Saturday, November 09, 2019

An Imperfect Life

Chapter 38

Ice cold Milk and Deep Green Apples

 Pregnant and so happy I wanted to shout it from the house tops.
“No!”  Mum was adamant.

“Nine months is a long time and folk get bored.”

So a secret.  Ha!  Fat chance – overnight my metabolism had changed and from being a nervy, edgy, highly strung girl I became a placid, happy cow.  With serenity came avoir dupois and William had the wife he’d always wanted.  Had we lived on a boat his cup would have runneth over.

“You know William - Spotlight has really earned its keep.  Ben Lyons and Bebe Daniels want me for ‘Life with the Lyons’ as Richard’s girl friend.  And H.M Tennant have offered me a job.”

“Paula will be pleased,” William observed.

“She’s thrilled.  I’ve got to tell her about the baby.  I just don’t know how she’ll react.”

“Why don’t we ask her – AND her husband down at the week-end?  We can wine and dine them – away from the phones she’ll be more relaxed.”

Great!  Now we had a plan I could function.  It was the first time Paula had visited – I had never met her solicitor husband and everything had to be perfect.  My excellent housekeeper Doreen made the house glisten with fragrant lavender polish, the brass and copper gleamed and the table looked a picture with starched napkins, most of Dodie’s silver and fresh flowers.  William looked reasonably respectable in a laid back ’I’m in the garden rather than the office’ way but when I came to get dressed I couldn’t do up my skirt.  All I could do was safety pin my skirt and cover it up with one of William’s white shirts loosely belted over the bump.  It wasn’t supposed to show for ages yet but no-one seemed to have told ‘it’.

When the car rolled up I got a shock – Paula’s husband was not what I expected.  He was a good ten years younger with a tooth brush moustache and dressed as if he had stepped out of ‘Country Life’ – discreetly checked shirt, cravat and camel waistcoat, thorn proof jacket, beige cord trousers and suede brothel creeper shoes – all brand spanking new.  Paula was her usual chaotic self but she had made an effort with a hat, fur coat, heels and a voluminous silk dress.  We greeted each other warmly, made the introductions and got them drinks before the inevitable gap in the conversation.  I had seen Paula’s piercing look and as soon as she had tasted her G and T I blurted out-

“We’ve got some news to tell you.  We’re going to have a baby in November,”

Paula roared with laughter, gave me a big hug and there were congratulations all round.

  Lunch was a success with wine flowing, the men happy talking about cars – how to get to A from B and bottlenecks.  After lunch it was sunny so we had coffee in the garden.  I told Paula I planned to work as long as possible and after ‘it’ was born nurse for 6 months and then go back to work.  We agreed that my contract should lapse during this period and then start again.  Paula said she would vet any jobs in the coming months to ensure I wasn’t overdoing things and the day ended happily. I think at the time we both believed this would all come about.  I just had a faint worry that I was showing so soon.  Twins?  Or a baby elephant?

  My rich SIL Fleur came up trumps- her layette had been in the family for years and she said I was now to use them and then hand them back again.  There was a lovely cot covered in pink and white organdie, ancient cot blankets which I renovated with fresh ribbon, a lovely piece of swaddling cashmere and a play pen.  It was the time of very smart prams a la Princess Grace of Monaco and I just didn’t have the nerve to wheel the offered pram round Epsom.  It looked as if it dated from the year dot with its cavernous body and tiny wheels. I bought Viyella baby gowns which opened down the back, stencilled designs on the bodice and embroidered them - sewing lace round the neck and wrists.  Mum couldn’t believe it.

  William and I were blissfully happy – for the very first time.  My only problem was indigestion which possibly was due to my propensity for ice cold milk and deep green apples at bedtime.  I did as much work as possible the first month and then it became difficult to hide my blooming- ness.  Also I didn’t enjoy racing round town with luggage so I told Paula I would book myself out until baby was 6 months old.

It was a time for reflection and for seeing family.  Gran was getting older and not so eager to visit her daughter and family in the States, so to give Mum and Dad a break I had her to stay for a couple of weeks.  She was convinced that her natural life span was three score years and ten and sure enough soon after the birth she died - aged seventy.

