That time I called 999
It was around 2 a.m. when I awoke to the sound of Olivia wincing. I scooted up in bed and brought her to my chest to feed her. Not more than a few minutes into the feed, Olivia unlatched and vomited like nothing I’d ever seen before — vomit flew across the room, covering me, the bed, and the wall in the process. She started to shrill.
I felt my body get hot and my pulse quicken. “Shhh, it’s ok,” I soothed, while gently bobbing her in my arms. Her cries intensified and so did my sense of dread.
Our bedroom had only one window that during the daytime, received so much natural light, the entire flat had a happy disposition. However, in the middle of the night, the orange phosphorescent glow of the only lamp, the plain white walls, and the distressing sounds of my baby gave the room a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest vibe. I felt scared and helpless. I wondered if anyone else in the complex could hear us and would come to our aide.
Naturally, I called my mother.
“She’s never thrown up like that before and now she’s hysterical — and you know she never cries like this — I think something’s wrong, what do I do?” I could barely get the words out because I was as short of breath as Olivia.
I could see Mom felt helpless too. She asked questions, but the only words I heard were, you know best.
With those words, I hung up the phone and called the line for the midwives at Chelsea-Westminster. I left a message and received assurance that someone would call me back shortly. As I waited, 15 seconds turned into 30 turned into 60. Olivia kept crying. I paced the floor with her in my arms and rationalized my way into the next step: hanging up the phone and dialing 999.
The next few minutes were a blur but went something like, “What’s your emergency?”
“Something’s wrong with my baby. She’s 4 weeks old and she’s in distress and she threw up everywhere and I need help right away!”
As I was giving the dispatcher the details to our flat, another call was coming in — it was the midwife. Now it would be the midwife’s turn to wait — I was getting help.
I called my mother back and informed her that help was on the way but that I would leave her on speakerphone for good measure. I placed the phone over on the kitchen counter and continued to pace the floor. Not more than a minute or two later, I heard the call at the door. I ran over and buzzed the emergency responder up.
When I opened the door, I encountered a slightly older gentleman, perhaps in his late 50s, who introduced himself and spoke in a fastidious yet calming manner. He wore the black NHS uniform of the emergency responders and asked if he could enter the flat.
I showed him into our living room and I took a seat on the couch with Olivia while he stood a few feet away in the middle of the room. As I began to explain the situation, Olivia calmed down and seemed to be listening to me as compassionately as the emergency responder.
“May I see her?” he asked, without reaching for her.
“Yes,” I said, as I extended my arms out and handed him my precious baby.
I watched as Olivia cooed and giggled while he took her pulse. Meanwhile, I began to proverbially shrink.
Suddenly, there was another call at the door. The emergency responder seemed to know who the call was from and asked that I buzz up whomever was at the door.
I opened the door to two paramedics. The men were both good looking and in their twenties, which only served to amplify my shrinking feeling.
Once again, I held Olivia on the couch, giving these men the same overview of what had transpired, while they stood next to each other looking down at me. The emergency responder gave the two newly arrived gentlemen a knowing glance and confirmed that they could take it from here. They nodded and with some pleasantries, he wished me well and left.
The younger of the two medics asked if his colleague could examine Olivia. While the one checked her vitals, the other continued to ask questions.
“Are you here alone?”
“Yes, I live alone. Well, not alone exactly, but it’s just me and Olivia.”
“And what about your family?”
“They’re all back in the States.” I watched him nod.
“And friends? Do you have any friends? Anyone helping you at all?”
“I do have friends. They come by every once in a while, but they have their own lives, of course.”
“And what about mum support groups? Do you belong to any?”
“No, I mean, I’ve been meaning to, but no, I don’t.”
“I see…” the two men discussed Olivia’s vitals for a moment and then he turned back to me and said, “well, I’m happy to report that there is absolutely nothing amiss with Olivia. She’s as healthy as could be. Sometimes, babies throw up when they’re being fed.”
“But, but…she was hysterical. She doesn’t cry. That’s just not her. I’ve never seen her like she was tonight. I know it probably sounds silly, but I was scared. It wasn’t normal. I know her.”
Both men gave me a uniquely compassionate and patronizing gaze given their youth, and then the younger man continued, “It’s all very normal for babies to have crying fits…let me give you some information on mum support groups in the area…” he continued to talk as I mentally began to retreat, having now confirmed what I’d already begun to realize — I was crazy and they knew it.
I thanked them for the information and their support and walked them to the door, all while still holding a now gleeful Olivia in my arms. As I closed the door, I looked down at her and relief washed over me. I realized I didn’t care who thought I was crazy. I was just thrilled my baby was okay.
“You little stinker butt!” I told Olivia while gobbling up her cheeks in kisses. I walked over to the kitchen counter and picked up the phone,
“Mom, are you still there?”
She responded with the only thing I really needed to hear —
“You’re a good mom, Mallory.”
With that, I said goodnight and took Olivia back to bed. She laid next to me and latched on and in that moment of raw motherhood, all the stress of the evening melted away and me and my tricky little baby both fell asleep.