birthday eve

My youngest child, Matthew, will be 54 years old tomorrow - hardly a child.  He was due on my thirtieth birthday two weeks later but he was smart and lucky enough to get born a bit early and my  paediatrician was standing by. I already had two girls and a boy, in that order, so  I can say my paediatrician  because by that time he was a friend of the family and boy! did Matt need a friend.  He was born without any sugar in his blood; the placenta was damaged; he had been starving in the womb, weighing in at 4 pounds, 5 ounces at his birth, quite a contrast to his older brother who was 9 pounds, 10 ounces when he was born.  My obstetrician had disapproved of such a big baby because he thought I shouldn't have gained so much weight, so this time he had me on amphetamines so I should stay svelte.  I guess we were fortunate.  Thalidomide was popular then, prescribed for pregnant women - I think to stop them being sick. 

It seems simple and self-evident now that what a pregnant woman puts into her body - smoke, or alcohol or drugs, whatever - will directly affect the baby in her womb, but it seems not to have occurred to doctors at that time. Matthew was born without any sugar in his blood , and that was what did the damage to his brain.  It/he could have been worse, so I was told, but my paediatrician did some amazing things to lessen the damage.  Matt was hooked  up to a glucose supply to fix his blood sugar level and then hung around the hospital after his mother went home without him for a couple of weeks.  (Guess what I wished for when I blew out the candles on my birthday cake.)

Of course, the event changed my/our lives. I wrote a book about it, The Book of Matthew, describing some of the consequences. I have also written a chamber opera, Boy in a Cage, about him, and a film, not (yet) produced, called Six Lost Hours. 

I could go on and on, and I do, but I'll stop now. Tonight I look back on my son's life. Tomorrow I will celebrate it.