Cover image for Saul
Title:
Saul
Author:
Kay, Rosemary.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312253332
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Item Holds
Searching...
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

Saul weighed only 1 lb., 4 oz. when he was born, and fitted into the palm of the midwife's hand. But he arrived kicking and screaming -- and clearly wanted to live.

Saul is the powerful and thought-provoking story of the author's own son, who was born after 23 weeks in the womb. (There are a handful of 23 weekers who have survived intact. There are no surviving 22 weekers.) Told from the tiny baby's point of view, the resulting fictional memoir is an unforgettable voice from another world. With surprising insight and humor -- and a distinct and intriguing personality -- the narrator shows himself to be both a vulnerable baby and a wise, sometimes mischievous, little boy with a purpose. His story is one of hope and courage, of supreme trust and tragic betrayal, and above all, of the triumph of the human spirit.

"Saul spent four months in the neonatal intensive care unit, and each day was packed with human wit and superhuman endeavor. Everyone who knew him wants his story to be told." -- Rosemary Kay


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Little baby Saul was born prematurely, after only 23 weeks in his mother's womb. This novel of the struggle and pain during four months in a neonatal intensive care unit is told from Saul's point of view. He describes the emergencies and crisis, the tense worrying, and his parents' agony. Saul also talks about what life was like before he was born. Kay allows the unborn Saul to be all-knowing; he remembers the conversations between his parents and other family members and even the experiences of his grandparents from long ago. Once he is born, Saul's perspective is limited to his hospital room, but he is still more observant and intuitive than all the well-educated adults around him. No one knows of the crush between one of his favorite nurses and his favorite doctor except Saul, and he can always tell when his parents are upset, even though they try to hide it. This is a fictional memoir. Kay's son was born prematurely and stayed in intensive care for four months. --Michelle Kaske


Publisher's Weekly Review

The eponymous narrator of Kay's heart-felt debut novel is only 1 lb., 4 oz., when he is born at 23 weeks, a stage of prematurity few survive. A fictional memoir based on the author's own experiences with her son, the novel offers a baby's-eye view of life and the struggle for it in a British neonatal intensive care unit. As Saul describes the events of his four-month hospital stay, his family and the hospital staff share a roller-coaster of false hopes of progress and devastating setbacks. But Saul is determined to learn something from his painful experiences and equally determined to impart that knowledge to others as he discovers the motivational usefulness of anger and the healing power of forgiveness. Because the story is rendered through Saul's consciousness, the reader must accept that he's a sentient human being who can think in language at once primitively infantile and precociously mature. Charting an infant's will to survive in counterpoint to the background conversation of medical personnel pursuing the daily routine of neonatal care, Kay captures the sensual wonder of eyes and ears that are new to life, and the fear and distress as well. In registering his parents' feelings through the buffering filter of Saul's perceptions, she renders their anguish even more affecting. Some may find the story of a newborn's brief existence disconcertingly sentimental. But this imaginative account--published in Britain as nonfiction--should expand the sympathetic capacities of those who can accept the book's premise and the redemption implicit in its tragic close. (Feb.) FYI: British playwright Kay includes the address of a London-based charity researching prematurity and problem pregnancies. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

English playwright Kay uses her experience as mother of a premature baby to create an imaginative, often wrenching work of fiction. Despite all medical efforts to delay his delivery, Saul is born at 23 weeks, and this is his first-person story--of tubes and needles, pain and burning, fear and desolation, loving and forgiving. Once he reluctantly leaves the "Perfect Red Sea" of his mother's womb, Saul is guided by his deceased granddaddy, who allows him to choose whether to continue "This Living." Saul opts to fight, overcoming fungal and bacterial infections at five weeks and meningitis at 11 weeks, continually working to breathe on his own. Still, the miracles of modern medicine are only as good as those who administer them, and Saul suffers when his neonatal intensive care staff is stretched to the limits. As Saul delights in the attention of his loving parents and caregivers, readers who accept this literary device will be moved by his story. Just keep plenty of tissues at hand when reading it.--Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Part One Dancing in the Aisles Sometimes, no, most of the time, I thought it was all about to end. It was only because Grandaddy was in my head going, That's it, it's not time to give up yet, just a little more, that I got through it at all.     It's funny, looking back now, because you forget how bad the hurting was. But you can remember all the nice things, like my Perfect Red Sea and the spinning wheels and falling-over headstands, or when she sang and he went Tiddly-pom, tiddly-pom, or learning to float with Lami and sneaking down to the milk kitchen to spy on the nurses.     There are so many stories to tell, aren't there? Mine is a good one, so I'm going to remember it all: the good bits, the funny bits and the bits I want to stay buried. Because I did it, didn't I? The hardest bit I did all on my own.     And here I am now, not hurting, not fighting, but dancing ...     Dancing in the aisles must be naughty because people are turning around to frown at me. I'm making the dust dance too. It swirls in the tube of sunlight. We swirl together to the music. Jolly jingly music. You have to dance. I don't know how they can all just sit there, hunched, silent.     It's cool and dark in the church. I'd rather be outside. So I skip into the sunshine. I'm going to visit one of my favourite places.     There are gravestones all around the church, tall and thin and leaning over in lots of different ways. If you wanted to be tidy you would have to straighten them all up, but they'd only start lolling backwards and forwards all over again. Maybe they'd rather be lying down, because they are very, very old. This is the old part of the churchyard.     The new churchyard is up the hill, through the black gates, along a grassy path. You don't know it's a churchyard until you get to the two great trees with branches that meet over your head. Then you see all the gravestones, with their backs to you, forever looking down the valley. Some of the stones are squat and black, but the one I want is tall, brown, rounded with a pointy top.     They put Grandaddy in the ground a long time ago. It was only his body, though, he went somewhere else. Of course, he comes back here sometimes, because it's the sort of place that makes you want to come back.     Past Grandaddy's grave, the grass is really long and full of flowers. If you pull the grass aside, you can look down at the ants marching in a line around the grass stems. They're working really hard, as if it really matters. There's no time to waste, hurry, hurry. They pick up seeds and broken leaves to carry home. Tidying up.     It's quiet here, except for the cows tearing at the grass on the other side of the prickle hedge, or the crows going graaw graaw in the great oak tree, or the stream which is going gurgle-plollop at the bottom of the field. It is quiet really, because all the noises are soft. I like soft noises.     The prickle hedge goes right the way round the new churchyard, hiding us from the fields. If you peep through the hedge, you can see the stream down below gushing into Wild Granny's garden. You can just see the roof of her house, and the little wooden bridge Grandaddy made, and sometimes you can hear her singing loudly to herself. Not today, though. Today there are people gathering outside her front gates.     The first time I came here with Mummy, it was a really angry day. The wind was twisting everything round and round, pulling at her hair and clothes. The grass was wet and Daddy held her arm tightly. Black clouds rushed across the sky, throwing handfuls of rain at us. The rain bit into her face and made her glasses smeary.     She tried to arrange flowers in a pot. The wind snatched at the flowers and broke some of the stems.     `Just bog off!' she shouted at the wind. The wind just laughed and whipped the words out of her mouth.     `Tim, shield me from the wind, can't you? Bloody hell, why didn't we bring the oasis?' She was angry like the sky.     `Never mind, sweets. This'll do.'     He put the pot in the special hole made in the headstone. Then he piled up little stones around the pot to keep it steady in the wind.     She pulled her hair out of her face and mouth. `Not that they'll last five minutes in this.'     `It's the thought that counts.'     `You never did like flowers anyway, did you, Dad? Still ...'     Raindrops battered the flowers as we hurried away.     Today there is no wind. Today the sun is so hot even the grass looks tired. In the distance the air shimmers. Far away down the valley, the Hanging Stone wobbles against the green hills. And after that are the Roaches, black and jagged against the blue sky. And after that, ah, Grandaddy, tell us what you see after that ... Day I: Wednesday 17 April When you float up here on the ceiling, you can look down and see everything. Down there in the grey corridor are four people and a plastic box on wheels. They move quickly. The wheels of the box go eek eek eek as a woman in a blue tunic and trousers pushes it round a corner. A man with floppy hair hurries ahead and holds the double doors open. When they all get to the lifts, he's already pushed the buttons.     `Porter's lift is stuck again. Have to use the patients'.'     `Bloody hell.' The other man has tired eyes. `Can't stand the stupid voice in there: Doors openin '. Drives you mad.'     Floppy Hair grins. `Yeah, you'd think they'd have recorded someone with a sexy voice or something, instead of a Salford slapper who thinks she's the Duchess of York.'     The other woman laughs. She has a sunny smile. She puts her long fingers on the top of the plastic box. `Have we still got him?'     The woman in blue is checking the flashing lights and tubes and wires. Then she peers through the plastic lid. `Doing all right in there, poppit? Oh, look at his little nose!'     They all peer in and smile. Except Tired Eyes, who is jabbing at the lift buttons. `Come on .'     The lift goes ping! and you can hear a muffled voice inside. `Sixth floor. Doors openin'.'     They all laugh and echo together: `Doors openin'.' Except Tired Eyes. He doesn't laugh. He puts a thumb and finger up to the top of his nose and rubs the inside edges of his eye sockets.     The lift doors open. Floppy Hair turns. `I'll take the stairs. See you up there.'     The others squash into the lift with the plastic box.     `Doors closin'. Goin' down.'     The walls inside the lift are covered with colourful pictures of the sea, and there's a smiling sun painted on the doors. No one looks at it. The woman in blue is looking at the other woman.     `That's a gorgeous dress, Mel.'     `Oh, thanks. Got it in London."     Tired Eyes glances at them. `How'd you afford that then? They paying you more than me?'     `Ah, no family commitments. One of the perks of being a single woman.'     Tired Eyes scowls.     The woman in blue checks the flashing lights again. `Did anyone see Friends last Friday?'     Tired Eyes is trying to stretch but there isn't enough room. `Never watch it.'     `Oh, you should. Look like you could do with a laugh.'     He yawns. `Better things to do.'     `Yeah, like what?'     `Sleeping.'     The lift slows. `Fifth floor.'     The women grin. `Here she goes again: Doors openin '.'     The lift stops. `Doors openin'.'     They all laugh. Even Tired Eyes.     Floppy Hair is waiting for them. They walk quickly, not quite running, down more corridors. The walls are full of colour now. Other people in blue make way for them. At last they come to a room. It's noisy and bustling and bright and very, very big.     `Okay folks, new addition to the family. Where'd you want him?'     `Only space we've got left. By the X-ray screen.' From up here, you can see everything. The whole room spreads out below me, stretching away to the double doors at both ends. There's a long window along one wall with piles of yellow blankets and white sheets on the window sill.     People in blue swim calmly up and down. Some sit writing at the long narrow desk which runs down the middle of the room. It's covered with files and papers and cups of coffee and bottles of water, and a half-eaten cake on a plate. A woman in blue stops writing, takes a lump of cake and eats it. She licks her fingers.     High up on the pillar at the end of the desk is a small black cupboard. It buzzes and when you look at the front of it, you see fuzzy grey pictures of people standing in a corridor. The woman licking her fingers looks up to the grey pictures. `Anstey family are here, Jen.'     `Okay, let them in.'     She reaches up and pushes a button. `Come in.'     Down at the other end of the room, next to the double doors, is another smaller door. A woman in blue comes out. `Who's got the keys to the drugs cupboard?' Some people in blue swim towards her. `If you're doing drugs, I'll join you. Got a tricky steroid to work out.'     `And I need a shot of phenobarb.'     They go into the little room and shut the door.     At first that's all you see: people in blue, doors, bright lights. And then you look again, along the walls, at the important things in here: the Boxes. Along every wall, squeezed in, no space to waste, right down to the walls at the bottom and back again, are rows of plastic boxes. Bigger than the little box they wheeled along the corridor. See-through boxes, so see-through that you don't even see them straight away. But you can see the tangle of wires and tubes snaking out of the end of every box. They twist up to the banks of machines that are piled up to the ceiling. The machines blink and bleep against the walls. Some boxes have machines at the other end as well, which hum and spit into the room.     In every space there is a box, and in every box, a baby. Small babies, fat babies, pink or grey or yellow babies. They all lie on white sheets and they all have tubes and wires coming out of them somewhere -- out of mouths, noses, arms, legs, chests, bellies. Some of the babies look up at me on the ceiling and screw up their eyes against the bright lights.     