This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.
When the screaming came over the baby intercom, it took me a moment to come round, and realise it was Leah. I was out of bed in a flash, overwhelmed by a feeling of joy that my baby was finally crying. She shouldn’t have needed a feed yet, so I checked her nappy, which was dry. Holding her close, the noise was incredible. Her face was red, and her back arched in a shape like a banana. I moved her round into the feeding position, but she would not take my nipple, no matter how many times I tried.
And no amount of cuddling or rocking would console her, as the screams continued to increase in intensity.
Eventually, Olly could stand it no longer, and walked into the room, bleary eyed. He was smiling though, as just like me, he was overjoyed that she was crying. He reached out to take her, holding her high up against his shoulder, and patting her back gently as he walked in small circles. He asked the obvious. Was her nappy wet? Did she need a feed? I could hardly hear him above the noise. It didn’t seem possible that such a tiny baby could generate that volume. After a while, Olly furrowed his brow, and gave me a serious look.
“Should she be stiff like this? She is rigid.”
I was so tired, I couldn’t think straight. And I still had a lot of pain down below, as well as occasional cramps as my insides were shrinking. I wanted to go back to bed and sleep. It didn’t hurt once I was asleep. And as much as I loved to hear her cry, it had gone on too long, and was uncontollable. Then Olly made a decision.
“Get dressed, Ang. I think we should take her in”.
Alhough I had visions of being thought of as a panicky time-waster again, I knew Olly had made up his mind. We both threw on some casual clothes, wrapped up the still-screaming Leah, and headed out into the quiet night, probably waking up half the street as we struggled to get her into the car seat. No time to brush my hair, or my teeth. I felt dirty and horrible as we headed for the hospital.
The Casualty Department staff took it all very seriously, no doubt prompted in part by the ear-splitting noise of my baby’s screaming. We were taken through to a children’s area, and told a paediatric doctor had been called down as a matter of urgency. A tiny young woman appeared, dressed in green scrubs that looked too big. She must have been well under five feet tall, and had the body size of a child. But she seemed to know her stuff, and there were soon some nurses around Leah, later joined by another doctor who looked as if he had just been woken up. We sat on the hard plastic chairs in the corner and watched as they did tests, and attached monitors.
One of the nurses appeared to be in charge, and every now and then would turn to me with a question. Has Leah had a rash? Has she been taking milk? How long as she been crying? How long as she been arching her back? I gave her my best estimates, and then sat worrying about whether or not we should have brought her in sooner.
The crying suddenly stopped.
The tiny female doctor turned and smiled. “We have given her some rectal medication to calm her down. She will relax now”. They carried on working on whatever they were doing for another few minutes, and then they all left, except the tired-looking male doctor. He came over and stood in front of us.
“We want to keep an eye on Leah for a couple of hours. No need to admit her to a ward, but I want to see her reaction when the sedation wears off. This may have something to do with the difficult birth. I am not considering meningitis, or anything sinister”. I should have been relieved, but my first thought was to kick myself for not thinking anything like he had mentioned. Olly thanked him, and walked over to look at Leah.
I was feeling achey and sore, so stayed sitting. Yearning for sleep.