When a baby dies there has to be a doctor present to legally record the time of death.
I’m pleased it’s this doctor with me.
Here and now.
With me, mum and her dying son.
I always make an effort to get to know the doctors, partly due to the Northern One but mostly because I like to get along with everyone that I work with, it makes for stronger working relationships and a nicer working environment.
Something we definitely need.
Most of the time the doctors are friendly if you make a bit of an effort. Some aren’t interested although most are.
They seem to be more receptive when they realise that I’m married to a doctor.
I have an especially friendly relationship with this doctor.
She sits on the floor in front of mum who’s cradling her son in one of our reclining chairs. I kneel at mum’s shoulder, supporting the ventilator which is the sole thing keeping her son alive.
She’s pretty this doctor, with dark wavy hair and a heart-shaped face.
Usually she’s smiling but today her face is more serious.
But when she catches me eye she gives me a tiny smile, a gesture of comfort from one person to another when they both finds themselves in a situation that they don’t know how to control.
She’s quite junior but calm and composed; I always feel confident working with her.
She helps Mum to remove the adhesive pads holding the breathing tube securely onto the baby’s face.
Her hands are steady.
She’s so gentle, being as careful as she can not to damage the baby’s delicate skin.
She waits, quietly.
Giving mum as much time as she needs before we remove the tube.
This final thing.
Mum tells her she’s ready.
I carefully pull out the breathing tube.
I turn back to mum.
My eyes are blurred with tears but I force myself to focus.
Looking at baby for any changes in his appearance.
Looking at mum to see if she’s managing to hold on.
The room is quiet apart from the sound of mum’s tears.
She asks us if her son has gone.
The doctor asks if she wants her to listen for a hearbeat.
The doctor places her stethoscope on his tiny chest.
She closes her eyes and listens.
Drawing in on herself.
She needs to be absolutely sure as to whether or not she can hear a heart beat.
Her face is calm.
She kneels, motionless.
In amongst the emotion and turmoil of the last few hours her serene face brings me a few moments of respite.
Mum’s eyes are fixed on her face.
Willing her to speak but dreading it all the same.
Knowing what she will tell her.
She takes a breath and opens her eyes.
There are no tears.
Maybe she’s not a person who particularly cries.
Maybe, for her, tears make everything too real, blurring the boundaries between work and the rest of her life.
Maybe she knows that if the tears start she will lose all self control.
“I’m so sorry” she says
“I can’t hear anything.”