Mekong Cultural Hub

Baby Jumper (Sharifah)

Petaling Jaya
My daughter was born on the 12th of July 2021. It was in the midst of Covid in Malaysia spiking to more than 20,000 cases a day and we were in active lockdown. A few days before she was born, my husband bought a newborn jumper with the words “the force is strong in this one” on it. We had a bunch of newborn clothes for her but I was most excited looking forward to seeing her wear that one. Unfortunately, we had to wait four months before we could put it on her as she was diagnosed with a rare liver condition at birth and was in the hospital fighting for her life in those months after she was born.

The jumper reminds me of the sadness and pain I felt during the pandemic. One, because I almost lost her. I am reminded of the feeling I had thinking I would never see her wear it. And two, because on the 15th of July 2021, my daughter was being examined to see if she was stable enough to undergo a very high risk procedure and I looked at my phone to see that Covid cases had spiked to 21,000 a day. If this had happened at any other time, my daughter would have been immediately transferred to a government hospital where she would have had access to the best specialists in the country and where her treatment would have cost only a fraction of what it did at private hospitals. I saw those numbers and my heart broke. It was then that I lost all hope. I thought to myself, “She’ll never get the help she’ll need now”.

Then I began to think of other persons out there, with someone they loved suffering a health crisis, who would not be able to get the help they needed because the hospitals were busy with Covid patients. I thought of other mothers and fathers and wondered if they had to bury their child only because they couldn’t afford care at a private hospital and couldn’t get a bed at a government hospital. I thought of everyone in the hospital fighting Covid and I remember feeling like I was on the event horizon of a black hole. I could see everything happening and yet was powerless to do anything about it.

Against all odds, my daughter was saved on that day. I remember the 15th now as a day of mixed emotions, with bitter feelings dancing with sweet rejoicing. I could tell you every single thing I felt on that day and when. Now, when I think of Covid, I think of the lockdown, I think of my daughter, of almost losing her, I think of that little jumper, tucked away in a dresser drawer because it is too painful even to look at it. I think of all the people we lost and of all the ways in which we’ve changed.

Contributor: Sharifah Aleysha

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