Today I sat with a mum who had been told that there was nothing more we could do for her baby.
I sat on the floor of the single room that they’d been moved to so that the parents and family of the little girl could spend as much time with her as they needed.
It’s something that sounds good in theory but there’s never as much time as they need.
There never can be.
I sit on the floor and mum sits in the comfy chair cuddling her baby. The little girl is very sick and you can see it in the pallor of her skin but her hair is still soft and fluffy and her eyes are big and dark and beautiful.
We sit, this mum and I.
Sometimes in peaceful silence just looking at this little girl; stroking her hair and running a finger down her soft cheeks. Instinctively I bend down to kiss the top of her head, just like I would do to Squidge but I stop myself.
This is not my baby.
My baby is at home.
This little girl will never go home.
Sometimes we talk.
We talk about her daughter; how beautiful and special she is, what her name means and why they chose it. About her feisty personality and how hard she’s fought. How she is wonderful and unique and is so loved by so many people.
She tells me about her little boy, how proud he is to be a big brother and how every time he visits he wants to touch his little sister and cuddle her.
I tell her about my little boy.
She tells me how they tried for two years for another baby after their little boy and how thrilled they were when they found out they were having a little girl. How they kept it as a secret between the two of them but told their families when they found out that she would need to be born early.
I admire her gold locket, it says Mum on the front. She tells me it was a Christmas present but that she hasn’t got round to putting the photos of her two children in it yet. I show her my locket that the Northern One bought me for my 21st birthday; it has our photographs inside and our initials engraved on the back.
We talk about how we met our husbands; she’s surprised at how long me and the Northern One have been together, she says I don’t look old enough to have been with someone for ten years. She asks if were still madly in love.
She tells me how she’s only seen her husband cry twice; once when their son was born and then today when they were told that they were going to lose their little girl.
She asks me what will happen when her daughter dies; will we need to take her away quickly afterwards?
I tell her she can spend as long with her daughter as she wants; that she can cuddle her and sing to her and read her stories.
That she can bath her little one and dress her and wrap her up warmly in blankets. She tells me that she only has a hat with her and I offer to find her a little outfit from the clothes that have been donated to the unit. She asks me to find a pink outfit.
I tell her that we will not rush her into anything, we will wait until she’s ready before we do anything and we will help her to do anything that she wants to do.
She tells me she wants to take her baby home.
My heart breaks and I have to fight back tears with sheer force of will.
She knows that this can’t happen, that we just don’t have the equipment to allow her little girl to go home before she dies but she wishes it all the same. She tells me about the nursery they’ve decorated and the presents that people have bought her daughter for Christmas.
She looks at me wistfully and says that it’s a shame that babies can’t die at home like old people can.
I tell her that the only thing that is important to her little girl is that her mummy is here with her, cuddling her and surrounding her with love.
We’re waiting for her parents to arrive so that the little girl can be baptised. I ask mum if she’s chosen any Godparents and she looks confused, she wasn’t sure if you could appoint Godparents to a dying child. I tell her that Godparents are there to love and cherish the baby and that nothing will change that.
I ask her if there’s anything I can help her do with her daughter, maybe read her a story? She tells me that she’d like to sing to her but she’s streaming with a cold and her voice is nearly gone. I tell her how Squidge like to have ‘Twinkle twinkle’ sung to him when he’s sleepy. I almost offer to sing it to her little girl but it’s not my place; that’s something for her mummy to do.
She calls her baby her princess.
Dad arrives with their little boy and I leave them to spend some time as a family.
I go to the linen cupboard to find some clothes in the right size so that mum can pick which ones she wants to dress her daughter in. I look through all the boxes, making sure I pick the prettiest, pinkest little outfits.
I find a tiny pair of pink socks in just the right size.
They say princess on them.
My shift ends and I take the pile of little clothes into the room; I haven’t wanted to disturb them. I tell them that I’m going home and that the night nurse will come in to see them shortly.
I don’t know what to say.
By the time I come back to work in three days time their little girl will be gone.
I want to tell them how sorry I am.
That I will be thinking of them.
That I don’t feel like I’ve done nearly enough for them.
That I can’t imagine what it must be like to be told that you will lose your child.
The words won’t come and all I manage is to wish them the best.
I get home and Squidge is crying, refusing to settle to sleep. I go up to find him red and sweaty and angry.
I sit in the rocking chair with him snuggled into my lap and I sing ‘Twinkle twinkle’ to him and eventually he settles.
I think about another mum sitting with her baby in her arms, unable to do anything but sit and hope that her little girl knows how much her mummy loves her.