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Was there a moment – in this antiseptic, cubic place, cluttered with metal and micro-chipped technology – sharp with scalpels and crisp corners – in this eternal, crushing cave of agony – this black hole within the centre of the glaring electric white, which punishes my eyes – this heat which melts me – this cold which causes convulsive shivers throughout my ravaged body – was there a moment, just gone, just around the last corner, when pain was not squeezing me monstrously from all around, its seepage filling my every pore – when I was not made of pain?
I am a unit of searing torment. To distract myself, I search for a word that adequately describes how it feels. My ability to focus on this suggests that already the contraction is ebbing.
I can’t come up with a phrase stronger than excruciating agony, and that’s not even close.
It’s coming back.
Breathe. Pant. I can’t Ican’t Ican’t I don’t care what you do make it go away make it go away I’ve changed my mind I don’t want a baby I can’t do it.
I feel a release, and the midwife says I’m nearly there. I’m having a baby! It’s nearly over.
”Just one more big push.”
I am working towards the prize, throwing all I have and more into the job.
I see a blood-streaked head, shoulders, arms. A twisted rope is attached to the navel.
”It’s a boy.”
A surge of love, joy and pride. My son – my son is in the midwife’s hands. I made him and he has come from my body to live with me, and to love and be loved by me, and he is beautiful, and I had no idea; no idea it would feel like this. There are two of us now. This is what I was made for. I realise that I hadn’t been prepared for the wonderful surprise; the miracle of him.
The midwife says that everything is fine, but she has to give him oxygen, as he is stressed. She takes quickly him through the door at the side of the room. I had expected him to be placed on my body. I’m not ready for this sudden departure. I feel an invisible thread pulling at me, tugging at my tender, flabby belly, trying to pull him back to me, but the strength is not there.
A different midwife tells me that I just have to deliver the afterbirth. I hardly notice it happening.
I’m familiar with loneliness. When you’ve been brought up in the care of the Social Services you learn to compensate for the lack of familial love. But I have just made a family, and I am hungry to enjoy it now. The second midwife stays with me, makes re-assuring sounds. Gentle words and sentences come from her, but the words she speaks go over my head, because it is dawning on me that I have seen people do her job many times, over the years. She is the person sent to keep me calm. The question looms in my head; why is she doing this, and terror grips my heart as the answer comes crashing over me.
There is something wrong with my baby.
The thought becomes words ”There is something wrong with my baby!” The nurse is alarmed, and she must be saying more words, because her mouth moves like a computer animation She’s shaking her head. I’m sobbing, and the nurse has tried to take my hand, but I have pulled it away from her treacherous reach. She is standing up, still spilling words. As she walks towards the door to – what? Get help? Escape?, it opens. A woman in white comes through, and she hasn’t got my baby. I think she must be a doctor. She’s going to tell me the horrible thing and I can’t bear it. Thick, black oil is swirling inside my head, I can see the look on her face telling me it’s all over. My eyes close, and I hear a quiet, high keening noise which is coming from me.
And then I hear another sound. My eyes open of their own volition. The woman in white is removing soiled equipment. The midwife is back in the room.
She has swaddled my lovely son in a hospital blanket. She pads softly towards me, across the room.
She is smiling as he cries in her arms. Cries for his mum.
© Jane Paterson Basil
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