May 20, 2024

My hair plasters itself to my forehead with sweat, and my toes curl with pain, but although I pant with the effort of managing it, I cradle my baby in my arms as if she were a flower petal—easily crumpled by the slightest touch.

The nightmare of labor is over, at last. Three days of worrying for my daughter’s life, my life, the medical staff’s sanity—wondering when my husband, Jacob, would return every time he left the room. It was worth it. She is worth it.

Jacob cowers in the back corner, keeping his clean work suit away from the fluid-stained towels. The staff—the nurses and attendings who assisted with the delivery—stand around the foot of my bed, identical with their starched scrubs and unblinking gazes.

Admiring my baby girl’s shut eyes, round chin, wisps of blonde hair, I laugh and kiss her tiny forehead. I get it now—new mothers’ obsessions with the smell of their child. I want to hold my nose to her head forever.

“She is too perfect.” I breathe through the spasms in my back and legs, smiling up at the crowd around my bed. They are silent. Eerily silent.

I run my fingertips along the white towel covering my daughter’s curled body and let it fall away. Her skin is warm and supple against mine. But then I turn over my baby’s wrist. Running alongside the blood in her fragile veins is a blue number—the curse we all must bear.

My smile doesn’t drop right away. I look the nurses in the eye. I see their tight lips, tense foreheads, slow breathing. My gaze drops to the numbers on their wrists: -36, -72, -41. They saved two lives today. Of course, they are going to Heaven.

But, my child… The innocent who has lived on Earth for all of four minutes…

I blink rapidly, and my eyebrows knit together as I read and reread the massive number flawing her skin. My lips twitch into a frown, my teeth grind together and my nostrils flare. Shock, fear, and anger electrify my nerves, materializing as a hoarse demand, “How is this possible?”

The nurse closest to me winces.

“583? She is already damned to Hell!”


I shuffle to the kitchen, feet falling out of my slippers, to boil the kettle for a cup of decaf coffee. It is 4:30 pm and the first time I’ve left my bedroom today. The only thing that has kept me going for the past three weeks is my daughter, who is almost permanently strapped to my chest with a sling wrap. She has slept all day, exhausted from wailing all night. Google told me I must eat and stay hydrated to produce enough milk for her to breastfeed.

Google is the only one who will help. The only one who won’t judge her for the number she can’t control.

It has risen to 690 since we left the hospital. She gains a point if she screams, a point if she spits, a point if I cry. Fifty points for her father leaving.

My number has risen too. From three to 43. I am only seven points away from the gateway to Hell. Perhaps I should not have sworn at the hospital staff, ripped their needle out of my arm and smeared blood all over the floor trying to crawl to the exit. I definitely shouldn’t have pummeled Jacob with my fist when he called our child a demon. But I would not take that last thing back. How could I wish to spend eternity in Heaven without my baby girl?

I blink out of my tired daze and rock her back and forth while the kettle roars to boiling point. Her tiny fingers open and close as she stirs.

“We’re going shopping today,” I whisper into her hair. 

Her curls are growing defined already. When it’s long, she will look like a princess. She whimpers and puckers her lips. My stomach flutters as I watch her wrist for any fluctuation in her number. I rock her harder.

“You haven’t done anything wrong,” I say forcefully. “You are my angel. My Angel.”

I pour my drink, muttering her new name over and over. Angel.

Angel, Angel, Angel.

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose is the Managing Editor for Hey! Young Writer and assisted in starting this amazing blog but now spends most of her time helping our founder, Alee Anderson, with her ghostwriting business. She is the author of two middle-grade, fantasy novels and a fan of all things history related! You can follow her on Instagram at @deborahroseintheforest or visit her website, to read more of her writing.



Featured image by Colin Maynard.