It wasnt my fault we lost Rudy sometimes I wonder would it have been better if hed been born dead no getting him baptized I wont regret that even if he doesnt believe I was a good mother because I didnt go to the birth I just didnt want to hear her screaming like she did with the night terrors having to crawl into bed with us like a baby I couldnt stand it I still remember like yesterday being split open but then she was here and all my hopes went into her yes and she was still little when we took her brother home he never did latch properly like she did slurping so loudly yes and looking up at me with those big doe eyes never grew into them but he had his eyes closed most of the time because he was so tired slept through his baptism he looked like a cherub made of marble Id never have another I knew that it hurt too much to bury him another thing you can never get back is the not knowing yes because I would have labored with him for weeks holding him in if Id have known he was safe inside me tucked up under my ribs and kicking until he got too big to move about yes it must have been warm in there they say the baby can hear you he said and hed talk to them both when they were in there feeling for kicks and kissing the thinnest part of the skin where you could practically see a foot or a hand poke through and hed call me silly things like my goddess O how I loved that rubbing my fat feet when I could hardly see them and telling me I glowed like it was magic yes its all magic until the puking and the shitting yourself dry and the enema the midwife gave me warm soapy water so nothing would come out along with the baby they never tell you it all feels like the same hole when youre pushing you cant tell the difference and without the enema youd shit the bed when the head was coming and wouldnt that be lovely the first smell of the real world not fresh air soft linen soap but mamas shit welcome to the real world it isnt all sunshine and daisys poor things mewling like kittens they didnt have to spank Milly she was wailing halfway out not silent like he was yes flicking his foot and smacking him on the bottom too hard I said give him here but no one listened to me until he cried poor thing I could hear them whispering that he was poorly right from the start but I did my best with him anyway rocking him at all hours of the night every 3 hours offering him the breast but he never did latch on not like his sister we took it for granted the first time how easy she was as a baby but not so easy now is she coming home with her tail between her legs like a stray dog telling me her courses havent come in nearing three months O lord if shed come to me sooner we could have gone to the woman at the laundresses I heard about they make you a special tea that makes it come away yes or stuffing some plant up inside you parsley was it to bring on your flow if youre just a little late before it has a chance to take hold but three months well of course thats a different story and I wasnt about to take her to some butcher you hear stories you know about girls in trouble hurting themselves and getting arrested for trying or succeeding letting the air in its called if it were safe maybe but no doctor would do it of course not even if it was killing you there were girls back home who died for the trying or killed themselves out of shame yes throwing themselves into the water and their bloated bodies washing up a week later or not at all what did their mothers think happened to them I wonder when they were just gone one day not even a bag packed O that would be the worst thing yes because I love her more than anything I think Id die if she disappeared like that Id hope shed run off to be married or even ruined in a house somewhere taking money to let them have at it anything at all would be better than dead and lost to the sea or hurt herself trying to get rid of the baby but of course losing one is worse than having one even with the stitches I had from her big head ripping me open down there that itched for years afterward nothing compares to losing a baby having your heart ripped out wouldnt hurt as much he said she didnt want to hold him after he came yes protecting herself I think if she thinks of him as her brother it wont be so hard at least hes alive and she can love him as a sister and not left alone in the ground in the dark and cold O I never thought Id smile again how do these women do it losing three or four babies and taking care of eight others like the Purefoys or the Murrays down the road there must be ten of them by now and who knows how many lost its such a big secret sometimes if it wasnt to term losing them at four or five months and having to go through the labor knowing already that theyre too small to live and theres nothing you can do to stop it I told him I was done after Rudy I couldnt go through that again its like giving up when your heart is broken youre so fragile I was like glass a wrong word could shatter me dont Touch me I yelled once I felt so bad about it but that was only a few months after and I still cried every night and prayed for forgiveness for neglecting my wifely duty he was stung but later he brushed my hair out O how nice it felt to feel the comb on my scalp and he was so gentle taking out all the tangles yes because he understood that I was broken up about it and he never pushed like that again only doing the other thing so there wasnt as much of a risk even though I so desperately wanted one take the decision out of my hands lord I said bring me a baby by any other means I remember praying for that like an idiot because I knew where babies came from but now we have one in the next room and its like that prayer was answered but God has a sense of humor ruining my daughter for a son.
