birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Run, Baby, Run

I can't move. I must run. Something is after me. I'm really scared. My heart is pounding. I can't breath. But I can't move. My legs are so heavy. Each step takes all of my strength. Then I wake up, sweating, to discover my arm over my head has gone numb. I have to pick it up and move it with my other hand. Then pins and needles as the blood rushes back down to my finger tips. Relieved, I fall back to sleep.

I'm running errands, going places, very busy, rushing around doing who knows what. Then suddenly I panic. I can't remember when I last saw my new baby. Where did I leave her? I rush back into a store. Did I leave her here? No. I run down the street. I must get home quickly. I left her there. Alone? Is there a babysitter? I'm certain I didn't hire a sitter.

It's been weeks since I held my baby. How could I have forgotten all about her. She's so little, so dependent. And I completely forgot about her. How long have I been gone?

She must be at home. I left her there. Misplaced her there. I race into the house and up the stairs. She's not in her crib. Not my room. Not the bathroom. I run down the stairs and into the den. I lift the couch cushions as if I'm going to find her among the lost change. And there she is. Tiny, shrunken, starving, under the couch cushions. I had been sitting on her while I watched television, read a book, folded the laundry. Forgetting I'm a mother. Forgetting I have a daughter. Forgetting my life.

She is so weak she can't even cry. I am a terrible, terrible mother. I don't have any milk left in my breasts, more evidence that it's been weeks since I left her on the couch and allowed her to settle down deep through the cracks in the cushions. How can I save my baby if I have no breast milk?

My breathing is so labored and noisy I wake myself. I realize my daughter is grown now. I must have found some way to feed her. Gradually I recognize the dream. My dream, the one I have again and again. The anxiety drains away, fading like the pain of the pins and needles from earlier in the night, when I had my other dream. While that dream makes sense, this one I never understand. And I never forgive myself. Some part of me is capable of misplacing my baby. This dream recurs to warn me.

I turn on the light and read tomorrow's New York Times on my iPad. The news is horrifying enough to distract me from this fresh reminder of the darkness within me.

Keeping awake

The Disadvantaged