There is only one empty box in the room. It is down by the double doors where we came in. Behind the doors is a big metal bin which clanks open and shut. Next to the bin, in the corner, is a sink and on the wall is a white screen spilling blue-white light onto the floor. It lights up the black and grey pictures pinned to it. And next to the screen is a tall bank of machines with wires and tubes dangling. And in front of the machines is the see-through box, open, empty, waiting.     Floppy Hair and the others are scrubbing their hands at the sink. They do it quickly but carefully, squeezing brown sticky stuff between their fingers. The bin clanks open and shut when they throw their paper towels away. The woman in blue is handing round a little bottle. They sprinkle something on their hands and rub it in.     `Right, come on, let's get him to bed.'     The woman in blue takes the lid off the little box on wheels. Inside, all you can see is a white blanket. She peels it open. Hidden inside is something red and wrinkled. A frog baby. She slides a hand underneath it and lifts. Its eyes are squeezed shut and its chest goes in out, in out, very quickly. Another woman in blue is helping her, holding the tubes and wires already coming out of the baby. Together they lay everything inside the bigger see-through box.     `Temp's falling.' Tired Eyes is suddenly awake. `I'll close up this side. Turn the incubator up to maximum temp and humidity for now.' He lifts the whole wall of the box into place and snaps it shut. Then he opens two little windows in the side, making holes just big enough for his hands to fit through.     `Right, let's get these sites in quickly. Stephen -- arterial in his ankle. I'll do the long-line in his arm. Mel -- umbilicus. Nurse, give him a boost of oxygen till we're finished, and keep an eye on his BP ...'     Suddenly there is a jolt. Everything begins to swirl and fizz. The pictures fade and I'm being dragged down, down to their hands. It's all gone black. Now it is only voices, noises, and the nasty feel of fingers prodding. The frog baby must be breathing hard. Suckpush. Suckpush. Suckpush.     The frog baby is me. Day I: The First Few Minutes Hands are funny, aren't they? There are lots of hands. Cold hands, hot hands, sweaty hands, all harder and drier than anything you've touched before. They do things to you and you have to let them. You can smell hands -- and this is a funny thing -- they all smell the same! All the hands are rubbed in something that makes your head spin when you breathe it in, makes your tummy lurch. But you have to get used to it, or else your head would go whizzydizzy all day. Because, you see, the hands never really leave you alone.     The hands began to stab me. First the fingers rubbed my arms and legs, searching along my body, pulling my skin tight.     `That vein looks promising ...'     And then they stabbed me with something fat and blunt.     `Is this the smallest catheter there is? Jesus ... Just can't ... come on ... This one just isn't going to ... how about that one on his ankle ...?'     Then someone pushed at my belly, and pulled, and pushed again, until it was raw.     I could feel my skin. It was warm where I was lying on it and cold against the air. I could feel them breathing, their breath freezing wind on my face. It was dry skin now, so thin I felt the stabbing deep inside.     My ankle stung where they left something in, and my arm throbbed and my belly button burnt and all the feelings got sucked up into the rest of me.     `Right, umbilical line's secure ... arterial one in his ankle ... and how's the long-line in his arm ...?'     They think I'm asleep, but I'm just lying still, feeling it all, learning about living.     One thing I've learnt is that you have to keep going suckpush or else you die. You have to suck in the air and push it all out again. See, like this, really fast, over and over, never stopping even though it hurts, even though the air here is tough and dry. Suckpush suckpush, it's the only thing that matters.     And I learnt about my Hot House. I didn't know I was in a house straight away, I had to work it out. I can't see, of course, my eyes are stuck, shut up. But you can feel you're in a sort of house because all the noises bounce and echo. You feel closed in with all the smells. You can hear noises outside, but the air in here is still. So it must be a sort of house. And it's lovely and hot, that's the best thing about it. Because the air outside, all that Big Air, where people in blue must still be swimming, is a really cold place, isn't it? Day I: The First Hour There's a cluster of voices above me.     `... Doing better than I expected ... Normal head scan ...'     `... Sites ... not easy ...'     `... Makes him one pound four ounces ...'     `... Blood gases ... On five then, and see how he ... Resp drive good ... Oxygen's he in? ... Air, is he really ... ?'     `... White blood count ... maternal infect ... general antibio ...'     `... Well done, little ... not getting the parents excited ... long way to ... critical ... tell in the next few hours whether ...'     And the voices fade away. They pushed a Tube deep into my chest, just after I was born. It's still there. See how it fills up my whole mouth. I can taste it and push it with my tongue, but it doesn't move. It's stuck tight inside me. Sometimes it goes clunk thud whoosh! and bursts fat needles of air into my chest. But the rest of the time it's me doing the breathing.     `X-ray! Coming through!'     More people, more things to learn. And that's how it is. The hands and voices just keep coming. And I know it will never be like before again. A bit of me is sad, and another bit of me is excited. They keep coming and doing things to me. And I let them.     `Oh, no. I've just got him warmed up. Might have known you'd turn up now!' And I think they're laughing.     `Sorry. Needs must. Orders is orders, and all that.'     `Hope you're not going to make him cry.'     `Come on. Put your armour on and shut up. My job to make babies cry. Terrible way to make a living, I know, but someone's got to do it. Anyway, you'll be picking him up, so he'll blame you. I just point and press.'     And then there's more laughter. When they open up my house the laughing rolls in. Cold fingers slide under me again. `Okay poppit, here we go.' It's a flying game. I'm lifted up and my arms and legs fly free, except I'm still tied down by the wires and things.     `God, he's a tiny little thing, isn't he?'     `He is. He's a little cutey.'     Then the fingers lay me on something colder. It makes me want to cry, but I've no time for crying. Got to keep going suckpush, haven't I?     `X-RAY!'     They lift me again and put me back in my warm bed.     `Isn't he a good boy? I love these tinies. Is he going to be here long, do you reckon?'     `You never can tell. He's a little fighter, though.'     `Isn't he just. Look at those little chest muscles go. Well, keep it up, baby. I expect to see you still here tomorrow.'     `Well, you never know ...'     I just keep going suckpush suckpush suckpush. Day I: The Second Hour I've done a whole hour, and I didn't give up once. That's very good, isn't it?     Click clack ack ack.     And I've worked it out. That click clack ack ack is when they open up the doors of my Hot House. It makes your ears tingle. It means there will be fingers, like the cold ones that smell of clean flowers. They've been there from the beginning.     But that noise -- click clack ack ack -- lets the cold air roll in, and the Big Air noises come surging round my ears. Like now. `Just checking your sites, poppit.' Clean Flower Fingers. She touches my arms and my legs, picks them up softly, turns them, presses them, pushes my belly, checks my bottom. She is sure, firm, quick. Knows what to do. `All over.' And the hands are gone. Clack click ick ick. And the air begins to warm again.     And somewhere someone is sobbing. I know the sound of sobbing. I can remember. It was before I started to do This Living, when I was in my Perfect Red Sea. Everything went soft and slow back then, and I was always warm and glowing.     Oh, my Perfect Red Sea. I loved the way I could stretch my arms and legs up and push my bubble into the soft squashy bits. And I loved the way I could bounce off the walls and tumble and dance. Oh, the spinning wheels and falling-over headstands! With one great double kick I could make waves that would crash back at me and roll me feet over head. And I loved the sound of her voice: `Are you planning to do the rumba in there all night? Mmm?'     But I can also remember the time when she sat on the stairs and it was cold on her buttocks but she didn't care, she just leant her head against the wall and her whole body shook, and so did my Perfect Red Sea. That was the sound of sobbing. I lay still and listened to her chugging breath, and let myself roll with the waves of sadness.     And I thought just now that I heard sobbing again. But now it's lost in all the other noises.     It's like all the noises get into my house and are trapped, and then they echo round and round. There's that uuuuummmmm , a deep grumble, that never stops. And you can hear a bleep bleep bleep! -- that's a high one, sort of urgent. There's always a bleep coming from somewhere. Or a pling pling pling! -- they're slower, ringing ones. And of course, my clunk thud whoosh! And underneath everything you can probably hear that sssshhhhhh . Oh, and farther away: peeeeeeeeeeeek! and, `My vent!' And remember, just a moment ago that loud and terrible eeeeeeeech! that made everything jump, and it's still bouncing around in here. And then, sliding in through all that, are the voices. Shadowy voices. `Baby Anstey's mum's here, Paula, shall I ... ?' Calling voices. `Has anyone got the keys to the ...' Oh, it all slaps backwards and forwards, doesn't it? And somewhere deep inside all this noise, if you listen ever so carefully, squeeze to hear it: babies crying.     I don't cry. I lie quietly, going suckpush suckpush, listening to my new world. Because you see, I know that Someone is watching. There's a little space of silence out there. And voices. You have to listen all the time to work out which voice, of all the voices, is important ...     At least I know Clean Flowers is there. `Try to see beyond the wires. He's doing ever so well, you know, really.'     `...'     