Forty two years ago tomorrow, 9th March, I gave birth to a baby boy whom we called Max. He was over eleven weeks premature.
The hospital was frank about his limited chances of survival although no reasons could be found for his prematurity. Anyway, I did not have to be told that the odds were not in his favour. He was quite big for his stage of gestation and he was a male. These were two other factors which, statistically, did not auger well. Although I am not a believer, the intensive care nurses, who were nuns, asked me if they could have him baptised as they did not think he would survive. For their sake I gave my permission as I did not want them to suffer. I know not what they did.
As time passed we all grew a little more hopeful.
My dearest wish was, as does not need spelling out, that he survive.
I had undertaken a course of study the year before. I was half way through my Diploma of Education. I had made arrangements about how this could be continued and when I would require help with childcare, bearing in mind the wonderful surprise new baby to be born in June as well as our older children. But could I do this and also look after a new premature baby who would need special care? On the other hand, if he did not survive would I be better to continue with this degree for my own emotional support? I had until the 31st March to make my decision.
I decided to defer and informed the university of my decision. In no way could I run the risk that a decision to continue might imperil this heartfelt wish and that my precious baby might not live or that I could pass the care of this special baby over to any one else, even temporarily.
Early on the morning of 2nd April I heard that he had taken a turn for the worst and died during the night.
Of course life goes on. I later, with enthusiasm, finished my Diploma of Education, taught in schools, undertook further education and worked in other areas with children as I went on through life.
I took great comfort from my three wonderful older children. They were later joined by another baby brother. I was both amused and saddened by a discussion between the two older children as they watched their new baby play with his toys, a beautiful little boy and now a wonderful man with children of his own, but then only about nine months old. One said, “It is such a shame Maxie died. They would have had a lovely time playing together”. The other said, “But he would not have been born if Maxie had not died”. Another unanswerable conundrum. What would life have held if he had lived?
But every year, at this time, I remember the great depth of feeling with which I wished, forty two years ago.