Jamie’s brother Liam and family were over from the States and visiting Maddie.  Apparently Jamie now had a daughter and was living in Essex.  He had dropped out of my consciousness although I still had the odd dream about him.  Maddie asked if she could bring Liam and family over for the day along with their child who was getting over German measles.  She said I should be out of the danger period for harming the baby.

I couldn’t believe she would even ask.  As if I was going to take the slightest risk with my baby.

  We had very little in the way of monitoring in those days but I did go to relaxation classes and became a dab hand at deep breathing.

  I was beginning to get to know the neighbours.  At first they treated me ‘the model’ as something from outer space but soon realised I was just an ordinary young woman.  We were both wildly excited about the baby and found the last long months dragging interminably.  My increased weight gave me back–ache and when Mum saw me waddling with one hand behind me, clutching my back she said I needed a corset for support.  So I got a horrid pink thing with laces and it really helped.  I did have a chat with a midwife and told her I was worried about my waters breaking.  She roared with laughter.

“They’re not going to suddenly break and flood Epsom Market love!”

I continued to gain weight.  One was meant to put on a maximum of 21lbs: 7for the baby, 7 for the mother and I can’t remember what the last 7 lbs are for.  At last the date arrived but no baby.  By now I was thoroughly fed up and wished I could change my mind and have it some other time.  After a further 9 days I got the bus to the hospital and they decided to weigh me – for the first time.  They were horrified.  I had gone from7stone 4 ounces to 11 and a half stones.  Clearly it was too late to do anything about it, but they told me to lay off salt and sent me home.  I decided to walk into Epsom to get the bus home.  This was a strain- not only was I suddenly very tired, my stomach felt hard and tight as if it was going to burst and I was involuntarily grunting with the effort of walking.  I got home about the same time as William.

“Go and lie down Pat and I’ll bring you some supper.”

  We had an early night and I must have fallen asleep.  Suddenly I was awake with this tight pressure feeling and to my horror the bed was awash.

“William! Wake up! That mid-wife was wrong.  I could easily have flooded Epsom Market!”

We blessed great aunt Rose who had given her favourite nephew her Austin 7 which she used to drive on the crown of the road yelling “Road Hog!” to every car that overtook her.

“William we must go very carefully because the baby no longer has that great cushion of water to protect it.”

At the hospital William was sent home and told he could phone in the morning.  I realise things are rather different these days what with birthing partners and all but all I wanted was a nurse who knew what she was about; I had a job to do and I didn’t want any distractions.  I was put in quite a pleasant room and told to get into bed.  Then I was left alone and was aware that, from time to time, people looked trough the glass panel on the door.  Every time I got a contraction I could feel my face flushing with discomfort.  This went on for some time with me stolidly deep breathing, and trying to relax in between.  Eventually a nurse came in and was surprised to find me fully dilated.  She had seen me lying peacefully – as she thought- and assumed I was a long way off giving birth.  I was rushed down to the labour ward where the doctor had just delivered a baby and was ready to go home.  Tough!

  Throughout the birth he and the nurse were chatting, in a playful way to each other, except when they gave me instructions.  Finally when my baby was born I was so exhausted that I sank back when I had meant to look at the baby emerging.  My relief was short-lived.

“I’m afraid she’s torn.  I’ll have to put some sutures in.”

 There was just time to get a fleeting glimpse of my son and then he was whisked away.

“We won’t bother with a local –she’ll be numb down there.”

I had been so proud of myself and now this arrogant clot of a doctor put me through what I can only describe as medieval torture and I screamed and sobbed.  I have been wary of male doctors ever since.  The anger is still there although I no longer imagine attacking his nether regions with a large cutting needle to see if he was ‘numb down there’.

  At last I was back in the room with my son in a cot beside me.  I took him in my arms and gazed at him.  It was instant, deep, everlasting, unconditional love.  He was long and skinny, pink and white with a silken down on his head the colour of golden treacle toffee.  We stared at each other.  Such a serious little face with navy blue eyes.  He clamped on to the breast to the manner born- no problems there.  When daylight came I looked out of the window and there below on the forecourt was William.  His face lit up when he saw me and he waved violently so I could tell he knew the good news.  The nurse told me – in a disapproving manner that he had phoned the hospital three or four times during the night.  And why not?  Now he had to wait for visiting hours in the evening to see our son.  I returned to my favourite occupation- staring at the newcomer.

