‘Love you, angel,’ I said and kissed my darling baby girl on her left cheek as her father kissed her on the right. One photographer clicked and took a step, squatted down, clicked and moved further around the hospital bed giving us instructions on where and how to stand. Others stood and clicked lazily.
No, she’s not the first baby to have been born that new year, or a child who fought a terrible illness or accident and survived, but she was special nonetheless. Hence the swathes of reporters and photographers and the overly smiling faces in a room full of media savvy medical staff.
My husband and I had the dubious honour of having brought into the world a child who was special in two connected ways. She was the first baby ever to have been born in the hospital on the 14th of February, who was also born at 2:14 am. I hadn’t thought anything of it until the midwife giggled when completing our paperwork, and told me the news. My daughter had been born on the fourteenth day of the second month. She had also been born at the fourteenth minute of the second hour.
Obsessed as they were with the trivialities of life, and looking as they did for any excuse to not deal with local politics, the papers were already interested, but they became totally and utterly insane when they were informed about something even more amazing.
My daughter was born with a birthmark on the left side of her chest. A perfect, 2 inch diameter heart with clear and smooth edges.
It, apart from my baby, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
The reporters demanded that we call our little girl ‘Love’ or ‘Valentine’ or ‘Cherub’, but we had already set our heart on another less gimmicky name - Sarah. Photos and an article appeared in the local Courier a few days after her birth, and as a result we were besieged with calls from crackpots, national reporters and friends and family who wanted to cash in on Sarah's amazing accident of nature. We even had a call from a young man who had divined that my baby daughter was herself divine. He claimed she had clearly been placed onto the earth as the new messiah who would grow to infuse the world with love.
Our poor Sarah spent the first fifteen years of her life as a very reluctant local celebrity, and in her eyes, her birthmark had little to commend it. So finally, at age sixteen, my beloved child made the biggest decision of her life: to get her second heart removed.
That was why we'd been taken from the hospital's waiting area and put into a side room already full of reporters and photographers. The police were called, because the man who'd believed my Sarah was the new messiah had brought his fellow devotees to picket outside the hospital. Their mission was to tell the world that Satan had infected Sarah and that he was working his way through to her soul via a birthmark-removing laser gun.
Sarah was devastated, and my own poor heart was breaking in response. She sought anonymity, she sought peace and sought a skin clear of special markings, but in beginning the process, she had inadvertently encouraged the fame she despised.
Our compromise - a half hour press conference then the promise of future anonymity - was the best we could negotiate.
Once the photos were taken, the questions were asked and the video was shot, three members of the hospital's security staff escorted us to Sarah's laser session.
Sarah was feeling positive as she'd made her first step towards a happier future, and typically, her dad was ranting about the invasive nature of the press. I, on the other hand, was a blank face atop a world-weary body.
I had reasons of my own for this ambivalence. Sarah and I had quite a bit in common, as I was also special. Not only had I been born on the 25th day of the twelfth month, but I had also been born at the 25th minute after the twelfth hour. And, more than that, my own chest displayed a clear, angular birthmark in the shape of a crucifix. That was how I knew the cult guy was wrong. My daughter was no messiah. But I was keeping my own messiah status well and truly hidden. I was playing my own cards close to my chest.