Hugging him I clung to the vain hope that he wouldn’t let me go. Let go of us. But he released his grasp and stepped back. “Goodbye, Sarah.”

Finality echoed in his simple words. A trapdoor clanged shut in my heart. Methodically he undid Gracie from the sling around him, strapped her into the baby seat, kissed her softly, and shut the car door with a light thud.

Everything seemed in retreat. The noise in my head amplified. Our trip would usually take one and a half hours. I drove it in six. I stopped to breastfeed Gracie. I stopped to talk and talk to Mum about all the thoughts flying around in my head: did I even know him?, had he met someone else?, what’s in store for Gracie and me?, what do I do now?, where do we live?, What did I/we ever mean to him?

A security guard approached our car, parked in the tow zone, tapped on the window to see if we needed assistance. The reality outside my own mind only impinged for a moment and I continued to obsess with my concerns. Over those six hours I descended into chaos.

By the time I got to Mum’s she was, as so many times before, my archenemy, with complete mal-intent toward me. I was no longer talking freely with her. Gracie’s father and I were ordained to be together and I knew exactly how circumstances must change in order for us to be reunited. I wanted to drive back to him. Mum refused to let me drive myself. A relative who had offered me assistance “at any time day or night” lived to regret those words and at about 3am in the morning Mum and Alice decided to take me to the emergency hospital.

Here I rejected my daughter. I did not love her any less but at this stage I believed that I was such a dreadful person that the only way Gracie would have a decent life was if I was out of it. I refused to hold her. I refused to breastfeed her. That poor tiny girl, weeks old, went without milk until the nurses brought formula to Mum hours later. Then, I didn’t realise Gracie’s pain. Instead I was consumed by the yawning eternity of time without my little girl in my life that I felt the need to condemn myself to.

Mum, my sister and Alice took turns sitting at my beside in a private room in emergency to ensure I didn’t leave. I couldn’t talk: my mouth and tongue refused to obey. Even my limbs were difficult to control. Greta’s presence meant that Alice and Mum could have a break if not a rest.

Occasionally, as softly as the whispering leaves, darkness reminds me of the time I would have abandoned my daughter.

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