That I write this from my hospital bed has a certain frisson, a thrill that is difficult to go past. Fraught with intrigue and the suggestion of danger (past or present), it is intended to lure the audience over the threshold of that first sentence. It is also, in my case, laced with a dash of untruth as I am really writing this from a very hard couch beside a hospital bed. Here I have spent the night, or at least the four hours of it since 4am.
The high school English student in me thinks the narrative structure should now loop back in time and cover the week chronologically. Back-story. While this would heighten the suspense, medical suspense strikes me as the least enjoyable sort and not to be indulged. Suffice to say that, yesterday afternoon, we bought L to A&E as we thought he was working harder than usual to breathe. After a marathon wait, many discussions with staff about understaffing and a procession of little boys filing past with bumped and bleeding noggins (danger age seems to be 4-6) we were admitted at 2am for what is likely, we hope, to be two days of antibiotics to clear up something murky lurking on his x-rays.
It is a little over two months since we were last here and although we’ve now been downgraded a floor from neonatal to paediatrics the only real differences are the size of the beds and the colour of the accent wall. This is no real surprise. Hospitals are designed to wipe and wear in an endless circle of bright white cotton blankets and spilt body-fluids. It feels so strange to be back here in the surreal cocoon of non-time that shrouds the wards. The days float untethered in their constructured boxes of meal and medicine times. That’s unchanged yet we, L and I, have changed so much. Last time round we barely knew each other. Now we’re a fully bonded double act.
The directive that caused me such a gut-punch of unprocessable anguish then was not being allowed to touch him. Now, that would cause a head toss of insurrection, for now nothing on earth is going to stop me comforting my child. Recovered from the horrors of the birthing suite, I am back to my usual bullish self but this anticipatory defiance is really due to the commonly held cliché that I have only recently adopted. Namely, that nothing is more important to a baby than its mother.
Somewhat illogically - given my own mother has always been of utmost importance to me - I had assumed that I would be interchangeable with a brick wall for my own offspring. I’ve not done extensive testing as to L’s levels of affection for masonry but so far that theory holds no water.
L remains, however, a deeply sociable child, a claim that was put through its paces this week as we attended one of my very good high school friends’ wedding on the South Coast. There were several children in attendance but L was the youngest. (This fact was noted by the wise 14-month old with three teeth, who pointed and said ‘baby’ repeatedly at him). He was also, being least powerful, the one most passed around like a party favour, and this L bore with unrelenting good grace and a fair amount of dribbling.
Such social prowess was also on display when L made friends with the adorable Eurasian baby next to us at Parent Group. When I say ‘made friends’, I mean stared intently with mutually furrowed brows.
As the mum and I exchanged smiles and pleasantries it reminded me curiously of the ritual park-chat between dog owners as the canines frolic… is it the notion of being somewhat match-made by a non-verbal companion?
(When I took my dog to the park once as a kid, a lady asked me which was mine. ‘The black standard poodle’ I replied, before asking which was hers. ‘The one yours is peeing on,’ was the reply. We didn’t speak much after that.)
L didn’t pee on his companion (though to be fair he wasn’t given the option), so I guess that was an improvement. Indeed the whole parent group was a gentle improvement on the previous week. Aided by several of the mothers bringing baked goods (which I, like that kid who brings no beer to a party and treats the fridge as communal, definitely cracked into too hard). I can’t say no to carrot cake. Or cookies. If I keep going, Parent Group could pose a serious waistline hazard.
As I wait for J to arrive (partners are not encouraged to stay overnight) and for the rounds to make their meandering way to us, I ponder the current state of my feelings. I’m not really worried. This might be a touch wood thing to say but L is so obviously healthy and well, fat, that it is difficult to conceive of him as being sick. Fat babies are healthy babies yah? While this could just be a pathology of mine (I had trouble conceiving of him as sick last time round too) the paediatrician who admitted him was of a like mind exclaiming that he was clearly such a healthy baby (albeit one with some alarming stats she couldn’t ignore).
Possibly its just hope. I hope L is not actually sick and so, until I am forced out of the comfort that box provides, I shall reside here, with my not-sick offspring in a hospital bed.