The nurse had brought the baby in. Placing her in Agnes’ arms as was only natural and right.
She had known that it would be a girl. She had called her Bernadette for some time. Her father had used to call Agnes, ‘my little Bernadette’, when she was a child, after the film The Song of Bernadette. Her brother and his wife wanted to call the baby Catherine, after his wife’s mother.
Almost immediately her brother and his wife had come into the room.
‘Can I hold her?’ she asked.
Agnes had said, ‘Yes, of course’. Being nice. Being naïve. Having believed everything they had said. Having believed that she would be able to see her child whenever she wanted. Having believed them when they said that to all intents and purposes they would share her.
And she had let his wife take Bernadette in her arms even though all that she wanted to do was to hold her herself. To hold her and hold her and hold her. To kiss and feed and protect her from every single thing that might potentially harm her. But instead she let his wife take the baby out of her arms and she realised later that she shouldn’t have done that. That a line had been crossed there and then. The trail of breadcrumbs that she had scattered had been eaten in front of her very eyes.
Her brother’s wife cooed at Bernadette, calling her ‘little Cathy.’
‘Isn’t she gorgeous?’ she said proudly, as though she had had something to do with her creation. As though Bernadette had lived inside her for eight months, two weeks and four days. As though Bernadette were a part of her not Agnes.
If she could do it all over again she would have demanded that they leave. She would have told them – even though she never swore, even though her dead father had hated to hear any of his children swear – she would have told them to ‘Fuck off!’ And then she would have got up out of bed, even though she could barely move, even though she was numb from the waist down, she would have got up from the bed and driven them from the room. Calling out into the ward:
‘Nurse, nurse, call the police! Nurse, nurse, these people are trying to steal my baby!’
But instead she just lay there exhausted. Watching her brother’s wife rock Bernadette back and forth in her arms. Watching their nervousness. Their weird happiness.