Two months ago, I had a baby. Two weeks ago, I was still meant to be pregnant. Our son, Reuben, was born prematurely. The most beautiful, if presumptuous, little being to come into the world. He spent five weeks in hospital, first in a humidi-crib, and after a time, in an open one- an upgrade my hubby and I celebrated with a cocktail.
Reuben’s other milestones included having his IV drip removed, next his heart monitors, then his oxygen monitor, and finally, his feeding tube, which translated into a ticket home. He has been a little champion throughout the whole journey. It could have gone a very different way, or at least, at a much slower pace.
My sole experience of having a baby included a complicated pregnancy – involving a trip to emergency at twenty weeks, broken waters at twenty-nine weeks, and two weeks in hospital leading up to Reuben’s delivery by emergency caesarean.
Was it all worth it? Am I traumatized by the experience? Or, if not that, is it worth the complete overthrow of life-as-it-was? At 22, there is the added factor that few people of my age are choosing family life so soon. That does make the undertaking more daunting, I think.
But of course the answer is, “Are you really asking me that? Absolutely it is worth it!” Not to deny that it was an intense and traumatic time, but our baby is nothing but joy… All right, and pooey nappies, though even the nappies are still a novelty.
Yet, my experiences so far have led me to darker reflections too. Soon after Reuben was born, while I was still in hospital, I remember visiting him in the small hours of the morning from across the ward.
I was feeling exhausted. As I sat, gazing upon his small body, somewhat lost amongst the plethora of cords and tubes coming off or out of him, I found my love for him to be almost overwhelming. There’s something almost supernatural about a new baby; they seem to possess a wisdom that the rest of us have lost. For all that, Reuben was legally abort-able at the stage when he was delivered.
The reality of this struck home with a greater force than it had ever before. He was the perfect image of a newborn baby at full term, only smaller. He could do everything a newborn could do — move his limbs, open his eyes, fill his nappy, make audible sounds. How could it be possible that the government funding top-notch care for Reuben in one hospital ward would also fund the termination of babies of the same gestation in another ward?
Only after Reuben was born did I learn that for this very reason an old family friend, a midwife, suffered a nervous breakdown years ago. This happened while she was working at one of Melbourne’s most reputable hospitals. She was unable to fathom how nurses caring for preemies on the one hand, could then proceed to the floor above to assist in abortions. On one floor the staff were using their skills and resources to fight for the life of a baby come too soon, while on the next floor, they were using those same skills and resources to terminate the life of an unwelcome baby. Legally, as far as I understand it, the difference is merely a matter of the baby being on the wrong side of the womb — inside, that is, where nature has hidden it for safety.
Yes, these dark thoughts ran through my mind that night as I sat by Reuben, reaching my arm through the small hole of his humidi-crib, his tiny fingers wrapping fully around my pinky.
Approximately one in three babies are aborted in Australia. These are the little, invisible lives that become, by decision, mere statistics. Reuben just happened to be one of the lucky ones.
Veronika Winkels writes from Melbourne, Australia.