Only in 2020 Part 5: Born in 2020

from Today's Calls: Pandemic Pieces on BBC Radio Devon by Kimwei

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Daddy says humans are a ‘kind of mammal’ and that extinct means ‘being gone’ and he says he saw on TV that one in four mammals might get extinct so I’m hoping it’s going to be my brother Eddy because he keeps poking our new tiny little black kitten and scaring her behind the sofa and then I have make her come out by wiggling the fluffy stick. And kittens are baby cats and Daddy says that cats are mammals too so I hope she isn’t the one to get extinct ‘cause there’s only me and Daddy and Eddy and the kitten so that makes four.
I asked Daddy if, when I was little, Mummy got extinct of cancer and he said ‘no not exactly’ but I think she must have got extinct of cancer because she’s gone and isn’t coming back. My Aunty works at the hospital where lots of people got extinct this year from being poorly with Corona-sickness, so she had to be at the hospital to take care of them all the time, every day and night and all the time and she had to wear a space suit, and then she stopped because the baby is going to be coming soon. Aunty looks the same as before except with a big tummy where the baby lives till it comes out. Do you think the baby will be like my kitten and sleep and wake up and play and eat and poo and play and then get drowsy-eyes and sleep again and make little snores with its ears all droopy? I want the baby to meet the kitten when it comes. We got her because of lockdown and being lonely but I don’t think Aunty and Uncle are getting a baby because of lockdown because I think you have to order babies in advance, so they must have come up with the idea already.
Daddy says Aunty is scared of going to the hospital when the baby is coming out, but I don’t know why because she used to go there every day in her space suit and wasn’t scared. Maybe they don’t let her have her space suit if she’s going to the hospital for fun instead of for working. All the grown-ups say that it’s amazing to be having a baby in twenty-twenty because no-one knows what will happen next. I can’t tell if they think it’s amazing-good or amazing-bad. Maybe it’s like when you don’t know what’s going to happen next on Netflix and it’s scary and fun at the same time but you don’t know if you are scared and a bit excited or excited and a bit scared.

***

Mum’s awake. I notice her light on and the door ajar as I walk back from my first loo visit of the night. There are several these days as you are nearly due and need the extra room usually claimed by my bladder. The weather has turned cold and I wrap my dressing gown double around you in my tummy and stick my head around the door.
“Can’t sleep Mum?” I ask “how’s the pain?”
“Oh love it’s much worse, it’s really bad.”
“Did you take-“
“-yes, love I’ve taken everything. It is what it is. Come and sit with me will you?”
I feel guilty then, for my medical training kicking in like a reflex, wanting to check her vitals and meds before anything. I float in and sit on the thick sheepskin rug by her single bed and see that familiar look of her trying to smile her warmest of smiles, whilst pain pins her face at the corners, at the brow. I take her hand, it’s cooler than mine but not by enough to worry. My brain does a risk assessment anyway - she has an illness of the gut, it hurts but it’s not dangerous. She’s survived Coronavirus and worse and I tell myself there is no need to fear losing your grandmother before you are born, or for many years to come. I smile back and think how you will adore her - her deep and ferocious love and overflowing good nature. Even now, she is festooned with cats, one sits on her hip on the blanket, another by her side tucked under her arm and the spindly brown dog who was originally a stray sleeps at the foot of the bed. They find her comforting.
“Now, my dear, have you decided when I’ll become a grandma for the third time?” She asks simply. I laugh and squeeze her hand and pull closer so that she can touch my tummy and wonder if you can tell that it’s her.
“Well, there’s no need to be impatient. You’ve already got two from my brother. I can’t decide when this one comes.”
“Of course you can,” she insists, “a mother’s instinct,” you give me a kick, seeming to agree.
“Everyone’s taking bets.” I tell her, “someone in the family has fifty pence on labour starting any day from tomorrow till the middle of next week.”
“Well,” says mum, “what a time to be having a baby. Only you, my darling, would choose to do it in 2020 when no-one knows what is happening or what will happen next. It’s amazing, and I know if anyone can do it, you can.”
I go back to bed with her words in my ears, pressing my back against your Dad’s back for comfort, because you’re so big now we can’t hug face to face anymore.
Mum’s right - so much is uncertain I feel sick sometimes like my world is spinning. Everything I thought I could count on staying the same has changed or been lost, except for you, my constant, my child. My bet is that you come at just the right time.

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