At Great Ormond St Hospital we were shown to the Woodland Ward, the family and children friendly ward names, a first step in reducing my overburdened anxiety levels. Allia was in a beautiful communal room decorated for children, with soft lighting, colour, patterned bed sheets with giraffes and monkeys. The quiet whispers of the nurses a stark contrast to the beige walls, formica cabinets and metal machines with cables and hoses draped everywhere of the hospital we had just left.
It was like we had left the factory and entered Neverland. In a way we had. GOSH has the benefit of many private donors and receives royalties from the estate of J.M. Barrie, who claimed Peter Pan had been a patient in Great Ormond Street Hospital and that:
It was he who put me up to the little thing I did for the hospital.
Allia was asleep in an open incubator so we could actually touch her. She was so peaceful sleeping there. There was no naso-gastric tube in her nose, only lines in her hands and feet, things that in this environment were as ordinary and common as sheets and blankets. She was okay and she was going to be okay. She looked more comfortable now than she had before and I was just happy to be there with her.
It was a shock for my husband. Having missed the birth itself, he was now confronted with something even more difficult, seeing his daughter for the first time in a hospital wired up to machines and about to undergo surgery. If he thought he had arrived in time to avoid the drama, he was mistaken, he had arrived in the middle of it and now he and I would have to endure four hours of awaiting the outcome of a major event that neither of us had any role in.
My Aunt left and Susan’s husband stayed with us. Susan (whose name I have changed for this story) and I used to joke about our funny connections and serendipitous events, one of them being that she shared the name of my mother and I shared the name of her daughter. We laughed the day we met when we discovered this connection, never for a minute anticipating the future role she would play in our lives, at the birth of our daughter.
We had about half an hour before Allia was taken downstairs to the operating theatre. The doctor spoke with us and drew a diagram of the digestive system, from the mouth, down the oesophagus, to the stomach and the small intestine to the ileum, the point just before the small intestine connects to the large intestine.
“It is here just before the ileum that there is a blockage” he explained. “We don’t know exactly what it is, whether there is an end to the intestine so that the two pieces must be re-joined or whether there are striations or a blockage, in which case, we may need to cut a section out. Do you want to come down to the Anaesthetists’ ward?” he asked.
“Yes” I replied.
“No” said my husband simultaneously.
The lift opened, Allia was wheeled inside, I followed with the doctor and we all descended.
Read Previous Episodes this mother/daughter collaboration: A Silent Education: Our Quiet Challenge in Provence
Episode 1: The Benefits of Insomnia
Episode 2: We are not Living in France!
Episode 4: Where’s My Baby and Why Isn’t She With Me?