One for the medical mums

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We’ve had wonderful support for When We Remember to Breathe’s crowdfunding campaign from medical mums, so, by way of thanks, this week the Magpie blog is featuring a short extract by co-author Renee Liang: paediatrician, writer, mum, poet and playwright extraordinaire. Enjoy!


“I’ve been to hundreds, possibly even a thousand births by now. It’s work; it’s routine. When I get paged out of bed, I’ve been known to mutter a bit while putting on my scrubs. I am the calm one in the operating theatre: untouched by the miracle of birth. I know how to radiate efficiency when I walk into the room. I know how to check my equipment to damp my fears that this will be the one I can’t bring back.

And though the vast majority of babies born pale and floppy do breathe with a little gentle persuasion, there have been the ones that don’t. You can usually tell as soon as they land in front of you. They have that stillness, that feeling of emptiness: the body that has never breathed and never will. But sometimes when you listen, you will still hear a tiny heart flutter – because hearts are, above all, persistent. And so, you will grab the mask and push air into stiffened lungs, and watch the stained-pink fluid bubble out, and pump on a ribcage that needs surprisingly little force to indent, and you will watch the clock, and people will flow and eddy around that tiny bedside until the clock reaches thirty minutes, and then you will call time, time of death. And then you will strip off your gloves and start the second part of your night, the part where there are talks with bereaved families and where calls to night supervisors bring the tiny decorated cot with the butterflies and there is the filling in of forms in triplicate and, sometimes, the long phone calls to the coroner.

It was surprisingly late in my own first pregnancy when I realised I had a warped view of birth. The watershed moment was my utter disbelief upon hearing that a friend had had a normal birth and a healthy baby. (I might even have asked her, ‘Are you sure?’ when she told me the happy news.)

As my first due date drew closer, I tried to communicate my rising sense of panic to my husband. He, quite naturally, didn’t appreciate my long list of things that could go wrong. ‘Yes, but is any of it likely?’ he said.

Logic doesn’t work well on a pregnant woman, especially not one with twenty years of medical study behind her…”

When We Remember to Breathe’s print edition is crowdfunding as we speak and ebooks are delivering now.


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