Meredith pricked her finger, wincing at the pain, she carefully squeezed out three drops of blood. She had been doing this for three months now and it still hurt just as much as the first time. She had hoped that, as time passed, the pain would lesson, but it hadn’t. She swirled the bottle around, making sure the blood was mixed in, somehow he always knew and if it wasn’t there he wouldn’t drink it. Still, this was better than when she was breastfeeding, she still had scars around her nipples. She didn’t know what was wrong with him, doctors didn’t know either, but then they hadn’t searched very hard. Meredith had tried in the beginning, tried to get them to see but they wouldn’t, or couldn’t. They would look at her bruised, swollen nipples and tell her that it wasn’t uncommon for there to be small problems like that and, if it was becoming too much for her she could simply switch to a bottle. She didn’t bother trying to point out the sores. She had tried to tell them of how he wouldn’t drink his milk unless there was blood, but she saw how they looked at her. They thought the problem was her, her hormones still going crazy after giving birth, perhaps some form of postnatal depression manifesting in strange ways. They didn’t seem to understand that she loved her son, loved him as much as any mother could love their child, but that didn’t stop her knowing that something was wrong.
He took the bottle from her hands and held it up to his mouth, he was still so tiny, but he was so strong. Five months old and already able to feed himself without a problem. It made her worried, he was growing at a normal rate, his last check up had shown that, but what would happen when he started to switch so solid foods? Would he be able to eat normal things or would they need to be raw, bloody. The thoughts of it kept her up at night. If it came to it she would give it to him, buy bits of meat and sear the outside to make it as safe as possible for him. She didn’t know if it would make him sick, after all he wasn’t like other babies, so why should he get sick like them? He didn’t cry, not really, but he would scream. There were no sobs in the screams, no pauses for breath, just a solid wall of noise emitting from his tiny mouth. Thankfully he didn’t do it often and only once in public. People all around them had stopped what they were doing and turned to look for the source of the noise and almost as if he sensed them looking, he stopped. It was the only time he had screamed in public.
Sometimes dark thoughts would enter her mind, that her baby was evil, that he wasn’t right, that she should do something to stop him now while there was a chance, but she always pushed those thoughts away, horrified that they had come from her. He was her child, she could never hurt him and besides, he was innocent, no matter what, he was still innocent.
His conception was unusual, but it wasn’t violent. It was cold, sterile, clinical. Meredith was getting on in years, she was on the wrong side of thirty five and she wanted a baby. There were no men on the horizon, and certainly no men that would be willing to settle down so quickly, so she had done the only thing she could, she had gone to a clinic. Really, of all her options it was the best, her only other choice would be a one night stand with some stranger, hoping that he didn’t pass down some genetic illness to their child. Besides, she didn’t want the father in her life, perhaps someday she would meet someone, someone she wanted to marry and another man would just complicate the issue. She had chosen him from a list of profiles, handsome, tall, healthy and with few diseases in his family history.
When he had been born there was nothing to suggest there was anything wrong, delivery went smoothly, there were no storms or ill omens, no flashing lights or sudden deaths, just pain and exhausting worry that something might go wrong until he was there and she was holding him, the pain already starting to seem so unimportant. He was so tiny, wrapped in his blankets, and so light in her tired arms. She held him to her chest and dozed, his weight a comfort.
It wasn’t until a week later that she started to suspect something was wrong, the first time he broke the skin on her breast and the fervor at which he started to suckle as she bled. She had tried to move him from her, switch him to the other breast. It was the first time she had heard him scream.
Meredith was frightened for her child, how would he grow and develop? How would the other children treat him? How would he treat them? They were all worries and concerns that were years down the road, but at the same time they were pressing matters. She didn’t want him labeled as violent or dangerous at a young age, she didn’t want that to close off doors for him, no mother wanted that for their child. She, like any other mother, wanted the best and for him to have as many chances to succeed as he needed.
Meredith took the bottle from his small hands and picked him up, gently bouncing him up and down. When she was done she carefully placed him into his cot and placed the blanket lovingly over his tiny form. She smoothed it down, gasping a little as her finger snagged on a bit of the blanket, leaving behind a smear of blood. Half asleep his hands reached out and gripped the blanket, pulling it towards his face, the drop of blood disappeared into his mouth. Meredith looked down at him, the gnawing worry still there, finally she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. He was her son and she would protect him, no matter what, she would protect him.