God has given me another chance with this one I was so scared when I went to the hospital holding my stomach and playing the part screaming O lord get it out of me so the neighbors would have a good show because I was so sure there wouldnt be a baby walking into the hospital it felt like a crypt all the tiny souls that had died there at least Rudy died at home in his cot I wish I couldve been holding him when he took his last breath so he would have known he was safe and loved until the last but the Lord took him when he was needed and I have to believe that even if he doesnt or else Id go crazy I dont like hospitals I dont want to die in one theyre a sterile and lonely place but he would live here if he could its a wonder he didnt try to become a doctor he knows so much about the insides of you if I were a man I think Id like to be a doctor Id be the kind of doctor with soft hands not like crusty old Dr Collins whod shove your knees apart even if you were shy saying lets just take a little looksee no if I were a doctor Id tell it like it is without all the fuss most men cant say it straight even if theyre professionals they dont understand women or what we go through why couldnt there be women doctors for that kind of thing like midwives who know surgery there are smart enough women out there no because they dont want us to have our own money or a choice to do what we want to more women would chose to work I think if we could make enough money for a house of our own I liked being a mother especially when we had a good girl in the house to help with the cooking and getting rid of the dirt but its wasted on some women who could have done more and enjoyed it too poor things that dont love their husbands my singing career could have taken off it still could if only Boylan came back but it wouldnt be the same now with the new baby in the house of course I could let him play daddy when hes off canvassing here hold your son isnt he beautiful with his blond hair doesnt he look just like Milly hes got your eyes O no noone suspects a thing hes just proud as punch you know I did have to do it with him once when I realized I was in the way so hed take him as his own but just the once hes so jealous as a lover always asking for details when I said we never did it anymore youd think he was the husband with his possessiveness always trying to control me maybe its for the better that he broke it off after he went round to all the bars bragging that I was having another child and he was so happy to be a father again I cant believe we got away with it for all his scheming he knows how to keep a secret damn near the only thing he followed through on making sure the doctor knew ahead of time that hed be bringing in a baby how much did he have to pay I wonder for the forged certificate I bet the nuns set it all up but hes taking all the credit of course my Son he says now for all the world a preening peacock acting like he never had a son before I was worried hed forget all about Rudy and want to name this one after his father too no but Paul isnt so bad like Saint Paul the Apostle a good Catholic name only God knows hes a bastard and Ill take it to my grave if it means protecting him yes I suppose Im his mother now too young to be a grandmother if shed married the boy Id be a grandmother now O how humiliating a grandmother at 34 Id have just about killed myself if it wasnt a mortal sin you cant confess your suicide theyd stop you and lock you up in a hospital calling you unstable if you told the Father you wanted to die the church needs babies to baptize otherwise theyd lose business yes I said lets baptize him today even though he looked perfectly fine almost too perfect like a doll until he woke up and cried yes then he didnt look like a doll did he no he had a set of lungs on him like Milly and fine blond hair already soft on his head and that smell off of them when theyre brand new I could just put my nose right up in his ear and breathe it for hours if he was sleeping they must smell that way and melt your heart so you want to keep them yes because when people were like animals living in caves it would have been easier to drop them off in the woods somewhere when the earth was Godless I wonder did people have souls then before they knew about God they didnt know any better to get baptized or confess but He must have loved them in their ignorance those monkeymen yes because everyone was saved so their souls are fine even if they did kill their babies but they smell so good and look up at you with those big eyes no matter how tired you are from the crying and the feedings so you dont take it out on them with their sweet faces I always knew I wanted to be a mother although noone tells you how you ruin your body for them there should be a better way to go about it youd think theyd have figured out by now how to make it painless or make a machine to grow them in wouldnt that be funny seeing a baby grow in a fishtank swimming around then you could have some choice about it and the freedom to go places and do things when I was pregnant I could hardly walk down the stairs I thought Id burst open and spray my guts up the walls wouldnt that have been a sight blood sprayed all over the walls how much blood does a person have inside her I bet hed know better not ask if I dont want a lecture.
