A Child, Lost in Translation

Birth happened. That's all I can say about it reliably. I know nothing else. It wasn’t until almost 10 minutes later that I realized that I wasn't in a hospital. It was either the pain or the joy. I hope it was the joy. It was the pain. I was told once that nothing hurts more than a paper cut. If I could invite the person who shared that insight with me to give birth to a four-pound child surrounded by the comfort of a newly-vacated first-class lounger on a transatlantic redeye, without the benefit of either doctor or medication, I would do so. I shall leave it at that, however. 

The remaining two hours of the flight into Frankfurt were as uneventful as one can imagine the first two hours of life would be, surrounded by a crowd of apathetic strangers in a flying cigar, pressurized to the point of crushing the bones in a newly-formed skull. Simply put, it was loud. Quiet in comparison but mindlessly vibrant in the moment.

It was the stillness that followed that deafened me. We landed. That was the beginning. Not the birth. That was simply background.

Why can’t people say what they mean? I understand that codes have a purpose. It only works if the person receiving the code and the person sending the code both know the code. When the pilot has no idea that he is speaking anything other than standard German, there is a small amount of room for problems to arrive.

Exactly the same small amount of room in which one can be shot in an alleyway, while following a lost puppy.

I didn’t hear the message. I don’t speak any German and it would have made no difference. It likely would have sounded fine to me. I know what the pilot intimated to the tower. Newborn baby. Transatlantic flight. As scheduled.

Why did the Red Army Faction have to call in a bomb threat that day?

Whose wise decision was it to use newborn as the code for bomb? One would expect that a baby would be a typical piece of cargo for an airplane. Perhaps this one would not. Perhaps that is how codes work. Perhaps I can fly without the need for the plane.

It was a simple message transmitted over the open air followed directly by more than thirty men in what looked like extremely solid snowsuits surrounding the plane and pointing guns in our direction. That was a first for me. It was a day of firsts. My first transatlantic flight; my first child; my first group of angry men pointing assault rifles at me. Things were not looking up.

I don’t know if I was thinking clearly at the time. That's a lie.

I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. I got up with Selina in my arms, walked to the door, demanded that it be opened immediately, and stepped onto the edge of the floor.

Something was screamed at me in German. I just wanted to demonstrate that it was actually a baby and not anything else. I discovered the meaning of the code later, but I had already made a leap in that general direction. The direction was repeated in English.

"Put your hands in the air. We will come to you."

Sounded reasonable enough. First I had to put down Selina. I bent down and turned.

That was when the bullet tore through my right shoulder. At least the child made contact with the floor inside the plane, rather than the cold tarmac below. More than sixty shots were fired that morning. Miraculously, no lives were lost but mine.

I didn’t die but I certainly stopped living.

I was told once that having a child is the end of life. How right she was.