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 7: The Verdict, The Recovery and Home Just in Time for Christmas
Episode 1: The Benefits of Insomnia
Episode 2: We are not Living in France!
Episode 3: The Benefits of Contra-Indicated Essential Oils
Episode 4: Where’s My Baby and Why Isn’t She With Me?
Episode 5: GOSH: Where Peter Pan’s legacy resides, a kind of Neverland
I just cannot believe all that you went through, in a day. Being kept in the dark. No information, no contact with your baby. I cannot believe they just sent you home! You had just given birth. It sounds like you were in a third world country. I don’t know how you didn’t lose your mind.
It’s that maternal/survival instinct, I do remember it feeling a little like an out of body experience. I felt like I could cope with anything and was wondering why everyone else looked so fragile. It was truly bizarre, but that’s mother nature at work I guess. I didn’t lose my mind, but months later I would feel very emotional reading stories or seeing images of other mothers going through some kind of trauma with their baby, some kind of post-traumatic stress I believe. That was bizarre too.
I’m amazed you are willing to re-live it. Although writing about it can be cathartic. Really getting it out of your system.
The story I started to write has barely started, but I believe this early beginning has some connection to later events, and raising the memories and sharing them does feel quite releasing, there’ve been so many episodes, it’s almost a pleasure to be able to look back from afar. And with the lightness of may daughter’s pictures, it adds an element of fun. The comments are great, without them I don’t think I could continue to write it, that’s the wonder of the blog universe again.
An unbelievable experience – so glad to know that your little girl has turned out so well, and you are all the stronger for it. Fascinating reading – thank you for sharing.
Your daughter’s drawings are wonderful. I love them. Fabulous idea to make them part of the story.
Honesty, Claire – I am greeting each of these posts with a combination of stress, as we walk through this journey with you, and pleasure, enjoying your collaboration with Allia and knowing there is a happy ending.
I don’t know if ‘like’ is the right thing to click under the circumstances, as you are describing every mother’s worst nightmare. But I do like the way you write about it.
A friend just said the same thing after I posted a link of Facebook. I get the ‘likes’ but nice to have a comment too. Speaking of which I have been thinking of you (but not liked or commented on yet sorry – speed reading blogs while too busy to even read!!)and the terrible intrusion you experienced resulting in the loss of your work.
Love that poem you want to submit too, but no idea about the last 2 lines, trust your own instinct I’d say.
Clare, like Marina commented, this is a mother’s worst nightmare. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you. Being separated from your child…I get chills thinking of it. I do believe that writing about bad experiences can be cathartic. Do you feel writing about this experience has helped you? I love the drawing!
One hell of a story you carry with you, and I am honoured you share it with us.
This installment really reached a riveting pitch . . . I feel as I’m there with you, for several reasons, not the least of which is the resonance of those ‘fine-tuned nerves’ of a mother. A few days after my daughter was born, I hemhorraged and had to go to the hospital. My husband and friends were taking care of Sara. When they brought her to me during my recovery, I burst into tears and said take her home. I couldn’t bear this kind of forced separation from her. Within another day I was home, nursing again, and all was well.
Oh, Claire, what a nightmare! So sorry for you all.
So much to look back from a safe distance Naomi. Thank you for reading through 🙂
I have been catching up on a backlog of reading. I have a friend who is a teacher back in Michigan, and who has a little boy with selective mutism,so I had heard of it. And then I have another friend here in Washington who had twins with selective mutism. They are really doing well now.
Claire, I stopped by while cooking dinner to have a quick introduction to your writing… I think the dinner might be slightly burnt now… Wow, what a story, I have been pulled right in. It would be a wonderful piece of fiction, but to know it is real also… I swing between being caught up in the story and wonderful storytelling, and then remembering it is real and attempting to imagine what that must have been like to go through… I must go now as my husband and I need to eat my slightly burnt offerings… I will return later this evening or in the next day or two to continue… Thank you for such a wonderful read and I love Allia’s pictures; they give such vivid life and colour to your words! Amanda
Oh Amanda, I am sorry and also content, sorry to have over-cooked your dinner (know that feeling!!) and content that the reason should be in sharing these episodes that Allia and I are creating.
It is wonderful to have hindsight and to no longer be in the midst of all the challenges we faced, although as the episodes show, life is really just one long adventure and I kind of understand now what my Grandmother meant when she used to say to me in her 77th year “I wish everything could just stay the same.” I disagreed with her then and didn’t really get it, as a 21-year-old, but after every significant dramatic event we have now lived through, I do often wish we could have a small period of respite 🙂 and I so appreciate them when we do, day by day.
Thank you for reading and I do hope you’ll be back, you’ve reminded me we need to get on and keep writing/illustrating, the last episode was a little difficult and I want to try and get back on a more optimistic path. The real story of our journey with selective mutism has barely got started, life keeps getting in the way!