole roasted cauliflower again.”


“How dare you! I gag at the thought, let alone the smell of …”


“Welcome. Please come in.” A middle-aged woman in neat, albeit casual, clothing gestured to an office that opened off the waiting room. A sofa thick with pillows and a throw rug, many plants, and towering bookcases filled that space. Additionally, a desk and a swivel chair stood waiting.




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