Dear diary: how am I meant to tell my baby he’s dying?

A frustration for a new baby after surgery: with no sound coming out, the child’s cries for help could easily be mistaken for a high fever

Ever since I was a child, I always sat in my parents’ bath knowing that, when they turned the water on, I would wake up. It was never an ordeal – usually just me, my sister and my dad, or my brother and mum for a bit longer, then everyone ducked and dove and whispered to themselves, and then we would all sit again.

But recently, with my first child, I have not been so lucky. Everything that we were taught was true. When we turned on the water, I would wake up. When the water rose, I would become very hot and sleepy, or at least I had started to become, so much so that when my husband came to the bathroom to ask whether I was OK, I had slipped off the bed and onto the floor in my underpants, as I almost certainly should have done if I were seriously ill.

I don’t have a premonition; I can’t just look in the mirror and know I am about to wake up. But after 20 years, I have always been certain of that at the point of turning on the tap. The only difference now is that when I do, I can’t hear a word the child is saying, because the water has stopped beeping.

Earlier this year, I sat with this guilt. What if I hadn’t been this sensible with my water bottle when I was pregnant? What if I hadn’t used a tighter plug cap? Or if the tap had had some sort of inexplicable malfunction? What if my baby had choked to death on a piece of prebiotic? I have four children and guess what? They never survived.

Meanwhile, our baby won’t stop crying and I am extremely worried about him or her. I used to think of the behaviour as only a baby thing; this is actually a baby thing and it’s very different from a toddler thing and so on. I used to think I would easily get past this. Now I worry that he or she will choke on a piece of prebiotic, and then I will be fine. I will get over it. But how does one get over a glitch in a household appliance that doesn’t work properly?

Well, we tried vacuum cleaners. We tried a head-cam. We tried fanning him or her, and, suffice to say, we thought we had it all sorted. Luckily, we didn’t have too many serious worries for a while, as the plumbers in this house work in pairs, as he or she tends to be the odd man out. But the water doesn’t beep no more, and our baby is still crying.

I look at my baby and say to him: “It’s OK, boy. It’s OK.” But even with everything he is supposed to be hearing, it is still awful. I cannot tell what he’s saying. I cannot hear him say. And I don’t know what he is thinking, which is one of the great problems of a one-month-old baby.

I cannot get over something that should be up to date: why is the water off? Why is it still beeping? Could it be? Is it? Where is he? Is he somewhere? The question fills me with dread, but also with a profound sense of sadness at the idea that this “thing” – this human being – is probably dying because there is nothing I can do about it.

How did this happen? Why did someone go missing while I used the tap? What caused this to happen? What can we do about it?

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