What number are you?

I saw a baby recently. You do not need a medical degree to notice that something was wrong. His face was not right. But he was cute and he was quiet and he smiled whenever i put my stethoscope gently on his chest. Which made me kind of sad at the same time, because that means he has been in hospital most of his life and he is very accustomed to such procedures. He is not even three months old. Barely into his first week of life, he required minor surgery to fix some of his more pressing facial congenital abnormality.

He has Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) but it was not immediately obvious as he has a host of other problems. I attempted to take a history but his mum knew very little English. I gestured and asked how many children did she have. She frowned and said, “Seven or nine?” I stared at her thinking that she must have misunderstood my question and then trying to think to myself what kind of question would her answers warranted. She started counting on her fingers, and i know she heard me. Now i wondered whether it is ever possible to forget how many children you have.

“Nine”, she smiled and said.

I grinned uncertainly back. She looked young but now i know she isn’t.

I looked at the baby and i wondered whether he was an accident. Maybe the contraception did not work? How would Life pan out for an unwanted child, and one with a definite developmental delay and intellectual disability? I could feel a sigh welling up inside me and i suppressed it.

I played with the child, he didn’t cry. He was incredibly good-natured. For once, i did not feel an urgency to leave the patient, and i do wonder if i had finally found my niche? I saw the mother lovingly cleaned him and touched him. I saw her smile when he smiled, heard her crooned softly to her child in their native tongue. She loved him, despite the huge burden he will be. She loved him even though the pregnancy was unplanned. And i just looked because i realized something else is at play, something i cannot understand or yet to comprehend.

This child is surrounded by a lot of love and tenderness, something that sometimes a whole child may not get. I was wrong and now properly chastised. This mother loves her child.


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