17 February 2009
I need 11 candles to place on a cake tonight. 11 candles... representing 11 years of separation, agony, anguish and pain.
My baby is a baby no longer. She hasn't been for sometime. But etched in my heart, mind and soul is her image on the day of her birth, Tuesday, 17 February 1998.
Our first separation from each other occurred moments after her entrance to this world. Hurriedly, she was placed on my tummy, her cord clamped and severed before she was whisked away to be placed in an incubator. It happened so fast I was in a daze and barely had time to realise I had given birth let alone had her taken from me already. She was 6 weeks early.
We were reunited a few hours later when I had come to the realisation she was no longer with me. That sense of loneliness was overwhelming. I had been alone all throughout my pregnancy, barely anyone had truly supported me and my only comfort had been my daughter. And now she was no longer with me and the shock of being so very alone was scary. I begged, pleaded and argued with the hospital staff until I was allowed in to see her.
I can recall that moment like it was yesterday, it is still so vivid. Her eyes were closed but she wasn't really sleeping. She was purple and her little lips were swollen. I saw her little chest struggling as it heaved up and down and each breath was accompanied by a grunt emphasising her struggle to breathe. I was told if this grunt worsened, she would be transferred to a higher level of NICU that day.
I was shown how to touch her - premature babies have particular ways in which they like to be touched and handled - and told she might not open her eyes for another week or two.
I spoke to her, softly. Spoke her name, told her how much I loved her and Mama was right there with her. I told her how well she was doing and I couldn't wait to hold her. Right there, right then, she opened her eyes. She needed all her strength to breathe but yet she opened her eyes and gazed straight into mine. That was when I knew I was her mother. This was the moment in time that defined who I was to this tiny little baby hooked up to the NICU machines. Right then I finalised in my heart the decision I had made long ago to keep her. Right then I forgot about the vultures waiting out there to take her from me. The world consisted of only her and I - and she wanted me to know who I was to her - her Mama.
11 years on and it is difficult to comprehend the why and how of the events that subsequently followed. It is almost impossible to conceive why I have been blowing out candles on her cakes year after year after year without her by my side when I had made the decision to mother her.
How does a mother lose her child? How does that happen? I never could have imagined how fragile or precarious our situation in life could be; that others could interfere and wreak havoc in such a monumentally destructive way with such devastating consequences.
So, today I blow out 11 candles. Today, again, A is not by my side. Her absence is sorely felt.
How many more candles will I have to blow out before this terrible wrong is righted?