The Masters Review Blog

May 22

New Voices: “The Space Between Heartbeats” by Jessica Yen

Jessica Yen’s “The Space Between Heartbeats,” this week’s New Voices entry, offers an honest look at the difficulties of pandemic parenting. Already an isolating and exhausting experience, the forced-solitude of the COVID pandemic compounded the frustrations of raising a newborn and led, Yen shows us, to this moment of frustration, and the moment immediately after, when “remorse overtook frustration.” Read Yen’s flash nonfiction below!

Friends and family had frequently assured me I’d be a wonderful parent, not understanding the tepid smile I gave in response. They knew only my tremendous reservoir of patience, not how quickly it could drain. It had always been easier to wallow in remorse than to try to change.

Once, the baby woke prematurely from a nap, or perhaps she screamed and refused to go down for one, I remember not which, only that I needed a moment to myself and she would not grant me even that. Resentment vaporized any patience that still clung to my bones. By that point, the husband and I—and only the husband and I—had tag-teamed at least seven hundred naps between us, spread over the first one hundred days of COVID. While we tended this endless cycle, other people cultivated sourdough starter. Binged movies for days. Napped twice in an afternoon. Just once, I would not be beholden to the baby’s needs. She would submit.

I stormed into the darkened room. Each stomp mushroomed my fury like a sheet of sun. I flew to her bassinet, then reached in and yanked the baby out.

Perhaps she welcomed my appearance, thinking it portended a play session. Perhaps, swaddled as she was in an oversized muslin blanket, a package more fabric than human, she did not sense the iron in my fingers. Perhaps her gaze held a mixture of surprise and hope and maybe even love.

As soon as I lifted the baby to chest height, I tossed her in the air.

To continue reading “The Space Between Heartbeats,” click here.

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