Voice of a mother: let me hold my baby
Judith Williams describes how she felt when she was denied skin-to-skin contact with her daughter following a CS.
I write because I was not allowed to hold my baby. It has a name: skin to skin. It shouldn’t need a name; it’s a mother meeting her baby for the first time. All the same, I did ask. No mother should have to ask.
In the wild, mothers kill if anyone or anything comes between them and their baby. Having been injected in the spine, I couldn’t walk, or fight, or bite heads off, or run or rip apart. Watched by 10 masked people in a white room, cut apart by a scalpel, my insides hanging out. My baby was cut from me at 4:25 in the morning. My baby was cut from me behind a blue gauze. My baby cries, though I can’t see her. She was being dressed by strangers. I hear my baby crying, screaming for her mother. Longing for comfort and safety, familiar arms and loving touch. My crying baby is handed to someone else, who is beside me but not with me. He holds a dressed baby to my face and I try to sing. She is quiet for a moment. I can’t sing. She cries, she cries, she cries.
There are 10 masked people in the room. No one says: ‘Let her hold her baby.’
Can we please assume that mothers want to hold their babies? I wrote a letter to the hospital in question to find out why I was not allowed skin to skin. What was the medical reason? There must have been a medical reason. There was no medical reason.
The reply that came back from the consultant that led my baby’s birth was that had she known I wanted to hold my baby that it could have been arranged. I am stunned. Broken-hearted. Speechless. Silenced. ‘Had she known?’ Did she not know? How can anyone not know that mothers want to hold their babies? Especially someone who works with mothers and babies every day – how can you not know that? You shouldn’t have to ask. But I did ask. I asked.
I asked to be the first person to hold my baby. My baby.
Let me hold my baby I asked the midwife.
The midwife said: ‘We’ll do that in recovery.’
Recovery from what?
The midwife that I asked in her own medical way said: ‘No.’
Let me hold my baby. ‘No.’
So I share my story with you because there might come a day when your own story becomes one of being silenced. Please remember those five words: let her hold her baby. Say them until they no longer need to be said.
Judith Williams is a mother and artist. When speaking at a conference, Judith made an impact on student midwife Sarah Scarlett and inspired Sarah’s poem that was featured in the Student voice article Striking a chord in the Spring 2018 issue of Midwives.