The cradle rocked ever so gently. Every time the door to the ward opened and a draught rushed in, the curtains swayed apart affording glimpses into other lives.
She lay on her side. Her left hand stretched out under her, as if ready to receive the bundle. Her manicured fingertips graze the metal hinges of the crib.
A baby cries. Another joins in. And another…
A cacophony of hungry, indignant cries fill the ward.
In a snap her arms curl back into herself, palms resting on the flattened yet flabby stomach.
As other mothers shush and cajole, wincing she turns away from her cradle; her thighs move as if leaden.
It wasn’t an easy labour. The sutures pull and burn, as she clenches, a Kegel frozen in half motion. But she feels no pain; not even discomfort, as she bleeds into her bedding. Nothing was easy.
For a moment there is an eerie quiet. The little ones have been tended to. Ten toes and 10 little fingers, downy hair and pursed lips, wrinkled skin and unfocused eyes… all kissed, swaddled, cuddled and put to sleep.
Then there is one lonely little defiant cry. A sharp pain shoots across her engorged breasts. She chokes back a sob even as her pillow grows damp. She squeezes her eyes shut blocking out the smells and cries that were not hers to reach out to.
I gently open the door letting in another draught, hoping the cradle wouldn’t creak for the emptiness needs no reminding. I slip away from my dark corner wanting no part in her grief.
Photo courtesy: https://flic.kr/p/oH9oGZ