Monday, January 13, 2020


An Imperfect Life

 

Chapter 39

 

Déjà vu

 

My new son soon got bored with staring at his adoring Mum and just wanted to nod off so I put him back in his cot.  What now?  I was too excited to sleep so I wrote to everyone I knew to tell them the news.  As the morning wore on I was taken with baby to join eight other mothers and babies in the maternity ward.  I quickly bonded with a tall lanky girl whose amazing feat had been to increase her weight by no more than the weight of her baby and could have concealed her pregnancy right up to the birth – had she wished.

 We seemed to have alternate days when we would be on top of the world one day and down in the depths the next.  If one of the babies needed to be examined, the staff would remove all the babies from the ward so that instead of one mother being upset and worried, we all were.

“More flowers for you,” announced Sister.  I had been inundated with bouquets and the nurses had piled them round my bed like a flowery bower which was embarrassing so I asked Sister to spread them round the ward.  It was lovely getting flowers but now I had dozens of thank you letters to write.

“Oh no,” I gasped in horror when I saw the latest arrival, “Red and white flowers!  Please Sister don’t bring them on the ward!”

“Don’t get upset now –‘red and white flowers means death’ -that is an old superstition.  I’m NOT superstitious and will be happy to have them in my room.”  Phew!

After a few days when baby was putting on weight I was told I could go home.

“William bring my black and white tweed suit please.  The jacket is loose and it’s warm.”  Alas no way could I get into it.

“It’ll be 18 months before you get your shape back, “one of the nurses told me – but she was wrong.  Breast feeding is the best way to get back in shape.  Best for Baba too.  You can actually feel the pull on your uterus as the baby sucks (especially when you have cat-gut stitches like I had).  The other slimming factor was that the benign, happy Pat of pregnancy had become a stressed nervous wreck who fretted when baby cried and prodded him when he was asleep to make sure he was OK.  And me an R.S.C.N!

What one didn’t realise is that normal babies can have alarming symptoms one minute and back to normal the next.  I had a bad case of P.N.D. which wasn’t recognised in those days.  I thought I was going mad.

  The Health Visitor realised something was wrong.

“Put all your ornaments away in a cupboard and don’t fret about house work.”

 That wasn’t the problem - I had an excellent daily help who was now living in – with her son - as her house had been repossessed.  Probably if I had more to do I would have had less time to fret.

   The Health Visitor's kindness reduced me to tears; it was a relief to have someone who seemed to understand how I was feeling.  And then she did a magical thing which really saved my bacon.  She introduced me to two mothers with baby boys – roughly the same age - who lived close by.

  Every night after the 6pm feed (when breast milk was at its weakest) my son would yell his head off- sometimes till midnight, and it was driving me demented.  When he was 4 months old the girls - my new friends - finally persuaded me to have a night off:  I left William in charge and we went to the pictures to see ‘High Society’ with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Satchmo and Bing Crosby.  For the first time since the birth I laughed and had fun.  Back home William said our son had slept soundly all night and from then on things improved; baby thrived and I got back in shape - physically and mentally.

  It was a great sadness that Gran died before ever seeing my new son but she always believed her natural span was three score years and ten and died at 70.  Always believing that breast was best I managed to quell the pangs of grief to keep the milk flowing for the first 12 months.  As he thrived and got bigger I started to shrink and at 11 months got a period

“That’s a sign to stop nursing,” said Mum – so I did – content that he must have got most of my immunities.  It seemed to work; the childhood diseases both boys succumbed to were ones I never had.

One of the best things I ever did was to teach William how to bathe the newborn baby and from then on he was a devoted hands–on father.  What was missing in our relationship was compensated by our relationship with our children – total, unconditional love.  Life was pleasant enough; I have always thrived on routine and so did baby.  We had our new friends and their babies to go for walks on the downs and have tea parties whilst our boys sat, crawled or rolled about according to their different abilities.

I had no intention of doing any more modelling but then a favourite photographer – Neil Nimmo asked if he could come to photograph the baby.   I said yes because he was a charming man and it would be lovely to have some first-rate photographs which would have cost us a bomb.  Then we heard that Heinz wanted to use us as the 'Heinz mother and baby'.  I refused – politely, telling them I was nursing him and I didn’t want to interfere with his routine.  They assured me that everything would be done around him and nothing would be allowed to interfere with his routine; they would send a chauffeur driven car, I would have the privacy to feed him – de dah de dah!

After much discussion William and I decided to give it a go with the proviso that if it was upsetting him we stopped.

  We were to appear on TV using me as myself – a well known model.  I was given a script and I proceeded to learn it – as I thought.  It was easy – just introducing myself, telling them about my baby and how he enjoyed Heinz baby food, which happened to be true. (And his Mum adored the chocolate mousse.)

  The car was a Silver Shadow- very posh and quite a few neighbours happened to be around when we were picked up.  I was tempted to give the Royal wave but fearing it might affect future relations restrained myself.

  At the studio they were as good as their word and baby’s well being came first.  I settled him in his carry cot whilst I did my piece to camera.  The director – a friendly young chap asked if I would like it broken up into short bits but I said no - I would do it all in one piece – easy peasy!

