“The quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations he sets not only for himself, but for his family.” — Reed Markham
They say you don’t become a man until the first time you hold your baby in your arms, and while cliche, I now know it is the truth. The first moment I laid eyes on my son and the nurse placed him into my hands, I knew.
I was a changed man.
Pregnancy had been challenging for my wife. She had suffered most her life from anxiety and depression and so for the safety of our unborn child she decided to stop taking her medication. This coupled with a strict order to remain on bed rest for the final three months of her pregnancy had been particularly taxing, I recall one incident when she whipped a glass at my head entirely unprovoked. My knee jerk reaction was to scream at her, but I bit my tongue while I swept the shattered glass from the floor.
Our son was delivered via C-section. This required 8 weeks of recovery. My company had generously offered me a 6 week paid paternity leave (they joked that the I.T. department basically runs itself anyway) allowing me to shoulder the responsibility of caring for our home as well as our newborn while my wife recuperated. Not to say that my wife was not involved. She took to her new role as mother with an aplomb I hadn’t anticipated, and slowly I began to see her emerge as a new woman. I voiced my concern to her about the stress she would be under once I returned to work, and so I insisted we employ a full-time nanny. At least until she had received full medical clearance. I preempted the paranoia I knew she would spout and insisted I take on the task of selecting the nanny. I assured her truthfully that I would do extensive research and find just the right person for the job.
Finding the right person was not as easy as I thought. With my strict criteria, this was going to be quite the undertaking. There are so many sick fucks out there. I read story after story of nannies killing their charges. One in particular stuck in my mind. A woman named Molly Wilde, stuffed an infant into an oven after she couldn’t handle the colicky baby’s cries anymore. The boy was discovered when a neighbor drunkenly knocked on the door to inquire about the smell of the amazing roast wafting from next door.
I searched diligently, checking references and conducting interviews until I finally found her. Our perfect nanny, Claire.
She was a tall, gaunt woman of 6’. Though she spoke softly, there was an urgency to every sentence that escaped her lips. Her lazy eye furiously scanned every room she entered.
My wife took an instant disliking to her as I knew she would. I assured her that she met my impossibly strict criteria and was perfect for the job. My wife gave me that look, you know the one, but she saw in my eyes an implacable stubbornness there was no use arguing with. This would be our nanny whether she liked it or not. I hugged her and said, “you’ve done so much for this family, it’s my time to start taking care of us.” I could feel her relax into my arms as she whispered her agreement. We kissed tenderly.
She moved in the weekend before I returned to work. The house had returned to order, in her eyes my wife was able to be Supermom, and Claire was there to be an extra set of hands when needed. Especially at night. My son had awoken one evening, short of breath. By the time my wife got to his room, he had recovered. Much to my dismay she now insisted that he be monitored at all times. I told her paranoia was getting the better of her, but she wouldn’t budge. She would keep vigil at his bedside each night until she grew too weary, and then she would let Claire take over duty. After several weeks without incident, it seemed the episode was a fluke. While out getting groceries, I got the call from Claire.
My son had stopped breathing.
My wife had fallen asleep during her watch, “it was only a moment”, but when Claire had gone in to check on them, she found him blue in the face, barely conscious. The paramedics arrived immediately and continued CPR on him. My wife was inconsolable. At the hospital she demanded that they run every test possible on him. She became hysterical while talking to the doctor, so much so that she was risking being hospitalized herself. I assured her that he was in good hands. We were fortunate to be located in close proximity to one of the country’s top pediatric hospitals. My son was monitored for 24 hours and appeared to have made a full recovery. The tests showed no indications for medical concern. However, the doctors agreed we should monitor him closely and contact them if he demonstrated any signs of further respiratory distress. My wife was adamant that he stay longer, that more tests be run. When I tried to calm her, she lashed out. “You don’t even care,” she said with fury in her eyes. “You didn’t even want him.” I nearly slapped her, but I regained my composure and eventually the doctors, Claire, and I were able to convince her to return home with the baby.
