Chapter no 45

Then She Was Gone

Well, I wouldn’t say it was a textbook birth. No. I wouldn’t. I’d read everything there was to read on the subject of home birth and there was no eventuality I wasn’t prepared for. Apart from the really, really awful ones that would have taken us to a hospital, I suppose (I had my story all lined up: a desperate niece, too ashamed to tell her family back in Ireland—well, you can guess the rest). But it didn’t come to that. I got that baby out of her without any medical intervention. I’m not saying it was pleasant. It was far from pleasant, but out that baby came, alive and breathing. And that was all that mattered at the end of the day.

She was a sweet baby. Full head of brown hair. Little red mouth. I let the girl choose a name for her. It was the least I could do after what she’d been through.

Poppy, she said.

I’d have preferred something a bit more classical. Helen, maybe, or Louise.



But there you go. You can’t have everything your own way.

I left the baby with the girl those first few days. Well, there was not much I could be doing now really, was there? And then when the baby was two weeks old, I took her to the baby clinic to get her weighed and checked, get her on the system so that she would be a real person and not just a tiny ghost in my basement.

I had to answer lots of awkward questions but I had my spiel sorted: Didn’t know I was pregnant, thought it was my menopause, hardly changed shape, gave birth at home with my partner, all happened really fast, no time to call for an ambulance, wham bam there was the baby, so no, we never went to the hospital. No, the baby was not given an Apgar score. I told them that I’d been too nervous to bring the baby out of the house before now, that I thought it was OK as long as the baby seemed OK. I sat and took their telling off, let them slap my wrists good and proper. Oh, I said, I’m really, really sorry. But you know, I

was a virgin until a few months ago (I used my strongest Irish accent for this), I’ve led a sheltered life, I don’t really know much about anything.

They sighed and looked appalled and made notes about me no doubt: “potential loony, keep an eye on this one.” But they gave me all the papers I needed to register the baby at the town hall and made me an appointment to come in five weeks later for my postnatal exam (I didn’t go, of course, but had I done, I think they’d have been very impressed with the pristine condition of my underneaths) and told me a midwife would be coming to interview me later that week. I just pretended I was out when she came and hid in the back room while she rattled my letterbox. She came again a few days later and she called me about a hundred times, but she gave up in the end. I duly took the baby to all the appointments at the clinic; she got her shots, she was weighed and measured. I did the bare minimum to keep them off the scent. But in social worker parlance, we slipped through the net. Worrying, really, when you think about it.



But the girl meanwhile . . . Well, I thought I’d done my best by her. I really did, but she didn’t seem well. It was one thing after another really. First an infection down below. That seemed to heal of its own accord but then she got an infection in one of her breasts, or at least that was my theory. I read up about it on the Internet. I told her she must feed the baby from that one breast, feed and feed and feed. She was very hot, then very cold. I gave her over-the-counter remedies but they didn’t work. She lost interest in the baby and I had to take over feeding her. Then she stopped eating. She called for her mother all the time. Incessant it was. All hours of the day and night. I couldn’t bear it for another moment.

Then one day, when the baby was about five months old, I shut the door to that room, and for a very long time I did not go back.

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