The first time ever I saw her face

The first time I saw my daughter, I thought she was a lizard.

The midwife had slapped her down, lengthways across my stomach – that was Standard Operating Procedure, designed to facilitate mother-baby bonding. I admit that I was probably pretty delirious from exhaustion, after the exertion of the past few hours, and the trauma of giving birth. The long, arduous discomfort of labour had all come to a sudden end when the gynaecologist swooped in, dressed for surgery, and next thing I knew, this slightly slimy, pinky-purple creature had been slapped down on top of me.

From my awkward vantage point, I gazed up at this as-yet-unknown being that I was supposed to bond with. She was lying across me so that, from my perspective, her head appeared sideways. She made very little noise, but I could detect stealthy little movements. Her eyelids were half closed, making her eyes appear like slits, but I could see her pupils darting backwards and forwards, or, viewed side-on, up and down. Her retinas were probably in shock at the sudden light, or perhaps they had yet to learn to stop and focus. In my dazed state, I assessed that her body was mostly a long torso, her limbs way too small. Her little red tongue was darting in and out of her mouth, probably also as a result of the shock experienced at this new system of breathing in oxygen, that she had only just discovered for the first time.

Yes, it’s no doubt that I was delirious, but my first thought was that she was a lizard.

*

The first time I ever went with my daughter to hospital in an ambulance she was 11. She had a suspected fracture in the C7 vertebrae at the base of her neck. It had occurred two days earlier and had not seemed serious, until the following day, when she held her neck stiffly and was clearly in pain when she moved her head.

When I understood what the radiographer at the clinic was telling me, in a worried tone, I felt a sense of panic. It didn’t help that while he called the ambulance, I had to leave her alone at the radiology clinic while I moved my car from a 2 hour park and tried to find, as quickly as possible, somewhere nearby where I could leave it all day, an impossible task in an inner suburb of Melbourne. I dumped it in a 4 hour park, put in as many coins as I had left, and came running back, my heart in my mouth. And it stayed there when I spotted my kid, lying out on the footpath in the middle of the Footscray CBD, strapped into a hospital stretcher, with a neckbrace on, and an ambulance officer next to her.

While we rode in the ambulance to the Royal Children’s hospital, I listened to the paramedic chat with her, intermittently throwing in questions like, “can you wiggle your toes?” “have you felt any tingling in your fingers?” I wondered if I would have realised what these symptoms indicated, if she had felt them and reported them to me. I wondered if it was possible that she could still feel them any time soon.

But back when I was rushing up to her, after moving the car,  preparing a cheerful demeanour to hide how worried I was,  I had looked down at her, lying on a stretcher on the footpath outside the radiology clinic, her neck in a brace, ready to reassure her that everything would be ok. To my surprise, she had looked back up at me with a grin on her face.

Because at first she thought it was all “kind of exciting.”

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Brilliantly written! And she seems to be very strong 🙂

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    • Thank you! In fact I wrote that under pressure to publish something, and was just about to edit the whole post because I thought it was not well written, something I’m afraid I often do after publishing! 😦 I just couldn’t figure out how to round it off at the end! So thanks for reading and for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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      • It’s the thought that matters the most. Could have ended a little differently but I still really liked it! Good luck 🙂

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  2. nicely written 🙂

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