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Stillborn


Madiha Abdullah


(You are my sunshine; my only sunshine—)

Have you ever been in a moment—lived it—where time seems to have stopped?

(You make me happy…

It is a moment where everything is vivid. You miss nothing. Every sound amplified. Every view magnified. A moment, where nothing is lost. Have you?

(…when skies are grey.)

I have.

Would you spare a moment for my tale?

 

It was nearly five years ago, when I had still been an intern at King’s Medical College and Hospital.

It had been a Friday, a bright morning. The skies were blue, the birds were chirping, and people were dying. It had been one of my worst traumatic days as a medical resident.

There had been a bus accident, and the injured were being brought in by the dozens. Gurneys were crashing into each other in their haste, people were screaming, crying, and all we could hear was the rush of our own blood thumping through our ears like death knells. There had been so many lives to save, and so little time. The situation was manic. It took us nearly five hours to get everything under a semblance of order. By the time the ER had finally settled, it was already high noon.

With all the blood and gore I saw that fateful morning, all the deaths and tears and the lost looks in the eyes of veteran doctors, I thought nothing would faze me that day. I was dissociating; my body felt numb, and my mind had left me.

But I will remember the moment that came after forever.

After the happenstance of the ER, I was assigned to fill out the death certificate paperwork of Room 715. I had reckoned it to be one of the trauma patients.

If only it had been. If only. The scene haunts my waking dreams even now.

As I had neared the open door of cabin 715, I heard singing.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” came the words—the voice so soft, so gentle that it had brought me back from the nightmare at the ER that day. It had grounded me when I had been drifting aimlessly.

I peeked into the open door and saw.

A woman stood there in her hospital gown, her sweat-matted brown hair falling around her shoulders, sticking to the back of her neck. She stood by the window, her profile towards me. I could not see her eyes, but I saw her smile. She looked at peace.

Her arms cradled a bundle to her chest, held so carefully, as if the baby swathed in blankets would fall apart at a single harsh touch.

“You make me happy when skies are grey,” she sang to the infant in her arms.

As if waiting for a cue, the afternoon sunlight streamed in through the windows at that very moment, illuminating the room and making it look as if the mother and child were glowing with God’s holy light.

I could see everything in that moment. The dust mites in the air, every strand of the woman’s hair, her serene smile, the dead look in her eyes.

The moment was so tranquil, so peaceful, so surreal, that I failed to connect with my emotions. I failed to connect with anything.

And so, I failed to feel anything as I took in the details of the paperwork I had come for.

Robin Harrison. Cause of death:

Strangulation by umbilical cord

Stillborn

(“Please don’t take my sunshine away,” she sang, as she sobbed into her dead child’s cold body.)

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