A chronological collection of writing during my son’s first fortnight of life, in Neonatal ICU.
That late night reveller. Blood stained passport and Frankenstein’s monster bruised head, lain, heaped on M________ Road floor. Me, speeding by, dry-eyed for the time, glancing and taking a three-quarter mile to decide.
What was more important? My child and my wife or the anonymous life beneath dimming street lights? If I don’t stop, I’ll not be late. If I don’t not stop, I’ll have to face my son and pretend this world we’ve borne him in is a place worth being in in the first place.
That flirtatious server at Costa Coffee, hospital. Saw my tight jeans and spoke with a gleam in her eye. I might be alright. I was when I came down the first time round, for mid-labour coffee and savoury panini. We chatted freely, my future a lift or a staircase away.
The next day I arrived with other eyes, too tired this time to mime anything other than crude honesty. So, honestly, I explained again that my wife was lain a staircase away, further away than I might have expected from our baby. She was sympathetic, but, to her credit, didn’t fail to not hesitate to enquire as to my provenance. She thought she had seen me before. Sure.
The first consultant of three, or four, to gently take us to the door of the Counselling forward slash Something-Or-Other room. Soft seats and harsh lit gloom. He explained his name and said again a few things we recognised. Farewell letter-kind voice, full of unmakeable choices and absolute uncertainties. Hands between knees. More answers than questions and educated guesses; an enquiry into the baby’s name. I said it, he said it again, and spelled it with the correct choice of vowel.
Is this how professionals are trained to explain pain away? Or deliver trains into the brick walls of carefully lain lives? I can’t decide. How many pairs of searching eyes has his met? How many recently named baby’s names belonging to babies lain in plastic boxes has he had to say? As though the name is part of the finer detail, or a stone to unturn, or necessary for empathy.