Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: 16 years ago today I became a mother. - Feb 05

From Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I'd had full-time care, for long periods, of both my brother and my step-son when they were babies and toddlers, so I thought there wasn't much to this mothering business, only going with the flow and supplying the child's needs. Someone mentioned ante-natal classes and I thought: "I don't need those. How difficult can it be? Labour pains start: baby comes out - no?" (To this day, four children later I still haven't attended an ante-natal class. I do know how to give birth now, though.)

Labour pains didn't start, so they took me into hospital to induce labour. This was my first mistake. It wasn't until I had a non-induced labour with my 3rd baby that I realised how much less painful labour is meant to be. It took nearly 2 days to start the labour, and nearly 2 days of me being in labour for them to realise something was wrong. They gave me a general anaesthetic and performed an emergency caesarean section. The last thing I remember hearing before I went to sleep was: "The baby's not going to make it."

I woke up in a private, one-bed ward, surrounded by flowers. I couldn't move my body. I was on my own. I tried to remember what had happened, but couldn't work it out. I could see a tag on one of the bouquets: "Well done Gillian": from my mother. I reasoned that you don't say 'well done' to someone who's delivered a live baby: you say 'congratulations on becoming a mother'. 'Congratulations on your new baby boy/girl'. Not 'well done'. I saw people passing the door, who still looked pregnant. (I didn't know then that women can still look pregnant soon after giving birth.)

OK, so I'm back on the ante-natal ward, I reckoned. I remembered hearing that women whose babies are born dead are put back on ante-natal, in private single-bed rooms. They didn't have a special ward for dead babies' mothers, but didn't want to rub it in too much by putting them in with the cooing new live baby-mothers. At this point I became convinced my baby had been born dead. There was no baby in the room. No people. No nurses, no husband, no parents. Everyone must be ashamed of me. My parents were right: I can't do anything properly, not even give birth, I thought. What will I tell people? How will I explain? And what have they done with the dead baby? Where have they put it?

Just then a nurse came bustling in. "Oh, you're awake. Do you want to see your little boy?" Now, to all intents and purposes I was my step-son's mother at that time. Everyone referred to him as my son: most people assumed he was. But at that moment in time he was the *last* person I wanted to see. His dad's probably gone to the pub and there'll be no-one to look after him, so they've brought him to me, I grumbled in my head. Bastards. I've just lost my baby and already they want me to babysit someone else's. Typical.

"What's he doing here?" I asked wearily, thinking: well, there's nothing here for him to play with. Not even a book for him to read. I don't know what I'm going to do with him. "Your son!" she said. "You've had a baby boy!" This gets worse every minute, thought I. How am I supposed to react to a dead baby? I sighed. Obviously I just have to do as I'm told. "Ok," I said.

She came back with a bundle and put him in the bed with me. "You can hold him," she said. "He's beautiful. What are you going to call him?" He looked pink. He opened his eyes. My father-in-law's eyes. He was alive, looking just like his granddad, but alive. What a shock. "Thomas," I said. The old man's name. If this didn't persuade the in-laws to like me, nothing would. Anyway, I liked the name.

posted by Gill at 7:26 AM 12 comments

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