During the first evening of my baby’s life she nearly died. A passing midwife noticed that she wasn’t just coughing, as I had thought, but was turning blue. The midwife grabbed her and, yelling ‘crash’ and pressing a button on the wall, ran from the ward taking my baby with her. I was left tied to the bed by my catheter for seconds? minutes? hours? Long enough to know that the worst had happened. Long enough to think about having to send a message to everyone cancelling the birth announcement I had sent out a little earlier.
When I realised my catheter would unhook and my legs, numbed by a spinal, would carry my weight, I found my baby in a side room. “Is that my baby?” I asked the midwife. I had not known her long enough to recognise her yet, something that haunts me still. That was my first question. “Is she alive?” was my second. She was. They had a question for me too. “Why are you crying mummy?” asked the midwife, the hero midwife who saved my baby, the monster midwife who could not understand why I might be upset.
I still do not know how to answer that question. Is it because I thought my baby was dead or is it because she was alive?
Over a year later mostly I manage to put this to the back of my mind. I have a healthy baby who has become a wonderful mischievous loving toddler. The world is her oyster, which easily becomes lobster, which is tantalisingly close to the Yiddish word lobus which means little monster, in an affectionate cheeky way, and which although conventionally only used for boys is used in our household for our beautiful girl. The world is her lobster, and this lobus is our world.
A healthy happy baby is all anyone wants. That we have one is magical. Every day I appreciate it and most days I choose not to remember the moments when I thought it had been taken away just as it began. Yet sometimes, in the shower, driving alone with the radio on, walking through the park, I remember that night, and anyone who sees me and my tears may well also ask that question, “why are you crying mummy?” And still I cannot really answer.