We laughed as the doctor left the room and I tried to remember how to breathe.
I even slept a little throughout that long night until around 5am when we reached the moment when the baby finally arrived. A beautiful tiny baby girl, an almost pained look of relief on her face, happy to have escaped I thought, or is it the other way around, I wonder, pained by that physical confrontation of birth into our harsh world? I only held her for a short while before she was taken away to be further checked, taken to a ward on another level.
We knew that there was a problem in the intestine, the hospital had picked it up at 22 weeks after the scan revealed fluid in the intestine making it balloon slightly. Due to this effect, they had been able to observe peristalsis, the smooth muscle contraction of the intestine wall, which moves food or liquid along the intestine. Ordinarily, we should not be able to see this, but if there is some kind of blockage, it is possible to observe.
It had caused us significant anxiety, particularly because the doctor could neither guarantee nor predict an outcome. There were two options he had said. Either the baby will require an operation immediately after birth, or you will take the little one home and at some time in the near future it will be necessary to return to the hospital, because it will be a problem for him or her to keep food down. In this case, the baby will vomit continuously because the bowel will have ceased to function.
We preferred that the problem be dealt with as soon as problem, but we were not given sufficient information to feel in any way empowered to make any kind of decision. So it often is with hospitals, perhaps believing that too much information can only increase anxiety, it seems as if they withhold it. I’m not so sure it’s a good strategy, being aware of one’s ignorance and feeling powerless are more painful symptoms of anxiety than the harsh dose of reality, complete information might bring, at least in my mind.
I mean, why send a baby home and wait for something terrible like that to happen? What were the risks of the operation? Every question always ended with “It depends. We can’t know exactly until we can see inside.” There was no reassurance, we just had to wait and so I had tried not to absorb too much of the anxiety already flooding through my veins.
Now that the moment had arrived, they seemed to be acting quickly, there was no suggestion of any “wait and see” now. The baby was gone, they’d cleared her breathing passages, shoved a tube up her nose, tied off her umbilical cord, weighed her and taken her out of the room. I know I did get to hold her, but I have no memory or feeling of the bliss of holding my baby after birth; the rush and feeling of panic and anxiety obliterated all that and I only remember the helplessness of not being able to follow and wanting to make sure that someone who I knew and could trust would keep an eye on my baby girl. I hadn’t held her long enough to even remember what she looked like!
The baby is in the post natal ward they told me. I sent Susan immediately to go and find her, I was too weak to get out of bed, but I was desperate for someone to go and see my daughter, to find her and tell me that everything was okay.
“She’s okay” said Susan. “She’s downstairs in an incubator and she’s quiet, you can go and see her once you are up and showered.” I dragged myself to the shower, washed then went down to the ward to see her for myself. There was a place to insert my hands but I couldn’t actually touch her. Barriers, barriers, I sent her all the love and maternal energy my heart could generate; I sent it to her in abundance, through my mind, my heart, my hands, from every cell in my entire being. And I decided to call her Allia.
The nurse came to tell me that Allia would be transferred in a few hours to Great Ormond Street Hospital. She advised me that she would be transported in a specially equipped ambulance designed for babies.
“It is not possible for you to travel with the baby” she continued. “It would be better for you to stay here for the night, you need to recover. Your baby will be okay.”
My baby would be okay she had said. I was not okay. I did not want to be there alone, I did not care about recovering, I wanted to be with her, she needed me, she was about to face something drastic and invasive and they were recommending she do that alone, without me even being in the same building.
I told Susan to go home and get some rest. Other people came to visit me and were shocked to find me there alone. I hated lying there watching the other women with their babies, feeling as if I had abandoned my own, powerless to have kept her. I remembered that my husband was due to arrive back in London that day. We had been unable to reach him.
Someone called from Great Ormond Street Hospital to ask me for parental consent to conduct surgery on our daughter.
“Ordinarily, we would get you to sign a consent form, but as you are not here, we need to get your permission over the telephone” the Doctor explained.
“When will the operation be?” I asked.
