I squinted around in the blinding light of the empty delivery room as I struggled to swallow. I had no idea how long I was asleep for but by the dryness of my mouth it felt like days, weeks even. In the Sahara Desert. I ran my tongue weakly along my lips trying to wet them to no avail. I peered out the door trying to make eye contact with the passing nurses and doctors and as I opened my mouth to speak, no words came out. Just a sad, raspy attempt. I looked up to the ceiling before closing my eyes trying to grasp everything that had happened in the past six hours. My once heavy and round body felt like a loose, empty vessel under my palms. I was a mother. It felt like it all had happened too fast, yet not fast enough. I tried to envision what my baby looked like, but I couldn’t. All I could remember was the doctor holding up this little blue body and saying “Do you see what it is?” John had replied, “Yea, we knew it was a boy.” The doctor retorted with, “No, ultrasounds are not certain so I’m making sure you know what it is.” During this exchange, he hadn’t cried. Not a peep, or squeal. Then they took him out of the room while I sobbed myself into unconsciousness.
I sensed movement and opened one eye to see a nurse bringing me a tray. Lunchtime. Food, however, was the last thing on my mind. I was in desperate need of water. As she set the tray down on the table, I signaled to her and whispered, ‘Water’. She nodded and left the room. I glanced at the tray in front of me. I wasn’t hungry but the drink looked inviting. I lifted the hood off the plate to reveal two slices of bread and a sausage. Yuck. I covered it over and began to drink whatever was in the cup. I say whatever, cause I have no clue what it was but it wasn’t good. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Whether it was the effects of the pain medication or a small case of PTSD, it was at this point I realised how off my motor skills were. My hand was weak and shaky and about 30% of the liquid in the cup ended up on the side of my face and my nightdress. I sighed, resigned. I had no energy to lift the hood off the plate for a second time but I knew I needed to eat something. I ripped off piece of the dry bread and forced it into my mouth. I imagine I looked like a camel at this point as my mouth awkwardly attacked the piece of bread. There were no clocks in the room. It felt like it had been eternity and a day since I had sent the nurse for water. Had she forgotten? Eventually she came with the smallest cup of water it seemed she could find. I was grateful, however, as the cool liquid touched my tongue. I wondered where John was. I closed my eyes again and went back to sleep.
I was awoken by the sound of my name. There was a nurse who had come to get me cleaned up to go onto the ward. She wiped me down and then helped me out of bed to go to the bathroom to change my clothes. I felt like a newborn calf. I gripped her for support as I shuffled to the bathroom. I changed into clean clothes and underwear and was escorted to a bed back on the labour ward. I still had no idea what time it was and how long I’d have to wait to see my baby. John, I learnt, had gone home and suddenly I felt alone. I called him and asked him when he was coming back as I needed more underwear and some proper food. He assured me he’d be back soon. I used this time to reflect. If this was the “new mummy feeling” that was so often raved about, I failed to understand why. Maybe I couldn’t enjoy the feeling because the stitches in my perineum were so frigging tight, but there definitely wasn’t a party going on in my head. I finally got a chance to check the time on my cellphone. 11:42. It had been exactly four hours since I had delivered and still no news on Liam. It wasn’t until John returned, (with real food, I might add) when I finally learnt why I wasn’t able to see or hold my baby. His breathing was faster than usual suggesting he was struggling to breathe. However, they couldn’t confirm if it was because he was in shock from being introduced to the cold or if it was as a result of the umbilical cord being so tight around his neck. Either way, I couldn’t see him until the doctors had ruled him okay so I had to be patient.
Picture a young child, five, six years old. Patience at an all time minimum. Their mum has taken them to an amusement park- they’ve been anticipating it all year. Its been five hours in the line to the teacup ride and its finally their turn. Imagine the level of excitement. That’s how I felt when the nurse came to my bedside and asked me if I had clothes for the baby.
Well, times a hundred.
I wildly started directing John to where the clothes had been haphazardly packed the night before. I was excited, anxious, curious but most of all relieved that he had gotten the all clear. As she carried him in my first thought was Oh, he’s so tiny. I couldn’t see my face but I knew already I was gushing. I wanted to cry as they placed him in John’s arms but I think at that point I had already been through so much emotionally so I just stared in amazement instead. I thought my motherly instinct would be instantly attacking John to hold him, peruse him and make sure he was alright but I remained frozen in awe. The reality settled in as I watched John cradle his small frame, his eyes peering open to view this new world he was so anxious to enter.
This is my baby. My little baby.