They took some time adjusting the lights using light meters with me brilliantly lit and blinded so I couldn’t see all the people talking around me and I became a little unnerved.

“Right- we’re going for a take!”   A hush descended.

“Okay Pat! Action!”

I smiled at the camera.

“Hello!  My name is Pat------“

And then to my acute embarrassment I dried.  So we broke it up into little bits and I finally got it right.  Lesson learned.

  The second part of the shoot was to be me feeding baby the wonderful Heinz sieved carrots, which he quite liked.  The camera and the director were up really close with the opened tin of carrots in full view, so I went into nurse mode and wrapped him in his swaddling piece of cashmere - as was my wont when he was having anything to eat other than breast- so his attention would be totally focused.

“Oh Pat!  Don’t do that!”

I looked at the director enquiringly.

“Just let his arms be free – it looks more natural!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes.  OK fine!  Action! “

“Oh bloody ‘ell!  Jesus!” 

One swipe from baby and the director’ pristine white shirt was generously splattered with the wonderful Heinz sieved carrot.  Baby goo-gooed and smiled his gummy grin.  Back to swaddling!   This time all seemed to be going smoothly when I felt a silent PING and a TINGLE and I knew the milk was coming in.

“CUT!”

The director was actually blushing.

“Er Pat er…your buttons have come undone.”

I looked down and was relieved to see the milk hadn’t come through but my shirt was wide open revealing a nursing bra –not unlike a straight jacket.  By this time I was beyond embarrassment and handed my son to an assistant whilst I adjusted my dress and then pinioned him to my bosom.  We carried on – this time without interruption and everybody was pleased when we watched it later on TV although I thought I sounded a bit posh.  All those years of watching Phyllis Calvert and Margaret Lockwood no doubt.

  As we drove back through Chelsea I couldn’t resist asking the driver to stop by the  hospital where Vanessa was theatre Sister.  Amazingly she was free and we had a cup of tea together and arranged that she and her doctor husband would come and visit.

I settled down to being a housewife and mummy and life was very pleasant.

Our garden backed onto the garden of a large house owned by a National Hunt jockey.  We had got into conversation, when I met him on the train, before my son was born and discovered we lived in close proximity.  He was great fun – a real charmer and when our families got together I was delighted that William also liked him.  Before long the two men had made a gate in the fence to save us all a long twenty minute walk to reach each other’s houses.  Through him we were introduced to the racing fraternity and our social life stepped up a notch.  And then there were my two new friends Anne and Eileen and their babies.  We had become a strong trio and saw each other almost every day.

Then William dropped a bomb shell.  He told me he had applied for another job and if he was accepted we would have to move.  I couldn’t believe it.  Déjà vu all over again. 
 In Altrincham just when I had become embroiled in the local theatre group and we had a lovely circle of friends it was up sticks and off we went down south.  I know I was probably being selfish and not seeing the bigger picture.  I just don’t like change- especially when we seemed to be reasonably happy.

But this was when the wife was a kept woman, the husband the bread winner so his job took precedence.  I just wasn’t convinced it was vital for his job to be changed and for us to move to another county.

 

 

 
 


 

10 comments:

Kim Ayres said...

So was his reason for changing his job because he was unhappy where he was, or it allowed him to be more ambitious, or he simply didn't like being in any one place for too long?
We always moved a lot when I was a kid. My father thinks we have gypsy blood in us somewhere along the line and has never been happy staying in one place.
However, I can't begin to imagine the idea of moving without Maggie and I discussing it and deciding together.

Z said...

Another brilliant post, Pat, ending on a cliffhanger as it should!

My mother was one of those people who didn't change shape during pregnancy. Apparently, she just had to undo the waist button at the end with my sister, and go up a size with me. People thought we were adopted. We were big babies too.

Pat said...

Kim: ambition would be in the picture. Your attitude - discussing with Maggie would be my ideal scenario but this was one of our problems. I resented not having an equal say and William believed he was the better judge of what we should do. Later on the worm turned.

Z: thank you. It is strange how some women don't show. Was your mother quite tall? I wasn't and had a short body so indigestion and heartburn were constant companions. Happy days!

kenju said...

We moved often when I was a child because my parents would buy a house, fix it up and sell it at a profit. They did that 5-6 times, until I asked them to stop so I could go 3 years to the same high school.

Enjoyed reading about the carrots and breast milk coming back.

Pat said...

Judy: that must have been really tough to cope with. I hope your parents listened to you.
The carrots and breast milk were a bit of a nightmare at the time but the imprint on my memory aids total recall.

Z said...

She was just under 5' 6" - but she suffered terribly from morning sickness, so lost weight to start with and didn't put much on overall - I was a nine and a half pounder, so she must have been really thin apart from me but, even so, the bump didn't really show, apparently.

Pat said...

Zoe: awful to have morning sickness for long. I felt so sorry for Royal Kate and having to cope with it thrice!

rashbre said...

Another cliffhanger ending. And as soon as I saw sieved carrots I thought that scene could only end one way. Of course, it was much more involved than that!

Pat said...

Rashbre: you know me too well:)

angryparsnip said...

Oh My Goodness what a day carrots ? They had to know what would happen.
Even if you liked to change things that is a huge change for you and the baby !
parsnip