“Is the back door locked?” I ask my husband, and he nods. He doesn’t remind me that I’m the one who locked it. He doesn’t mention that I’ve already checked it three times because the rule is only odds, only odds, never evens. After two years together, he knows better than to question the invisible manufacturer’s warning seared into my flesh: may contain irrational fears and compulsions.
I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when I didn’t have to count to prevent imagined disasters, didn’t have numbers running in the background of my mind like the radio static of a channel that won’t be ignored. Checking and counting and tapping and counting and checking are the only ways to keep the uneasy ghosts of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at bay.
Now that I’m pregnant, I find myself reciting appointment dates over and over, and I seek out stillbirth statistics in an effort to quell the endless feelings of dread. Though the odds are in my favor, the numbers won’t leave. They won’t quiet.
“What if our baby’s first words are ‘Is the back door locked?’” I ask my husband.
“That,” he says, “is an awfully complicated sentence for a baby.”
“But what if he or she is anxious?”
He presses his cheek to my shoulder and kisses it five times. “It won’t matter. We’ll do everything we can to help them be happy and show them they’re loved.”
This isn’t enough, and we both know it. There are so many pieces to this, so many questions and fears and hopeful wishes that I can’t possibly begin count them all.
This thought soothes me.
When my husband falls asleep, I press my hand against the smooth, hard skin of my naked stomach and count the baby’s kicks. One, two, three, four. Four tiny, wordless promises.
Although the language is an alien morse code, I’m somehow fluent — so, with the tips of my fingers, I gently reply.
One, two three, four.
Kelsey Rakes is a writer who enjoys poetry, picnics, and poetry about picnics. Her life is a constant work in progress.
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