Someone is definitely watching, out there in the middle of all the noise and smelliness.     `It must be ever so frightening when you first come in here ...'     `...'     `Did you get the photos we took?'     `Yes ... thank you. Here ...' So there is a Someone!     `Look, I put a biro in when we took them, to give you an idea how ... See, there's the biro. Later, you'll forget.'     `...'     `Have you thought of a name for him yet?'     `Saul.' And there's another Someone. I like this guessing game.     `We were going to call him after his grandad ... if it was a boy. Doesn't seem right now ...'     `Saul's better, anyway.'     `Saul's a lovely name. Sounds very grown-up. He'll have to grow into it.'     `...'     `Would you like to touch him?'     `...!'     `It's perfectly safe.'     `Won't it ...?'     `It won't harm him.'     `No, I don't want to.'     `He might like it, you know. Go on. Put some of this on first, rub it over your palm and fingers, that's it, kills all known bugs ...'     Click clack ack ack . Hot fingers touch my arm and try to stroke me. But they rub too hard. The hand pulls away. Clack click ick ick .     Now the Someone is crying.     `He's doing ever so well, you know, honestly. He's only on five breaths a minute. That means he's doing most of the breathing himself. Some babies are on fifty breaths. So that's ever so good. And he's in air ...'     `...'     And the smell left behind melts into all the other smells. I thought I remembered it from somewhere, but no, it's gone, and I can't seem to ...     `Were you going to breastfeed?'     `...?'     `Because when he starts to feed, breast milk is better than formula.'     `Oh. Well, I was ... I don't know now.'     `Well, if you wanted to, we advise mums to express milk, if they can. Then when baby, when Saul's ready, he can have your milk.'     `Oh ... well ... Will he ... when?'     `He might be ready in a week or two, it depends. But you have to start now. The sooner the better. We can freeze it until he's ready.'     `Oh, well, I'll do that then.'     `Even if it's only for the first few weeks, it'll help him.'     `Right ... good. How?'     `Ask a nurse on the maternity ward for a pump. She'll show you how to use it.'     `Right. I'll do that.'     `Yes, we'll do that. We'll do ... whatever ...'     `Why don't you wheel her back to the ward? You've got to keep your strength up, it's probably going to be a long haul.' And I know that what's happening now is linked somehow to before. I have to keep remembering to make sense of it all. I like to ramble backwards anyway, back to my Perfect Red Sea, to the time when it all went thurump thurump thurump all the time. And sometimes it went gurgle gurgle . It was a soft and muffled rumble-drumble of noises. And far away, smothered in layers of something, the voice went: `Whatever are you up to in there?' Her voice. And I giggled and gripped my toes, really excited, because I knew she was talking to me!     And when I listened carefully, I could hear another voice too. His voice, a very deep rumble that made you smile inside. And after a while I came to love them and it was easy.     Sometimes I heard her even without her voice. Sometimes it was just her thoughts that seeped right into me. I didn't even have to listen, I just knew what she meant. Thurump thurump thurump ... we will be strong together and not let go ... thurump thurump ...     So when the Someone comes again, I'm going to listen really hard and work it all out. It makes me tingle because I know it's important, and I can't wait for the next clues to make it all fit. I don't have to wait long. The Someone and that Someone Else are here again. I can smell them, mixed in with the smell of Clean Flowers.     `But he's only on minimal ventilation, you know ...' (That's the voice of Clean Flowers.) `The machine is on the lowest setting at the moment. Any lower and we'd take him off the ventilator altogether. He's doing most of the breathing himself. See his little chest going up and down ten to the dozen.'     `And how does the machine know what he ...?'     `We check his blood gases every few hours. Then the doctors can work out how much help he needs. And I can adjust the amount of oxygen he's getting here, look, if he needs a quick boost. He's in air, which is brilliant ... look at this dial.'     `But it says he's in twenty-one per cent oxygen ...'     `Air is twenty-one per cent oxygen.'     `Oh, yes, you told us that already. Sorry.'     `It doesn't matter. Ask me as many times as you like. Whatever you want.'     `Oh, right, thanks. So, er ... what ... why ... er ...'     `But you don't have to ask questions. There's no rules.'     `Oh, we do ... We need to keep ... Tell us again about his incubator, and these wires here. And ... about ... Tell us about this monitor ... Tell us about ... Doesn't it hurt?'     `What, the monitor?'     `No. Everything. What you're doing to him.'     And I knew then that it was all out there, waiting for me, the voices, the smells and those great, strong waves of sadness, emptiness, despair and, of course, the sound of sobbing. And I bundled it all away to piece together later.