As Trixie and I filed out of the interpretation booth for the coffee-break, a smiling woman intercepted us. Trixie and I exchanged a look, returned the woman’s smile and said hi. She explained that she was training as a medical interpreter while her husband, an obstetrician, attended the conference. Listening to us had helped her, we did a great job, etc. After exchanging business cards with her we returned to the booth.
That evening Trixie and I strolled along the beach. The lapping waves washed away all traces of tiredness. On our way back to the hotel I stumbled on a pale and slimy creature lying in a foetal position on the sand. I almost barfed.
-It’s OK. It’s just an armadillo carcass. Popular dish in Acapulco.
-Stop it! What’s it doing here?
-I guess they only wanted the shell. They make great sound boxes for charangos…
-Yeah, you know, the small lutes from around here.
I hurried back to our room. That night I slept well for the first time in months. Since I got pregnant the pollution and altitude in Mexico City had been getting to me so my doctor had okayed this gig.
-Just don’t stand around too much, he had advised.
A bright beam of light woke me up. It was Trixie leaving the loo. I decided to follow suit. The white tiles cooled my feet but my pee felt hotter than usual. It arced in an unending stream of yellow, then colourless liquid. Then the penny dropped.
-Trixie, my water broke! Call a doctor!
Trixie dialled the reception.
-They say the house doctor is not in but I’ll try the number our wannabe colleague gave us.
Trixie dialled again.
A male voice gave instructions in a well-practiced soothing voice.
-Tell her to take a taxi and meet me at my maternity home near town. The driver will know the way.
-How will you manage tomorrow all by yourself Trixie? It’s heavy work.
-You just look after yourself. I can manage.
Trixie’s baby-blue eyes had turned steel grey
A burst of crimson was flooding the sea by the time the taxi dropped me off at the entrance to the clinic. A coiffed woman wearing a long white gown fronted by a silver crucifix ushered me in.
Once I was inside the clinic the pace picked up. They wheeled me to a private room, hooked me up to a saline solution and left me alone. When my heart went into overdrive I pressed the panic button. An elderly nun came running to adjust the drip.
-My child, we must induce labour.
-But my baby’s not yet full term.
-Once the amniotic sac ruptures blood poisoning can quickly set in.
I bit back my tears. The sister patted my hand.
-Don’t fret. God has lent you this child for a short while and now wants him back.
-Has somebody managed to get my husband?
That evening Trixie brought me flowers and the news that my husband was on his way.
I drifted off. When I opened my eyes I found Charles trying not to frown.
-You made it! I feared all flights would be full because of the long weekend.
-Beto’s mates at the airline put me on the jump seat. It’s nice that Mexicans know when to bend the rules. By the way, the doctor’s gone home since he says you still have a long way to go.
My uterus protested with a strong contraction.
A prim looking woman briskly walked in.
-Doctor knows best. If you were ready you would be screaming like the patient next door, but we’ll take you to the labour room just in case.
-I’m not a screamer and I’m the one who knows best. The baby is on its way.
Charles patted me on the feet but I kicked him away. This surge of adrenalin must have convinced the woman because she went off in search of an intern. Ping! The labour room suddenly went pitch black. What! Just now? Ah, I reasoned, but babies have been born since before they invented electricity. At some point the emergency lights kicked in.
This delivery was easier than my previous two. They say once it’s over you forget the pain. That’s not quite true. You do remember the pain but as an observer, a bystander.
-No anesthesia, said the sleepy intern, we want to give your baby a fighting chance.
-It’s a boy, he added in a small voice.
-But I didn’t hear him cry!
The intern lowered his gaze.
-We have to rush him to an incubator.
So my baby was severed from me and taken away. It was only later that I realized that I never got a chance to hold him because my hands were tied, literally tied. Somebody finally untied me. I then had another surge of pain. Expelling the placenta turned out to be more painful than the actual birth.
-That’s because of the violent contractions of the uterus, explained the intern.
When I was wheeled back to my room Charles was waiting for me. His smile was strained.
-He’s really breathing hard, fighting for his life.
Not a good sign. Heavy breathing equals distressed baby.
-Come, let’s take a look.
Charles took me to the incubator room. I tried to memorize the image of my baby through the glass wall but found his belaboured breathing hard to take.
Two hours later he quit fighting.
That afternoon, while I got some sleep, Charles accompanied the undertaker to Las Cruces, a public cemetery overlooking the Bay of Acapulco. There he placed the cardboard box containing our baby boy in the hole the undertaker had just dug. The man then silently handed the spade over to Charles so he could finish the job.
-Do you want me to carve a name on the cross?
Charles played back in his mind the grandiose name I had chosen – Krishna Kumar – and decided to put it away for future use.
-Put Bo, he finally said. Just Bo.
The day was April 30, children’s day in Mexico. Bo’s name was as short as his life, fitting for a child who only lived to be a child.
The following morning Charles and I boarded a taxi on our way to the airport. We were eager to return to our little girls back home. As the taxi circled a hill the driver pointed towards its summit and said that Las Cruces was one of several hallowed grounds in Acapulco. Charles pressed my hand. We both wanted to go there but neither dared to suggest it. The sharpness of the cliffs, the blueness of the sky and the brightness of the sun suddenly struck me as incongruous. On the flight back home I felt numb and hollow.
Back in our kitchen our daughters fell into our arms while Nora, their nanny, looked on.
Exhaustion finally hit me.
I dragged myself to the bedroom, opened the door and stared at an oval-shaped object on the carpet.
A cheerful baby bassinet, tied with a big bow and trimmed in yellow and white calico stared back.
Nora, her face flushed, caught up with me.
-…I forgot to tell you, señora, your friends brought this basket for you while you were away.