The Witching Hour (folklore): A time of night associated with supernatural events
Disclaimer: Please note that what follows is an exploration of my faith. I, in no way, assert myself as learned in this field and do not intend any offence. I hope it makes clear that I respect all faiths (and those without any) and that people who would make (or have made) differing decisions in the same situation, are equally valued and valid.
When it comes to religion and faith, I don’t know what I believe.
I’m in a mixed-race relationship, my husband is a Christian, my mum is a Sikh, my dad was a Hindu. Given the blend, James and I had two weddings; a Christian service and a Sikh one. If we ever have children, we will likely have a Christening service and a Hindu blessing. I like going to Church and I like going to the Gurdwara. I enjoy the contemplative, charity and community elements of both.
On the whole, I believe that religion is a force for good (though I acknowledge that centuries of atrocities have been committed in the name of God, I believe that’s attributable to individuals and not the foundations of religion itself). I think this in part because on our journey with baby loss, many people have told us that they’ve prayed for us – Christians (both CoE and Catholic), Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews – I’ve always liked and appreciated that. And when we got pregnant with both My Baby and Summer, I did think it was due to prayers, I’m just not sure whose!
I clearly do believe in something, I just haven’t quite put a name to it yet.
When I was in hospital, I think this may have frustrated the staff a bit (as I’m sure it’s frustrating you as a reader!) who were recommending a termination because of how poorly Summer was making me. There were many reasons I wasn’t going to do it, but one reason I told them was because I thought it was wrong and that I would go to hell, even though I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in hell. Well, not in the fiery-pit sense anyway, perhaps something closer to a torturous reincarnation.
I often joke to James that he has to take the last bit of food sometimes, otherwise one day I’m going to end up locked outside the pearly gates, peering in at him and all my friends. God will see me pining to get in and say “Ok Anjulie, ask your friends if they will give you one of their days in heaven, in exchange for yours outside”. I can think of at least four people I’d ask (James included), who would totally do the trade, and I’d accept. But then it would be akin to the Judgment of Solomon: they will again have proved themselves worthy, and I’d have proven myself less so.
Jumbled as the above is, I just think I fundamentally believe in the concept of right and wrong, and that all religions – in their purest forms – can be stripped back to these notions. Despite not knowing what label to give my faith, what I do know, is that I don’t believe in coincidences (James, who’s actually confident in his faith, would roll his eyes at this). I believe coincidences happen for a reason, that they give us a glimpse of something. For many years now, I’ve taken them to mean that I’m on the right path; that in that moment – innocuous as it may be – I’m exactly where I should be.
When my dad passed away in 1997, there were a number of eerie coincidences. The night of Summer’s birth and death, there was also a notable coincidence.
Summer was born just after midnight. I’d been trying to get to sleep from around 10pm. Although I’d been having pretty bad cramps all evening, that was nothing new – I’d been having night pains, with no medication, for weeks. The discomfort was so frequent I’d joked to James’ family that the baby would likely grow up to be a wizard or witch, given that s/he was always most active during the so-called “witching-hours”.
While in hospital, the consultant had okayed some pain-relief, which resulted in me finally taking some most evenings. That night the discomfort was worse than usual (because I was having contractions, but as a first-timer, I didn’t realise it!). As the cramps escalated, so did the pain-relief so I ended up quite groggy on pethidine (I remember the midwife asking “are you sure you want this? It will make you drowsy”, which I thought was a weird thing to say, seeing as it was after 11pm and sleep was my sole aim!).
Given the medication, I wasn’t fully ‘with-it’ – when trying to describe the pain, I told James it was like “pushing vegetables up a hill, that last one was a sweet potato, but this one’s a cucumber!” When Summer eventually arrived, I did have a moment of lucidity though. I just started shouting:
“What time is it?
What day is it?”
I recalled glimpsing at my phone around 11.30ish, but I wasn’t sure what time or day it was now. James and the midwives were fussing over me, but no one thought to check the time of birth for our baby. James said, “it’s 12.37am, Monday 9th March”.
As you know, we then went on to have just over an hour with our baby girl. We lay on the hospital bed with her, talking, singing and cuddling as a family. All week I’d been waiting for something to happen to make me think “what are the chances?” and there she was , this little baby girl with her heart still beating, we could actually see it moving. The light of the bedside lamp started to flicker (which it hadn’t done at any other time during that week) and I said to James: “I think that’s my dad”.
When my mum came to see us the next night and I told her the story, she had one of her own:
“Anj, that’s really strange. I haven’t had a dream about your dad in years, but this weekend, he came to me in a dream. I was really confused, because he looked like a younger version of himself, but I knew he wasn’t alive, so I just kept shouting:
“What year is it?
What year is it?”
My mum woke up asking that. Isn’t it strange that in the middle of the night I was shouting “what time is it, what day is it?” while my mum asks “what year is it?”, thereby completing the sentence? As I said, I don’t believe in coincidences. I was such a daddy’s girl and my relationship with my dad, is my first memory of love: I don’t know what name to give my faith, but I believe that he gave us that time with Summer.
Thanks dad for showing up for your little girl, when I had mine.