This poem moves between alternating images of the doctor trying to help the raped baby and scenes in which people offer care and love to children. For example, the line "and when you administered an infant-sized opiate," uses "you" to refer to the doctor; the following lines are "there were luxuriant dark nipples/for fist clenching babes." While the doctor tries to provide clinical care for the injured baby, others provide maternal and paternal care. For example, the line "and while you stitched" is followed by "there was another chapter of a favorite story."
The effect of the contrasting lines between the doctor's care for the violated infant and the images of maternal and paternal care is to emphasize the ways in which the baby is now receiving from the doctor the love and concern that children should receive from their parents. Just as a mother nurses her baby or parents read their child another chapter in the book, the doctor does what he or she can to minister to the raped baby. At the end of the poem, when the poet writes, "We slept in trust that you lived," the doctor becomes part of the community of parents and caretakers who offer love to children.
Finnuala Dowling is directly addressing the physician in her poem “To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair.” The lines of the poem vacillate between settings; that of the treatment facility where the doctor works on the injured child, and different locations where children are cared for with love and respect.
I just wanted to say on behalf of us all
that on the night in question
there was a light on in the hall
for a nervous little sleeper
and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
On the night the baby is raped, around the world, there are others who leave lights on for children who are afraid of the dark, there are uncles singing lullabies, there are children lovingly nursed, and there are mothers inviting their little ones into their warm beds in the middle of the night. The reader goes back and forth between the horrors endured by the baby and the normalcy experienced by other children. In the end, the narrator wants the doctor to know that people can sleep peacefully, turning a blind eye to the abuse, knowing that the doctor is there to care for the child.
and when finally you stood exhausted at the end of her cot
and asked, “Where is God?”,
a father sat watch.
And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust