She swaddles the baby in a clean blanket, just as they showed her at the hospital. She whispers the instructions as she goes.
"First, fold the blanket in a triangle. Then place the baby in the center." She scoops the little bundle into the center of the blue cloth and continues.
"Then take the left corner across the baby's body and tuck it behind." Pulling the blanket across the small body, she pokes the cloth behind its' back.
She strokes one small cheek and reaches for the right corner. "Across with the right corner, pull up and tuck behind. Now your baby feels safe and secure." A final tuck of the blue fabric and she smiles, satisfied with her work.
Making a cradle of her arms, she carries the quiet bundle to the rocking chair, and sits. To and fro they rock, a gentle reminder of the womb that acted as a swaddling cloth for those many months of one-ness. She gazes at the small face. Eyes closed, mouth a thin line, breath nothing more than a miniscule puff of air. Life, delicate and sturdy, lies in her arms.
She feels drowsy and closes her eyes. How good this weight feels in her arms. Natural. Motherly. The rocking slows and stops as sleep overtakes her.
The bundle shifts in her arms and she comes awake, moving through fog and sludge. She does not open her eyes but lets her hand stroke the tiny being's soft, furry face.
Her eyes open and bile rises in her throat. She makes herself look at the baby. Its face is indeed furry. Whiskers poke out from the triangle nose and its green/yellow eyes are narrow slits, gazing back at her.
And then she remembers. Remembers the hospital. The bright lights and pain. And the crying. And the silence. The cancerous silence that started with the baby and spread to the nurses, the doctor, her husband and then her.
She strokes the small kitten's face. She pulls it close to her cheek and lets her tears fall to the sound of the purring of a cat.