I was just making bread and butter pudding. The aroma of vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg brought back happy memories of puddings past. Then my mind jumped. Smell has such memory but it’s not always pleasant. Disinfectant. Alcohol hand wash. Worry. Despair.
The human brain is a strange beast. I was still grating nutmeg as the sounds and sights of the special care nursery filled my thoughts. Monitors beeping…humidicribs lined up…tiny nappies…wires attached to little bodies. So many wires attached to my girls body. I was there. After fifteen years I can still be transported back there in an instant. My breath quickened and chest felt tight.
The person that baby has become is extraordinary. Unexpectedly so, as the future, back then, looked bleak. The person her mother was has…changed. Nutmeg used to just remind me of Christmas.
Throw back Thursday. I wrote this piece back in March 2010 during a creative writing class. The title was the topic given. I remember struggling with the word “broken” in the context of my girl but once her story was in my head it had to be told.
“Where does the red hair come from?”
The first time that question was asked, I sucked in my breath and looked wide-eyed at the tiny bundle before me. She didn’t cry, didn’t really look at me but I touched her face and smiled hello oblivious to this quiet significance.
Throughout the pregnancy she emitted a quiet wisdom. I confided in friends. She’s different somehow. No, nothing is wrong. It feels like she has a definite purpose. She will teach. I struggled to recall it fondly as this tiny person had a seizure in my arms. This time was supposed to be easier; the second child should mean a familiarity with motherhood and no fear. The special care nursery brought fear. It bred fear within it’s walls.
A plethora of tests. A surge of white-coated visitors. “We’ve tested for this and tested for that. It’s not some of the bad ones.” But it was bad. She didn’t cry; she couldn’t suck; she had seizures; she lived in a humidicrib. My mind scattered thoughts in rhythm with the expressing machine I was attached to. My stomach dropped knowing she couldn’t suckle this precious nutrition herself. I chatted with her while I held the feeding tube high but it wasn’t meant to be this way.
I had to leave her there. I was discharged and had to go home. The cadence of expressing continued but on my couch, at home, without her. “Enjoy some sleep while you can” they said. It was as if the very marrow had been drained from my bones as I sat, at 2 am, extracting milk into a machine instead of feeding my precious girl.
The smell of the hand wash made my stomach churn. Walk in the door, wash your hands. Touch your nose, wash your hands. I cherished the short time I could touch her and admire her gentle face. That stunning hair. I learnt to hold tubes and leads out of the way to change her nappy. I learnt to look at her instead of the monitor when an alarm sounded. Being her mum was still beautiful even though our world had been turned upside down.