Something told me it was not going to be straight forward. Why? I’m still not sure but maybe because everything leading up to the day had gone so well.
So what can I tell you, my beautiful daughter? That the day you were born was the warmest day of the year? That there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the blinding sunlight woke us up very early?
We got to the hospital at 9:30 am, not before stopping off to pick up a cup of coffee. Sorry but you will learn, I need a coffee to get me going even on a day like this.
When we arrived at the Lindo Wing, they were waiting for us. There had been no emergency cases, so we were first up. ‘ We may call you early,’ we were warned by one of the nurses. She sounded surprised as if usually there are long delays. How happy we were at the moment – Joking and laughing about how I looked in my blue gown and hat. I thought I looked like a star from the show ER; your mother thought differently.
We took the elevator down to the theatre. I could hear your mother’s breath. It was calm and ready to meet what was about to happen. The theatre had ten people in there each with a specific role; it felt like a movie set. They were all individually introduced, but if you asked me to name any of them, I would find it difficult. It is a shame as they were about to become far more critical in our lives than we could ever imagine.
Alex, Dr Digesu, our obstetrician, was the star and director. He exudes confidence. I may have spoken of him before, but he has this sort of laid-back attitude that appealed to us when we all first met. I remember saying to your mother that if we were ever in trouble during the pregnancy, he’s someone we could trust.
At first, everything was straight forward, according to plan. It could not have been more than fifteen minutes before you made your introduction. How extraordinary it was. There you were, covered in blood and immediately handed over to your mother; the skin of a new life clinging to her mother’s breast. I was handed a pair of rounded scissors to cut the umbilical cord. Everything calm and everything overwhelmingly moving until I noticed the doctor rummaging in your mother’s stomach. I wish I hadn’t seen it, but I did, I could see he was struggling and the sheet that divided us was becoming splattered in blood. It was apparent something was wrong. And then without warning, twenty faces who were not originally in the theatre suddenly appeared. I noticed one because it was the only face looking around nervously, the single pair of eyes not looking down at your mother. Like when a whole gaggle of geese are busy at the corn stubble and the only one looking up, alert, keeping watch. His look began to frighten me. And just when I was about to ask what was happening, a nurse approached me and said that it was best to leave the theatre and wait upstairs.
‘Can I take my baby?’ I asked. The nurse didn’t have time to answer other than shake her head. I didn’t argue. I walked out of the theatre only to turn back briefly to see your mother losing so much blood that the horror of what I witnessed was so overwhelming that I’m not sure today if I witnessed it in the first place. So five minutes after you were born, I am standing alone in a room I hadn’t been in before without you and your mother, in a semi-state of shock.
You were brought up maybe five minutes later, but I’m not sure as I was beginning to lose track of time. Poor you! You did look grey, and it was apparent you needed help; I was not wrong. You were having trouble breathing, and your body temperature was low. But even with everything else going on I was not worried. I knew you’d recover quickly. You seemed even in the first minutes to have an inner strength. You were put under a warm lamp and given oxygen. The tone of your skin quickly turned from grey to a light red, and you let out an almighty scream. Your lungs were letting out the first scream.
‘ Would you like to feed her?’ The nurse asked.
The simplicity of the question made everything else that was going on momentarily fade. You sat on my knee and took your first sips; another remarkable moment. A few minutes before you weren’t here and now you were drinking from a bottle as if you had done it many times before. Once the feed was finished, another nurse walked towards me, and in a billionth of a second, her expression changed everything. ‘ Your wife is gravely ill and losing a lot of blood,’ I am told, ‘ you need to prepare yourself.’ My heart started to spin out of control, and a thousand of the most terrible thoughts raced through my mind like cattle in a stampede. I immediately rang your brother, and he dashed over to the hospital. He couldn’t come in because of COVID, so when he arrived, I met him outside. The heat was stifling. He didn’t ask how I was; there was no need. He merely put his hand on my shoulder, offering strength. We walked together along the dipsomaniac pavements of Paddington. Around the station it remains a run-down part of London which attracts the type that looks as if they have escaped the asylum – I swore I saw the same man I had seen the day your brother was born, passing us with a pram full of empty gin bottles.
I began to pray silently. I was getting to the point in my life that I felt nearly incapable of praying but not any longer. Oh, God, what is happening I asked myself ? What have I done to deserve this? And then regrets. Why didn’t I tell your mother more often and more forcefully how much I cared? Why did I not hug her more frequently and more forcefully? Why go to all the trouble of bringing the miraculous structure that is you into this world…so delicate and complex, actuated by so many different motives, controlled by such unusual circumstances, without your mother by your side?
Your brother was talking about his lost credit card when my phone rang—the clatter of a ringing cell phone inside my pocket. I had given my number to a nurse in case they needed to reach me. I resisted picking it up at first. I knew this call was going to change my life. When I answered it, I heard a man with a high pitched voice, ‘ your wife is stable and is about to wake up.’ I switched off my phone. ‘I’d better get back,’ I said.
Your mother was in a side room to the operating theatre. She was shivering caused by the trauma she had just experienced. ‘ Hello,’ she said. She spoke weakly, but her voice lit up the room then disappeared in delicious diphthongs; the last two hours of misery forgotten.
‘ Where’s our daughter?’ Your mother asked
‘ Safely upstairs ,’ someone said, and I wondered if you could be brought down.
When you came in, you lay with your mother once again but this time until both your eyelids fell.
As you slept, Dr Digesu told me that your mother had lost over 8 litres of blood. He was clear that your mother would have died if we hadn’t been at the Lindo Wing. The clinic’s connection to St. Mary’s helped provide the blood that other private maternity clinics don’t have. He spoke about what had happened and why and how it had become so dangerous. In short, your mum’s placenta could not be released from her stomach and filtered into scars from a previous operation.
I will write again in the next couple of days with more news, but the joy I have had this weekend seeing you and your mother both growing strong is blissful.
Welcome to the world, my darling girl. We have all been waiting for you.