Riding the train home from work, in my typical ‘don’t bother me I am asleep’ non sleeping pose, I heard a new born cough. It was one of those wet phlegmy coughs. Through half opened eyes I noticed a young mother across from me. Ever the people watcher I was on full alert. The mother was about sixteen, the baby was too young to be in such a public place being that ill. The mother's nose looked as if it had been smashed and reassembled, there were scars and signs of serious abuse or injury.
She talked to her male companion, she shared the child’s name, his age, the fact he was not taking enough formula. He was propped up in his stroller, she mixed up cold water and formula and tried to give it to him. She did not pick him up, she did not touch him, she did not look at him. He appeared to be too exhausted to suck. He gave up. This infuriated his mother she swore about him, calling him the most unflattering of names, telling her companion this four week old was purposely trying to upset her.
Every mother, and I suspect father on that train strained forward, everyone was silently screaming “give him to me”. The woman beside me said “If you hold him, cuddle him, he will take more”. I whispered “She won’t take input.” My companion said “I couldn’t help myself”. The mother told my train neighbor what to do with her advice.
I moved to sit beside her, in soothing tones I picked up that wee lambie. I rocked him, looked at him, let him connect with me through his eyes. I fed him the rest of the cold formula which he took slowly, but he did take. I told the mother where to locate resources. She accepted my input and took down the phone numbers. A few days later I called the resources. She had called, they had appointments with her. They would send a near age, positive companion mother to assist her with her mothering and others to help assess her for possible PPD and family of origin child neglect and child abuse, to support her as she eagerly made positive life changes.
Well that is how it goes in my re-write. Reality stopped where she told my companion what to do with her advice. Like everyone else I sat in stunned silence, watching her create a stainless steel, non-nurturing world in which to raise her son. If he did decide to take his formula and stay in that world his future is predictable. As I write this my heart is thumping. There isn’t a day I do not think about him, pray for him and wish wish wish my fantasy re-write was the reality.
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