She is called Mia

Had a baby girl
06:23 6lb 13oz

Sender:
Frances
+447772569466

Received:
03:32pm
11-09-2011

She is called mia

Sender:
Frances
+447772569466

Received:
03:39pm
11-09-2011

It’s Sunday evening and the new maternity hospital is deserted. Empty desks under a canvas canopy; unoccupied co-joined plastic seats; a locked-down refreshment stand; more nine-eleven coverage on a silent TV no one is watching. “I wouldn’t leave your bike there,” says the only member of staff in the expansive atrium. “We’ve had loads stolen… even with locks.” I tell him I’ll take my chances. It’s an old bike. There is nowhere else.

I’m apprehensive. How appropriate is this, to be visiting a 16-year-old I hardly know only 12 hours after she’s given birth? But Frances’ texts have been encouraging, inviting me to come along whenever it’s convenient.

Bed 29 is surrounded… and by people I don’t know. Someone is saying their goodbyes as I appear around the curtain. Frances is sitting up in the middle of it all and greets me cheerfully.

“How was it?” I ask after I have been introduced to Hassan, Mia’s father, and her new aunties and cousins.

“Painful,” says Frances with a grimace. Seems Hassan came in for some light-hearted verbal abuse: it was all his fault. The proud dad laughs it off, he is on a high, loving it. I take some photographs: some of the baby; some of Frances and the baby; some of Hassan and the baby, and some of Frances, Hassan and the baby. Before I leave to see if my bike is still on the bike rack, Hassan shows me his photographs from earlier today: Mia in her mother’s arms for the first time.

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