Next February, it will be twenty years since I became a mother for the first time.
I was 25 and living in Newcastle, far from home and newly married to an unpredictably violent man. He hit me. Often. It hurt. Every time. He was 6ft 4″. I am 5ft 2″. He was cruel and I was suffering from an appalling lack of self-esteem.
It was a match made in hell. I had been fired from my radio job at the time because it was apparently uncool to be a female breakfast radio personality with a pregnant belly. (It’s okay. I later sued the radio station and I won.)
Just before my daughter’s birth, I went into her room where everything was shiny and new. I had been in there hundreds of times, but on this day in particular, it stuck me that a baby was never going to sleep in that room.
But I brushed the thought aside thinking all new mothers have weird thoughts like that…
I went into labour on her due date. It was long. It was painful. I started feeling like something was very wrong, so I asked for the doctor on duty to come to check things over.
I was in a midwife attending birthing program. The midwife kept telling me everything was fine. I kept telling her everything was not. Finally the doctor came. He checked me over. He patted me on the head and told me how I was feeling was something all new mothers felt and that I was fine. I told him I wasn’t and neither was the baby. And he walked out anyway.
Later when the foreboding feelings and the pain got much worse, I screamed at the nurse to get the doctor again and when he came back I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted the baby out NOW because something was very wrong. He warned me that I would have to leave the birth room and go to a more traditional medical focused room. I didn’t care. I had to get her out.
As they were getting ready to use surgical equipment to get her out, I pushed hard and there she was. She was blue, which was very bad. The doctor yelled at me to push harder again to get the baby out completely. I did that. And then the doctor smashed his hand into the red emergency button behind me to get intensive care staff to come.
She couldn’t breath. They intubated her and pushed air into her lungs.
I could hear them talking to her, willing her to breathe, to wake up, to come alive, to live. She did nothing. She was floppy and weak. Amongst all that noise, she didn’t cry.
I never heard her cry. The intensive care staff arrived and she was whisked away.
As soon as I could I went to see her. It was a scary sight. She had tubes everywhere and lines running across her body for monitoring and drug delivery. The lines were fixed to her skin by the same tape athlete’s use for taping injuries.