This little creature had changed my life and I was supposed after six months to leave him in the care of somebody else?  Not bloody likely!


Kim Ayres said...

It was a wonderful thing for me to be with Maggie during the birth of our children. And then afterwards, while Maggie was resting and I was able to hold them in my arms, looking down into the eyes, with them looking back into my soul, I'm in no doubt it created the deepest of bonds with each of them. I've always felt sorry for the dads of eras past when they were not allowed to be at the birth of their children.

Pat said...

Kim: fascinating to hear the father's point of view and I wonder when the enormous change came about and what prompted it? Worth looking into. I wonder how the first husbands who were allowed to be present at the birth bore up? Maybe I would have managed to stifle the screams had my husband been present. Maybe I would have been treated with more compassion. At that time it seemed husbands were regarded as an unavoidable nuisance.

kenju said...

This is wonderful to read, Pat, and takes me back to the days of my first baby being born. My experience was similar to yours: waters broke and labor started. I was in the maternity ward with many other women in various stages of labor, some yelling quite loudly. I heard that one of them, who yelled the loudest, was a 15 year old - and I felt really sorry for her going through that at her age, and alone. At least we had our men, waiting for us and happy to see the baby!

Pat said...

Judy: yes we were the lucky ones. It sure is an unforgettable experience- in spite of everything I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

angryparsnip said...

Oh what a lovely story. I can understand that first look at your baby and falling in love.

Pat said...

Parsnip: it is an unforgettable moment and thankfully blots out all the pain and discomfort.

Kim Ayres said...

I think one of the trickiest things for most men is we like to "fix" things. Tell us what's wrong, and we'll look for a solution. And that's a really useful survival trait. Except that there are times when it's completely the wrong response.
During birth, we can see our loved one in pain and distress and there is sod all we can do to fix it, which in turn makes us feel useless and less-than - especially if our culture has brought us up this way.
It takes a different mindset to let go of trying to fix, and instead be emotionally supportive. I was fortunate enough to have learned this by the time Rogan was being born.
If I hadn't, then I probably would have just been an unavoidable nuisance :)

Pat said...

Kim: maybe it would have worked with Alastair who could always sooth me and make me feel better. I just don't know.

Kim Ayres said...

I would imagine so, Pat. The way you talk of him there's no doubt he was very tuned in to you and knew when it was important to just hold you x

Pat said...

Kim: oh! If only.

Exile on Pain Street said...

I had to Google avoir dupois. Why do such elegant phrases go out of style? Funny that you describe your 'excellent housekeeper' and then mention that your SIL is rich. It's verboten these days but did you have a drink or two when you were pg?

Your post-birth procedure made me wince. I wish you weren't such an effective writer.

Pat said...

Exile: it's so long since I used the phrase I had to check it was in the right context.
Doreen - my 'house keeper' started out as 'my daily' which lots of us had in those days - especially the ones who went out to work. Then she and her husband and child lost their house. Her husband went to live with his mother and Doreen and her son Jimmy came to live with us. And she became my housekeeper. She still remembers my birthdays.
About the drink - I've often tried to remember if I did drink in pregnancy. Probably not to avoid indigestion which I was then prone to. Sorry about the wincing but thanks for the compliment

neena maiya said...

Reading what that male doctor did to you made me furious. I cannot believe that he of all people, a doctor, could be such a bastard (pardon my bad word).

I needed to calm down to appreciate this entire blog post, and your beautiful baby boy.

Pat said...

Awww - thank you Neena. It's time I got over it. I've since had a 'procedure' just as painful and with no baby to make it worthwhile but at least the surgeon was extremely apologetic and the nurse was virtually in tears. Hopefully I shan't have another but if I do I shall insist on an anaesthetic.

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

I'm still upset. :-(

Yes, anaesthetic it must be.

Pat said...

Neena: fingers crossed it won't arise.