“At about eight thirty this evening” he answered. I looked at the clock; it was nearly 6pm already.
“Wait” I said, “I’m coming now.” I went back to the ward to find my husband and my Aunt waiting there for me.
“I need to get out of here” I said. “They’re going to operate on her in two hours and I’m not waiting here while that is about to happen.”
“I’ll take you in my car” said my Aunt. I grabbed my things and the three of us sped out of the Royal Free Hospital and raced towards Russell Square to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
Next Up in the mother/daughter collaborative story A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence
Episode 5 : GOSH – A Kind of Neverland
Previous Episodes: Introduction
Episode 1: The Benefits of Insomnia
Episode 2: We are not Living in France!
Episode 3: The Benefits of Contra-Indicated Essential Oils
What a powerful post and so well written! I remember when my first born had jaundice and had to return to the hospital. I didn’t want to leave her for anything. I watched her wriggling under the lights that were bringing back her color and I was so worried. What you’ve been through is touching and brought tears to my eyes. Your blog is developing very well and I can’t wait for your next post. Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo next year? I think you’re definitely an undiscovered writer and I’m sure writing 50,000 words would be a piece of cake for you.
You’re so kind Didi, I would love to immerse into writing 50,000 words and maybe I should make next November a target, I only managed to read one book this month, but I at least started this writing project and knowing there are readers out there is really motivating.
My daughter had jaundice too, though that seemed like sunbathing compared to all else she had to go through!
Sorry about your book, my friend just returned it, so it will arrive at the end of Nov when you get back into reading, or are you a converted writer now?
I had a great experience writing, but I love reading. It was hard for me not reading as much as I would like. I read This Is Where I Leave You so quickly. It was a joy to get back into the swing. I’ll probably get back into reading my novel and rewriting passages in January. I have my 50 book goal to finish along with a few blog tours for Tribute. One should be going up tomorrow. I really think you should give NaNo a go next year. It was a pleasure to finish early and to print out my certificate. No worries about the book. I’ll be happy whenever it comes. My first won giveaway. I still haven’t won any on Goodreads. Have you?
I know what you mean when the reading dries up, it’s not easy to do both and when I am in a serious writing mode I can’t read because it intimidates my work and feeds the inner critic.
I don’t really follow the GoodReads giveaways, unless something comes up that I really want to read, I think the odds are better on blogs. I like the idea of doing giveaways though. I have another coming up for Christmas, are you going to participate in the BlogInFrance.com blog hop?
Haven’t heard of it, but I’ll check it out. Are you participating in it?
Yes, impulse move, put my name down, now need a blog buddy in there with me 🙂
It’s done. I signed up and got the ok that I’ve been accepted. Not sure what I have to do but it could be cool to do and end of the year giveaway. I haven’t done that yet. I wanted to do it for 100 subbies but at the moment I’m at 74 and that’s cool too. 🙂
This is beautiful emotive. It really touched me.
Thank you Kate, I’m touched at the responses and makes it feel worthwhile to share, it’s not easy to lay it all bare, but hindsight provides an interesting and therapeutic view.
While I would otherwise respond that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to go through this experience if it were my newborn baby girl, your writing sweeps me into the hospital room and I can feel all of the emotions you are experiencing. Can’t wait for the next installment!
Thank you bookpeeps, it’s what I hope to do when writing, not just to tell a story, but to make the reader experience something of what is occurring as if they were experiencing it themselves, your comment suggests I may have come close to achieving that. Thank you for your encouragement.
Allia’s bright illustrations bring sunlight and hope into each episode of your gripping story. ‘bookpeeps’ above, said it perfectly – your words take us along on every step of this journey.
Thank you Patricia, I agree, I love how the optimist inside her comes out in her pictures, it is wonderful to see each image appear, with none of the anxiety I was harbouring at the time, I feel like I was brave and confident seeing her depictions!
Claire, your writing is so vivid. I can feel your distress – made me cry. So hard, so far away and alone. Love you cuzzy.
