Friday, 29 May 2009

Flash Fiction: His name was not important

Su and Ian gawped through the glass of the Intensive Care Unit at their newborn son. They'd been awake for 72 hours now, always waiting to find out if he'd make it through the next few minutes. Each hour gave them new hope that he'd start to breathe on his own. Each hour they fell more in love with him.

Su was determined that they'd call him Louis but Ian wasn't so keen. Squabbles on what now seemed a trivial issue had abated ten hours into labour when they began to realise that their son might not survive.

Nurses with limited assurances faded in and out of their lives as they considered a lifetime never knowing him. Ian considered the many hours of football coaching his son might never have, the lost opportunity of teaching him new things, watching him marvel at buses and trains and butterflies landing on petals. Things Ian had stopped noticing but would experience again through child's eyes. Ian already missed his son.

Su was taking it hardest. Inexplicably, she was blaming herself for her son's struggle to draw breath. He was early. Su wasn't prepared for his arrival and she was even less prepared for his departure. She wasn't thinking about what she'd miss out on if her son died; she was thinking about all the things Louis would never experience. He'd never love, be angered, feel sad or know the joy of doing something well, even if that was just scrawling unintelligible lines on a piece of scrap paper. She was overwhelmed with love for this child she'd been unable to hold, or even really touch. This child who'd missed out on the first crucial hours of bonding.

Su and Ian didn't know that I had been there for him in their absence. When they went home for a few hours every night to try to sleep, I would creep into the unit and comfort him. They didn't know that I loved him or that a friendly nurse helped me to feed him and kept watch for me. They didn't know that I'd held him when he'd seemed stronger this morning and that he'd clenched my finger in his tiny hand. Maybe he didn't want them as his parents. Maybe he knew I would be able to look after him after all. Despite what we'd all agreed. I didn't want to break it to them before we knew that Oliver was safe. I knew it would be hard to be his mum on my own. But I was keeping him.

In response to the Internet Writing Workshop's exercise: A Child Is Born.

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