I just got home from my first shift back on the wards since I left for maternity leave last May. The HoJ is in England right now doing some marine electrical training courses, so my mother jumped at the opportunity afforded by an empty spot in our cabin and hopped on a plane to come visit Zoe for three weeks. (I'd say she was here to see me, but we all know the truth.) Taking advantage of the built-in Nana nanny services, I let the ward supervisor know that I'd be up for working a few shifts while she's here, and so two o'clock this afternoon saw me in blue scrubs, heading down the three flights of stairs to one of my favourite places in the whole world.
D Ward did not disappoint. My patients were all less than seven years old, and one of them was even younger than Zoe. He quickly found the spot on my hip that she's occupied for the last six months and spent enough time there to soak my shoulder in drool while my heart sang at the rightness of it all.
It was a busy evening with tube feeds and babies who wouldn't eat and more tears than I usually provoke in a single shift (theirs, unfortunately, not mine), but I'm sitting here and it's nearly midnight and I feel less tired than I've felt in months.
There's something about that place that fills me. It's the man with a big bandage on his jaw helping the woman in the next bed to adjust the tube in her nose, holding it carefully for her while the last drops of her feeding flow through it. It's the babies being passed around from one set of willing arms to the next while mama takes a much-needed break. It's the faces taking shape to cover lifetimes of shame and the man who was never allowed to go to school because he would frighten the other children, sitting on his bed, carefully printing letters over and over as he learns to write.
It's all that and a hundred more moments, carefully stored away for the times I start to lose sight of why we're here, buried under the weight of yet another load of laundry and yet another night with far too little sleep.
And when the next shift arrived and I handed over my patients, I came home and held my daughter tight, grateful in a way that words can't really express that, at least for today, I got to bear witness to the healing again.