Little bits of kindness,
Going that extra mile,
Takes the bitterness away.
Dr James arranged for us to meet Wendy Green, the social worker of Ward 11A. Wendy was a very lovely person. I couldn’t remember exactly what went on during the meeting. This was what she wrote in the hospital notes.
“Mum and Dad were very upset and still anxious and angry and very confused. Both worry and seem to worry about baby’s condition and how to manage in future weeks. To see again and remain closely involved.”
October 6th, 1989.
All maternity cases were free in New Zealand. Most mums stayed at most for three days. I had stayed more than a week. Dr James was under pressure from the hospital management. I had overstayed my welcome in Ward 2. The nurse manager too was pressurised. Technically, I wasn’t a patient. I used the room to sleep, I was not sick to require that hospital bed and that single room.
But they couldn’t just throw me out as they had treated me so badly when I was admitted on the Monday before Andrew was born. We were still sorting things out and it would be bad for the hospital if we were aggravated further and the sensitive nature of situation could escalate and lead to a nasty court case.
Dr James and my social worker Wendy came and told me they had found a happy solution. They had a room in the Nurses’ Home that I could have, and the hospital had a crèche that my girls could go during the day. The hospital would give me free board and food. They gave me vouchers to have my breakfast, lunch and dinner. The allowance was ample as I hardly ate a thing during those days. In fact I had enough to share my lunch with Deborah and Gabrielle.
The hospital had just imposed a new charge on the crèche meant for antenatal mums to leave their kids in when they went for their maternity check-up. For these women, the few hours of their visit didn’t matter, but for me, if I left my girls eight hours per day, the charges were phenomenal. Here was another big hurdle hanging over my head. But like the saying goes, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” I accepted this offer.
I packed my stuff and followed a porter. It was all very confusing and I was totally lost. The porter was a young Polynesian man and he was very patient with me. He kept saying, “This way Mam, watch out for cars, Mam.” We crossed roads, turned right, turned left, walked straight ahead. Finally, we reached the building.
It was just a block from the main hospital. It was like a hotel building with a tall block, and a lower entrance with the kitchen and dining cafeteria. He went to the reception to check in for me. I must have looked and behaved like a zombie. He explained where I was to get my meal vouchers and where to eat.
Mrs. Cherry Thompson at the reception desk explained where I had to drop my keys when I left and another desk where I went to get my daily meal vouchers for the Cafeteria they called Oliver’s. I soon got to know the personnel there well. Mrs. Cherry Thompson and the other receptionists were very patient, always asking how Andrew was. They were very friendly and always giving comforting words. Come to think of it, I wonder if perhaps they were told I was “The Mum”, the infamous mum with the dying baby and who was going to sue the hospital.
He took me to the room allocated to me, opened the door and asked if I needed him to take me back to the hospital. I think he was really worried about me. I told him I would be alright, I didn’t know how long I would be and I didn’t want him to wait. He said it was okay, he would wait in the common room.
The room was depressing, bare walls and thin carpet. I just dumped my things on the floor. The room was on the right side of the wing. I couldn’t remember which floor it was, but we had to go up in the elevator. It was just a single room with a single bed. There was a communal bathroom, but I didn’t remember taking my shower or brushing my teeth. I didn’t venture around the place and I didn’t go to the common room. I stuck some of our photos and a few drawings Deborah had done.
I opened my door, the porter was leaning against the wall and waiting for me.
He asked, “You ok?”
We repeated the walk back in reverse order. I had no idea where he was leading me. I just followed him. Poor man, how many to-be-bereaved mums had he taken to the Nurses Home. He was a lowly and poorly paid porter, but he did his work well.
When you walked straight out of Oliver’s, you came to the crèche and then to Ward 11A. On the left was another crèche for the staff, doctors and nurses. Why do you think I remembered this so well? I couldn’t bear to look at the children playing in the playground and their laughter and their crying.
It was as though they were mocking me, “Nani nani poo poo, look at me, listen to me, I am a healthy child. You are a hopeless mum, you are a failure.”
I bit my lips because I didn't want these children see me cry.