Blake sat motionless beside the theatre table as doctors and nurses fussed around his pretty wife. Her long black hair was stuffed into a net that could barely hold the luxurious tresses. There was nameless worry in her eyes but Blake squeezed her hand and winked to suggest that everything would be all right.
The first two years of marriage had been blissful. Blake and Amy had moved into a renovated beach house in Toowoon Bay and, before they could furnish it properly, Amy became pregnant. All was well until the last month of the pregnancy when the baby suddenly shifted position, causing Amy some distress and her obstetrician some concern. Amy found herself facing a caesarian section to make sure the pregnancy had a happy ending.
The coarse theatre garb and his facemask made Blake feel uncomfortable but he was in no doubt that in these days of modern medicine there was very little chance of anything happening to threaten either Amy or their unborn child. Around him were professionals who saw this sort of predicament as routine and they all seemed relaxed and intent on getting the job done.
“Don’t worry, Blake. This will work out fine. As I told you, it’s really just a precaution. I don’t think we should run the risk that the baby might put Amy through a lot of needless pain and itself into a state of panic and then we’d have to do a caesarian anyway.” The obstetrician looked at Blake only momentarily as he went about various preliminary tasks. “I promise you I’m not doing it this way so I can get to my golf game later today.”
One of the male nurses chuckled and Blake tried to smile before he remembered that his mask made any facial expressions futile. Amy was awake and the epidural was taking effect. She gripped Blake’s hand and grinned at him.
“Can you feel this?” The surgeon was prodding Amy’s swollen stomach.
“Just a sensation of prodding? No pain?”
“OK, let’s begin then.” He put his hand out for whatever implement was required. It was promptly delivered. An incision was made and then others. There was blood. Hands moved quickly to apply clamps and absorbent cloths to control the wound.
It all happened in seconds. The obstetrician’s gloves disappeared deep inside Amy’s womb. She grunted and closed her eyes with the discomfort of the intrusion.
“Not pain. Just a lot of pushing around.”
“Good. Nearly done.” Suddenly the surgeon had lifted a baby into the air. The bright lights of the theatre seemed to shine with happiness. “A beautiful boy. Congratulations Mum and Dad.”
Blake was ecstatic but Amy seemed shocked. Then her eyes widened and she saw her child for the first time. She wanted to hold him. Turning to Blake, she squeezed his hand and then let it go.
The placenta was duly clipped. Blake and Amy watched everything, trying to ensure they would remember these moments forever. A nurse helped the doctor clear the mouth and nasal passages of the infant, who was pale and apparently uninterested in making his voice known to the world.
“Mmmm. He’s a bit sluggish isn’t he?” The casual tone had gone out of the doctor’s voice. “Let’s have a closer look. C’mon. How about giving us a big cry?”
The baby was placed on a small table on the other side of the theatre. Amy looked at Blake. She was still in a state of bliss. Then she saw the anxiety in Blake’s blue eyes.
“What? Blake, what?”
“Sir, I’m sorry but I think it’d be best if you leave now. I have to ask you to wait in your wife’s room please.” The nurse was respectful but businesslike.
Blake went into the change room and began to dress in his own clothes. A youthful medical professional was putting on his theatre attire.
“You another new dad?” The young man was simply being friendly but the question rocked Blake.
“Yes.” Blake could not bring himself to consider the possibility that something serious was wrong but his response was laced with doubt.
“Boy or girl?”
“Got a name yet?”
“Not yet. I have to speak with the boss.” Blake was sounding more uneasy.
“Good luck, mate.” He left, now somewhat sheepish.
Blake finished dressing and went to the ward. He sat in Amy’s room for twenty long minutes. Outside cars were jamming the highway as mothers competed in the daily chore of collecting their children from the school in Craigie Avenue. Visitors hurried noisily down the corridor of the busy ward, carrying flowers and teddy bears as gifts for the new mothers and their children. The obstetrician finally appeared. He closed the door and sat on a chair next to Blake.
“We’ve lost the baby I’m afraid. I’m terribly sorry. He had a very rare condition we usually refer to as ….”
It was as if Blake’s hearing was abruptly switched off. He heard no more of the explanation. His blue eyes were filling with tears but his first thoughts were for Amy. He glanced at the open book the doctor was showing him. In the corner of one page was a drawing of a severely deformed baby. The picture did not seem anything like the perfect child Blake had glimpsed in the operating theatre.
Blake’s sense of hearing returned as the surgeon rose to leave.
“If there’s anything you need, just call the ward sister. She understands the situation.” The doctor left and closed the door.
Another half an hour went by before the door opened again. Two orderlies wheeled a prone Amy into the room. Her eyes were raw, red with tears.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Her voice seemed to echo as if she was calling out from the rotten pockets of hell.
Blake went to her and tried to embrace her without touching her stomach.
“Did you give him a name? He has to have a name.”
Amy was right. He must have a name even though he was a child she never knew. She never once bounced him on her knees and the milk of her breasts never ever filled his tiny stomach. His personality would be either forever blank or whatever she wanted to invent for him. She saw his little face in her mind but she could not imagine it ageing. He was like a silent angel. No words were ever uttered by him. The doctor had said the baby was ‘a bit sluggish’ and sluggish he remained forever – so sluggish that he never cried to be fed. Nor did he reach out to be cuddled. His teeth were still dormant in his gums and his eyes would never adjust to the light of day and the blackness of night.