A short story about the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for The Edinburgh Book Festival

A short story about the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for The Edinburgh Book Festival

21 days ago


Our Brief Acquaintance

I must confess, little one, I was unaware of you until after you exploded and nearly took me with you to Kingdom Come. Not that we didn’t want a third child – we did. We’d even begun letting nature take its course with you in mind. But days and weeks rushed past, a blur of constant chatter and activity with your lively sisters, and I failed to count them.

This morning I was dragged up from a deep dark silent place into a bright hospital ward by someone’s incessant shouting:
‘It’s too sore! It’s too sore! It’s too sore!’ I was beginning to wonder why no one had told them to be quiet when pain hit me in the stomach like a cricket bat and I realised I was making the din myself. I stopped yelling, but I couldn’t stop whimpering. It was agony.
‘Ah, you’re awake! D’you want more pain killers?’ I could have kissed that nurse. She’d whisked away before I had time to thank her, though, let alone ask what had happened.

Images from the previous day began drifting across my mind as I slipped gratefully into a light doze. I remembered spending most of it in bed clutching my stomach, regularly evacuating my body, one way or the other, even when I had to crawl to the bathroom. Your dad tried to help me, and your grandma, but I had to be on my own to cope with it. Doctors came and went with icy hands and stethoscopes until I found myself strapped to a stretcher being carried downstairs towards the open front door where blue lights flickered in the dark. Your sisters were clinging to your grandma in their pyjamas, watching with big tearful eyes, but I’d retreated so far inside myself by then I couldn’t even offer them a hint of a smile.
‘I was born in the Royal Infirmary.’ That’s the only thing I remember him saying on our dreamy blue-flashing night dash through town, pain draining sweetly away under the onslaught of morphine. Your dad was so brave. ‘I’ll see you later,’ was the other thing he said, squeezing my hand as they wheeled me away, his glistening eyes telling another story. Maybe not.Then they made me sit up for an X-ray, but I couldn’t. I fell sideways. That’s my last memory of yesterday.

The nurse has just given me more pain killers, thank goodness! This time I managed to speak.
‘Can you please tell me what happened?’ She plumped up my pillows and wiped my face so tenderly I suddenly wanted to cry.
‘You had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, dear.’ I blinked, trying to understand, and she put a kind hand on my arm. ‘Your baby was growing in your fallopian tube. It burst under the strain. Lucky for you Mr. Myerscough was here last night – there’s no doubt he and his team saved your life.’

‘Your baby’. Gone before I knew you existed. Gone, but never forgotten. Are you somewhere?