It is amazing how the maternal instinct for protection and survival kicks in, I remember it being quite surreal, I remember coping well and wondering why I wasn’t feeling emotional, nature is incredible, she wouldn’t allow any of that until much, much later – not when there’s an important job for a new mother to do. Thanks cuz, love that you are following and sharing the story. 🙂 Love you too.
Hello, Claire — I’m loving this collaboration with your daughter (and the motivation behind it), this episode being especially moving; there’s an urgency it compasses. November has been a bit of blur to me — ‘Frankenstorm’ left me without power for almost a week, and recovery set me back as well. I actually started NaNoWriMo, then, with all good sense, bowed out, though I did manage a post on my decision to ‘Just Say No. . . .’ http://amwritingblog.com/wordpress/archives/15772. All of which is to say, I’m back — and chomping the bit to read Episode 5. 😉 Please tell your daughter I find her illustrations delightful.
Hanging on every word. Such an experience to recall. How is this process of writing the words out impacting you?
Thanks Nelle, and an interesting question, I guess the answer is two-fold. Hindsight brings such relief, to reflect on the experiences and to have some distance from the roller coaster of the ride at the time, it brings a sense of closure, perhaps some healing and is comforting and interesting to share the story with my daughter who was there but we’ve never articulated it in this way before. The conversation really started when we had occasion to spend 2 weeks in hospital together last year, that brought back many memories for me and I told her we’d been here before. Seeing how she imagines it is just wonderful.
The other side of it is the slight discomfort in sharing a personal story and really if it wasn’t for the positive feedback, it probably would have stayed between the pages of my writing notebook. But I want to get over that, so hope that this exercise will help me achieve that.
Thank you as always for being one of the supporters, words more precious than gold.
You are most welcome. Intense experiences influence our lives in some way, and goddess knows I’ve had a few, alone and involving my daughters. I admire anyone who tackles it all and ploughs onward, in some cases with a need to learn and grow, and others to come to terms. Such sharings will hold me every time.
I’m glad it’s cathartic writing about it—such a crazy, scary situation. Even though my birthing experience was totally different, I can absolutely imagine the anxiety you felt. Being a mother has made me a stronger person, I fully believe this, but you had to be strong immediately! Good for you. Looking forward to the rest of the piece.
What an awful experience. I can’t believe they would keep you in the dark like that; and take your baby to one hospital and leave you in another. I think that sometimes those in the medical profession lose sight of the fact that medicine is not just about science. It’s also about humanity. You are not just treating a disease. There is a human being there who also needs to be considered.
I remember the stark contrast in emotions, first to be told they’ve designed a specialised baby ambulance – great, she’ll be safe and well monitored – and then the shock, that this so called modern design, excluded the one thing a new baby needs the most, the presence of it’s mother, how could they have got it SO wrong. At the time it was an instinct, but now I know from experience and knowledge how wrong this was.
You’re so right about humanity, and in the case of a baby, that includes the mother as well.
Of course your baby needed you. It IS shocking that they didn’t get that. But really, the practice of medicine should always include the loved ones, even if the patient isn’t a baby. I spent lots of time in hospitals with my late mother. So I saw, close up, how badly they get it wrong a lot of the time. There was a very old woman, dying, in the bed opposite my mother once. The nurses were incredibly kind to her, even though she wasn’t conscious. One day, her extremely elderly husband came in, with another family member. The ‘head honcho’ doctor, with his little flock of interns finally blew into the room after they’d been sitting there forever, waiting. He showed no compassion. No humanity. No warmth or compassion. He referred to this man’s wife as ‘she’ and ‘her’. He never looked at the man, or the patient. All he looked at was a bag of urine hanging by the side of the bed. And all he said was, judging by how little there was, she’d probably be gone in a day or two. And with that, he and the flock turned and left the room. It was DISGUSTING!!!! I finally went over to them and told them how incredibly kind the nurses were to his wife, and what wonderful care they had been giving her. I just couldn’t stand it. Now what kind of example did that doctor give to those students? And that’s why you had to endure what you did, with your baby. We’re not teaching the right things (or at least all of the right things) in medical schools. Shameful!