I hope shes learned her lesson and will be more careful the next time theres a boy after her skirt she hasnt been wagging her tongue anymore since limping home or acting the priss she knows weve saved her and shes got it easy not like those other girls in those homes for unwed mothers O the poor girls abandoned there because their mothers are ashamed of them still she should have been more careful you send a girl to train for a modern job like photography and she gets into all sorts of trouble yes I still think typing might have been better but there are so many typists now youd have to compete for the work and that means less pay and no backtalk if they can easily find someone else willing besides she likes the camera when we went to visit her in Mullingar she tried showing me how it worked I couldnt make heads or tails of the thing but she looked so happy with her flushed cheeks and her hair all flyaway in the wind we didnt know it yet but she was already pregnant by then yes it must have been about a month along she might have just been late and not known it yet herself though I wish shed told me that shed done it with a boy I wouldnt have been mad I remember being fifteen and the soldiers lusting after me its so tempting to let them get at you when its all new and exciting yes because theyll tell you anything to get a squeeze of your bottom or their fingers wet in you and lord knows I let a few of them get too far not far enough to get myself in a predicament but Im not oldfashioned I know a girls got to do something what if he lied to her and told her he had a french letter or it tore then it wouldnt really be her fault would it but she colours when I try to talk to her about sex and tries to get away like its torture shes so silly and shy no wonder some boy took advantage of her the poor girl probably didnt even know where babies came from until one came out of her yes I suppose thats my fault you dont want to tell them too much and let them get ideas before they would otherwise but you want your children to be prepared for the world too I could have told her how to get a man to come with your hand give them enough to keep them interested but not too much they want everything but none of the consequences all they have to say is that they werent the only one or it wasnt them and the babys a bastard you wouldnt know it to look at him that hes a bastard of course hes so perfect almost greeklooking like those statues of boys taking a piss into fountains Id forgotten what it was like to change napkins and boys start to pee as soon as you unwrap them its like theyre trying to make a mess or maybe its the cold air hitting them it must be a shock moving from the womb into the world getting squeezed out a too small hole and then being wrapped up all the time in clothes although Josie knitted that nice wool sweater for him I could hardly see her before he arrived for fear shed figure out I wasnt pregnant wonder why they never had children the Breens maybe hes too old to get it up on her a marriage isnt valid unless theres been consummation so they must have done it at least once O wouldnt that be a secret to keep an unconsummated marriage or maybe shes just barren its all the better he married me and not her hes a wonderful father and hes sworn hell do most of the work with Pauly since he was the one who convinced me to take him not that I wouldnt have if he hadnt hes my flesh and blood but all the better if he expects less of me and is grateful when I help take care of him.
If I had to be married to anyone Im glad its him and not some man who never helps out with the cooking and the babies even if there were only two of them and now Paulys come to us late in life I bet he thinks I wont be a mother to him well Ill prove him wrong for spite and be the best mother I did what I could for Milly and shes turned out fine yes because one mistake shouldnt ruin a whole future not when shes got such a talent for photographs it runs in the family he says because his grandfather had a photoshop but Milly has some real artist in her she sent some pictures home before she came to me with the news and they were beautiful yes I dont know much about photography but I know beautiful when I see it she should make postcards or sell her photos to the people who do yes wouldnt that be splendid having a real artist in the family my daughter with a job doing portraits or landscapes we could decorate the house with them to cover some of the wretched wallpaper in the hallway and she could redo my singing portrait and make me look ten years younger from putting the light just right yes because she deserves a chance to make a name for herself like I never did I can still make a few guineas here and there doing the old staples for the Eire Abu concerts but Ill never be a prima donna now not with a new baby at 34 thats at least four years until hes in school and Ill be too old then to do much more than that and tired too but I can still be a mother no matter what he says Ill love this baby like its my own at least theres no doubt whose baby he is if Id had him myself there would always be the suspicion hanging over us and looking for Boylan in his face or if he ever wanted to wear a straw hat that would be the nail in my coffin no Pauly is his fathers blood for sure born of a daughter and a medical student he should have known better what are they teaching those boys if not how the body works yes but however he came to us hes here now and healthy and thats all that matters yes and she didnt even need stiches and can already walk around like nothings happened yes its all the better that she cant seem to get her milk to come in I had milk to spare but shes got such tiny paps shed never be able to feed him herself anyway and theres milk powder for that yes in a few weeks shell be back in Mullingar and working again and well be here with our new son yes because his sister is just a child still babies having babies yes but at least shell have a chance at life and an opportunity to get out of all this pooh.
Casey Lawrence is a Canadian essayist and novelist pursuing a PhD in English Literature at Trinity College Dublin. Her academic work examines gender expression and crossdressing in the novels of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Djuna Barnes. Her LGBT young adult novels, Out of Order (2015) and Order in the Court (2016), are currently out of print due to the actions of Dreamspinner Press. She currently lives in Denmark with her partner.