Exiting the lift, we entered the Anaethetist’s medical room and I watched as they prepared what they needed, looking confident and as if they had done this many times before, which of course they had, it was only Allia and I for whom all this was alarming and new. As they attached three new lines to Allia I noticed that each one had a small square sticky label with a different animal on it. Everything in there was so miniature, the sight of those tiny little animal figures like a kind of bait, luring one into a false sense of security momentarily. But then I saw the tiny mask and the realisation of what that mask signified gave me serious heart palpitations. My little girl had made it into this world, through all these months of waiting and had survived birth and was breathing effortlessly and now this gas mask was going to knock her out.
“Okay, I think I shoud go now” I said stumbling out of the door and into the lift and back up to the relative serenity of the nurturing Woodland Ward. I had stayed as long as I could, but I wouldn’t witness her lose consciousness, that I just couldn’t bear. We then waited in what seemed like and probably was the longest day of my life. Allia had been born on that very same day at 5.16am and we would wait there until after 11pm for the doctor to report back to us.
He returned alone. It was then I understood that Allia would not be coming back to this serene ward.
“She’s okay” the doctor said. He spoke softly and quietly. “She has been taken up to the intensive care ward and you will be able to see her tomorrow. We will try and organise a room for you here then” he said looking at me, “but for now she is being taken care of and the best thing would be for you to go home and get some rest.”
It was both a relief to know she was okay and an anti-climax because we couldn’t see her. I tried not to allow the nagging fear or was it paranoia that he was hiding something or protecting us from something engulf me. A mother in a state of distress has such fine-tuned nerves she picks up on everything. The wild animal instinct in me was sensitive to every word and gesture, trying to read behind every intention in this strange unfamiliar territory.
Everything comes as a surprise when we are so focused only on what is happening right now. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that all these small shocks and surprises are the things that create anxiety in the lead up to knowledge about out what is going to happen next. But the maternal instinct is a wonderful shock absorber and close to the survival instinct I am sure.
Which is just as well, because no one can warn you that will only hold your baby for a short while after birth, that she will be taken away and put in a different ward from you, that she will go to another hospital without you, that they will ask for your consent to perform surgery over the telephone and then tell you it’s better for you to stay where you are and rest, that you will escape the hospital to follow your child, not even knowing the address of where she is, that you will wait four hours for an operation to be performed and you won’t see your baby afterwards and that you will find yourself walking out into the dark streets of London just before midnight on the same day that you first gave birth, looking for a taxi that won’t appear in the freezing cold of a late November winter, that the taxi you eventually find will throw you around its back seat violently as it turns corners, accelerating into each street, that you will be too tired and stunned to even protest as the physical pain of what you have endured finally overpowers the drug-like effect of whatever bodily hormones have up until now been providing you with some measure of pain relief.
As we left the hospital to search for that taxi, the nurse insisted that I sit in a wheelchair.
“It’s been a long day and your body also needs to recover” she said.
Next Up: in 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?