Life With Mabel: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 771 words.

After the transfer to Guy’s hospital, Mabel slept like a log. A nurse woke her up to tell her that her mum had come to visit her, and she couldn’t believe how long she had been asleep. Mum looked like she had been crying. “What’s going on with baby Denise, Mabel? Can I see her? Reg rang me at work to let us know. He has gone to work on the railway, but the poor bloke must be exhausted”. The nurse intervened.

“Baby is sleeping at the moment. She has been examined by specialist doctors, and they will be coming to talk to you soon. Would you like a cup of tea, Mabel?”

When the serious older doctor arrived about fifteen minutes later, his expression said it all. “Not good news I am afraid, Mrs Price. Little Denise must have had the umbilical cord around her neck before delivery. As a result, her brain was starved of oxygen for some considerable amount of time. She is alive, but suffering from serious brain damage. It will be highly unlikely that she will be able to see or hear, she may not be able to speak or make sounds, and her development will be far from normal, if she survives”.

He waited for a while as Mabel tried to take it all in. Mum started sobbing.

“You must understand the seriousness of the situation. Denise is unlikely to survive the week, and even if she does she will never be normal. Blind, deaf, mute, unable to feed herself, most likely unable to walk properly. She will be completely dependent on your care, every single moment she is alive.

Then Mabel started sobbing.

The nurse stepped forward and held Mabel’s hand. “You might want to think about getting her christened. That can be done by the hospital chaplain in the chapel here. You know, just in case”. Mabel nodded through her sobs. “Wait until Reg comes in to visit. I will talk to him then”. The doctor straightened up. “Do you have any questions for me before we bring Denise back, Mrs Price?” She had hundreds of questions, but couldn’t think of one to ask at that moment.

So she shook her head.

Denise was brought back in, wrapped in a little fluffy blanket. Molly White held her, her tears falling onto the tiny head. “But she looks so beautiful, Mabel. She looks like any normal baby I have ever seen”. The nurse suggested that Mabel feed her. “Put her to the breast, it will help with your milk”. Denise suckled happily, but her gaze was vacant, and she made no noise. No noise at all.

By the time Reg got in to visit, it was close to the end of visiting time. The nurse told him not to worry, she would ignore the rules for one evening. He looked worn out, but was eager to see and hold his little daughter. As he rocked her, his mother-in-law told him the bad news. Mabel was too upset to tell him herself. He acted strangely, not willing to accept it. “Well just look at her, she’s perfect. That doctor don’t know what he’s talking about, I reckon. Can’t we see another doctor? That one surely ain’t no good at his job”.

His bravado soon broke down, and he handed Denise to Mabel as the tears started. He rushed out of the side room, and they could hear him crying in the corridor. Reg wasn’t the sort of bloke to cry in front of women.

Once her visitors had gone, and Denise was sleeping in the little cot next to her bed, Mabel spoke to the nurse as she came in to do her checks.

“Can you arrange that Christening please? I think it’s going to be the best thing”.

On the Thursday afternoon, Denise wouldn’t take a feed. The milk just dribbled out of her mouth. When Reg came in that night, she told him about the Christening the next day. He looked very serious. “I will call in on Norman on my way home, tell him I won’t be in tomorrow”. Her in-laws and her parents came to the chapel on Friday afternoon. They were all crying as the Chaplain held the unresponsive baby in his arms and recited the service. Harry and Eric came forward as her godfathers, hardly able to speak for all the upset.

Reg sat with her next to her bed after the others went home. A nurse came in with a doctor just after eight that night, he examined Denise, and shook his head.

“Sorry to tell you, she has gone”.

32 thoughts on “Life With Mabel: Part Eleven

    1. I have memories of so many babies and small children dying when I was young, Jennie. People accepted that not every child would live, and medicine was nowhere near as advanced of course. When I was 2, I almost died of Scarlet Fever. My parents were told to expect the worst, but I survived the high temperature overnight.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My mother and her cousin both had Scarlett Fever. Mother was fine, but her cousin was left deaf. You were lucky. Mother told me many times that it was amazing she gave birth to six children and they all lived. I remember death, too. It was ‘just the way it was’, and people moved on. I have a part of that in me. I don’t sigh and pine, I don’t let life’s troubles get in my way. I really remember polio. The Small Pox vaccine left scars. Best to you, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. (1) I wooden advise ever waking a log.
    (2) Reginald is exhausted because he’s been working on the railroad all the live long day. (He’s more devoted to Dinah than to Denise.)
    (3) Denise doesn’t sleep like a log. She sleeps like a twig.
    (4) Bad citation: “Denise may be blind, deaf, mute, unable to feed herself, and most likely unable to walk properly. But the good news is that she’ll bat a hundred at echolocation, she’ll never need you to tune her piano, she’ll save you a lot of money on the weekly grocery bill, and she’ll entertain herself by twirling a hula hoop around her neck.”
    (5) Wasn’t there an animated film for children called Baby and the Breast? (Or was it Beauty and the Beast?)
    (6) Overheard:
    Doctor: “Sorry to tell you, she’s gone.”
    Nurse: “Gone baby gone!”
    Mabel: “Where did she go?”
    Doctor: “I don’t know. But she was carrying a red bindle and was headed for the railroad yard.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well that’s cheered us all up… I should have had twin sisters. I was Mum’s first, 1953, born at home ‘Call the Midwife’ and the only baby where nothing went wrong! We were brought up on the story of Mum’s five pregnancies. She had a harrowing time when she lost twins, one survived for a few hours and was Christened. Dad was only allowed to stay for the visiting hour.

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  3. I agree with Carolyn. My brother’s only child was deprived of oxygen at birth and never able to walk or talk, feed or dress himself and despite numerous infections and fits as a child he is still living 40 years later, though has been in a home since adulthood. One can’t imagine what sort of life he has actually had. Might it not have been kinder not to have resuscitated him several times at birth.

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    1. It is tragic, I agree. As I have never had children, I do not express my opinion on that. I do remember when Down’s Syndrome children were called Mongols, and put in homes. Now we see them having active and rewarding lives, acting in films, and becoming TV presenters. They are not as serious as your nephew though, that goes without saying.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 3 people

  4. It may seem heartless, but for a child born like this it really is best if it does not survive. Surely in Nature it would not and to be kept alive by artificial means is cruel to the child and to the parents. Mabel will be doing a lot of thinking…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. A friend had a child very much like this. It was not expected to live more than a few days. I think she finally died at age 30 or so. You can imagine what life was like for the parents and other children. To me that seems cruel yet the parents did everything in their power. I’m not sure I could have but until it happens to you, I guess…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Poor little baby. This reminded me of when Sam’s mum told me how Sam had caught meningitis at 2 months old and wasn’t expected to last the night. He was christened in haste, but made a miraculous recovery. Mabel hasn’t been so lucky.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mum told me that I nearly died of scarlet fever when I was 2. I had already been christened in the local church in Bermondsey, but the doctor told her that I would probably be okay if I survived that night with such a high temperature. It’s amazing how much medicine has advanced since 1954.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think it was widely accepted by mothers then that not all their children might survive to adulthood. Sam’s mother had a baby that died at 4 months old due to a cot death. We found his grave about 20 years ago in a Croydon churchyard.

        Liked by 2 people

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