Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, Ireland
My hand was cold and purple when I withdrew it from between the bars of the cot. For six hours I had opened and closed my eyes, reluctantly falling into a restless, jumpy sleep while my fingertips rested on her, noting the rise and fall of her ribcage. During the night, when nothing moved except the flickering lights on the monitors, or the nurse doing her hourly checks, I did not move my hand once from the warm body. I believed nothing could possibly stop that rhythm of breaths once my hand was across her heart, instilling calm, reminding her I was here. I had gone beyond exhausted at this stage, my body struggling to cope with the fact it had been rushed from pregnancy seven weeks too early just five days ago.
Outside the Special Care Baby Unit, life was going on as normal for other people. Nurses arrived, there was a shift change, the cleaners came and went. Other parents arrived; we nodded at each other, each face looking as haunted and hollow as mine. There was a special language we used and we had learnt it very quickly. ‘Day by day’, ‘Doing well,’ ‘Stable- thank God.’
Placing our trust in technology, the equipment our babies were connected to, the collective knowledge of medical learning. It was only in a quieter moment, when I readjusted the cotton bandage that protected her transparent eyelids, that terror gripped me. If science failed, all that remained was hope.