The following weeks were trying on our family. My wife was riddled with guilt over what had happened on “her watch.” She would alternate between hovering over our son to demanding that Claire keep him away from her, that she couldn’t be trusted. My wife stopped breast feeding so she could go back on her medications, but they didn’t seem to help. Rather quickly things began to unravel. Another urgent call from Claire while I was out. Apparently, my wife had left our sleeping infant to take a call from her mother, and when she returned to check on him he was unconscious. During her pregnancy she had insisted on taking CPR courses for infants and was able to resuscitate him until the paramedics arrived. At the hospital she was a wreck. Her mental state had been slowly deteriorating since the first incident with our son and by the time I got there she was completely unhinged. I had no choice but to admit her for her own safety under advice from the doctor. At Claire’s insistence I left her to watch over my wife and son and returned home to an empty house for the first time in years.
My wife and son were soon discharged from the hospital, but everything was different now. At the hospital the doctors questioned me about my wife, “did she have a history of mental illness? Had she ever tried to hurt herself or anyone else? Had she expressed signs of postpartum depression? Was she capable of hurting my son? What did she mean when she said that I had told her I felt trapped? Were we having problems?” I did not let any of this affect me. I had to remain strong. I couldn’t let their suspicions infect my mind. My wife and son would return home with me, under my care. Things would all be better soon.
I was determined to bring normalcy back to the house. I entrusted Claire with the care of my family during work hours, and endeavored to be the best husband and father I could be upon my return. But my wife showed no signs of improvement. She became listless, sleeping all day, and pacing all night. Her doctor prescribed new combinations of drugs to treat her symptoms, but she only seemed to get worse. She would refuse to feed or even hold our son out of fear. She began to rely more and more on Claire to take over the care of our son.
It had been six months to the day since the birth of my son. I arrived home early from work with take-out from my wife’s favorite restaurant and a small cake to celebrate this mini-milestone. The house was quiet when I arrived, and I carefully set up the meal doing my best not to make a sound. I quietly crept towards the bedroom and peeked in to see my wife asleep in our bed. I decided I would check on my son and Claire before waking her, and continued on tip-toe to my son’s bedroom. I could see Claire standing over my son, looking down at him in his crib, and as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I made out something in her hands, a small pillow. Claire startled as she realized my presence and backed away dropping the pillow to the floor. I rushed to my son, but as I held in my arms I knew it was too late. His body was limp and cold. Silent. His chest still. His eyes, open and expressionless. I immediately knew I had to stifle my smile and feign horror.
My plan had worked.
The police investigation revealed that “Claire” was actually a woman named Fiona Goode. Ms. Goode had changed her name after being released from a psychiatric facility for the murder of an infant who had been in her care. Apparently during her tenure as a nanny, more than one child had suffered from “suspicious respiratory ailments.” Soon, she graduated to infanticide when she smothered 4 month-old Jessica Lynn. Ms. Goode was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was institutionalized for a year and a half before being deemed fit to return to society. Six months later she had reinvented herself as “Claire.” Imagine my surprise when this woman was advertising her services as a nanny with such a clear paper trail. All in my area. Could it be more perfect?
This time around she would not be so lucky with the justice system. Claire made a feeble attempt at a defense, claiming she and I were having an affair and she had only did what she had done so that I could be free of my wife and child, and we could be together. These allegations fell on deaf ears and on advice of counsel she entered a guilty plea. She avoided the death penalty and received life in prison.
My wife could not cope with what she deemed her culpability in the death of our child. Her pregnancy was an “accident” and although children were not part of our plan, there would be no further discussion about it. She had found her calling.
She was a mother.
Now she was an empty shell of a woman. No longer the gorgeous, vivacious beauty I had married (to be honest she hadn’t been that in a long time). She was disheveled, wallowing in self-pity, careening towards the edge of sanity. It was a near impossibility to hide my near constant glee at the state of this cunt of a woman.
I hate her so fucking much.
I found her in our son’s room the morning after we had buried him. An empty bottle of pills and vodka surrounded her lifeless body (a minor miracle since most of her medications were replaced by me with aspirin). I burned the note she carried in her hand without even giving it a glance and spat on her corpse for good measure.
But life must go on as they say. No one seemed surprised by my decision to sell the house and leave my job. “They would want you to live your life,” they say. “A fresh start will be good for you.” And I couldn’t agree more. From the moment I first saw my son, I knew. Life as I knew it would be forever changed. I had become a man, a free man at that and my future was mine and mine alone.