Forty years of love.

Forty years ago today I had my second baby. My little girl was born three weeks early, induced because of my pre-eclampsia. I’d been put on bed rest at first at home, and then in hospital very early on in the pregnancy. 

The day of the birth was lovely. The sister in the ward, a very stern ex military nurse, had some ways of making a planned induction day special. Breakfast was toast and marmalade, brought on a tray with a starched linen and lace tray cloth. No cups of tea from a big pot on the trolley on that special day. – No, I had a beautiful porcelain cup saucer and plate, with a matching teapot.

At ten o’clock I was taken to a room where a nurse broke my waters, and by midday I was having regular contractions. I’d returned to the main ward by this time, to the friends I’d made over the last few weeks. Some had been in for days, some for weeks. None had spent as long in there as I had, over four months. They kept me company, made me laugh, chatted with me between contractions, called the nurse when the incontinence sheet I was sitting on needed to be changed, and sympathised with me when I was in pain.

I was in a large 24 bed ward. The hospital was an old one, and there wasn’t room for a separate ante natal ward, so we were in with the women who had already given birth. They tried to keep us all together down one end of the ward until the babies were born. This system failed when we insisted on being back with our friends after the birth, and so there was a general move around practically every day, as more babies were born and taken home, more pregnant women came in for rest, and more long term patients gave birth.

At 2pm, the ward started to fill with visitors, including my husband. I seemed to be the centre of attention as the other women told their visitors that I was in labour. Very soon I realised that things were really moving, and I knew I needed to go to the labour ward. My husband asked if he should call a nurse, but I thought being carted out on my bed in the middle of visiting time would be far too embarrassing, so he helped me into my dressing gown, and out of bed, so I could walk out without too much fuss. I hoped people would just think I was going to the toilet. I’d forgotten that my waters had broken, until I noticed the trail I was leaving behind me all the way up the ward….

My beautiful baby was born at 4.25pm, just as visiting time was finishing. A lovely auxiliary called Elsie shouted out the news that “It’s a girl!” and was greeted with a cheer and a round of applause.

Tania was a tiny, perfect little girl. She weighed 2lb 12oz, and she was immediately bundled up in a huge white towel. They said “Say hello to Mummy” as they showed her to me, and within seconds they had rushed out of the room with her. I had no time even to touch her little face. It didn’t stop the rush of love, though. I was elated and scared all at the same time. Elated that I had a little girl to join my first child, a boy, and scared that I might lose her.

Three days later I was discharged from hospital. I hardly slept the night before. I was excited about going home at last and seeing my little boy again, and worried about how he would cope. After all, he was only a baby himself, 16 months old. He’d bonded with my wonderful friend who had cared for him for four months. And I was devastated at having to leave my baby behind. I thought she might feel abandoned. That she might know I wasn’t there.

Care of premature babies was so different then. I wasn’t allowed to touch her “in case of infection.” I hadn’t even been allowed to touch her hand. When I think about it now, I don’t know why I didn’t protest. Did it not occur to me that I was no more likely to infect her than the nurses or doctors were? The only explanation I can give is that in those days, doctors were treated like some sort of gods, they knew best, and we didn’t argue with them.

One day we walked in to visit her and her incubator was empty. My heart was in my mouth, and I panicked. My first thought was that she had died. I knew that they couldn’t contact me by phone to tell me, because we didn’t have a phone. Writing this now, I can still feel how I felt then. It was the most terrible feeling. Then a nurse came in, saw my face, and said “Don’t panic, Tania’s in a cot now.” 

Tears streamed down my face as they sat me down and handed her to me for my first cuddle. I have no words to describe how that felt. I couldn’t get enough of the feel of her in my arms, the smell of her skin, and the taste of her, as I gave way to a primeval need to lick her head…whilst trying to pretend that I was just kissing her.

Tania, your first two years were marred by the scourge that is post natal depression. Thankfully you have a father who was able to take over and give you the physical affection it was sometimes difficult for me to show you. You were the most loveable little girl, and I’m sad that we both missed out. I hope you felt the love I had for you though. It was always there. It’s still there. Happy Fortieth Birthday. I am so proud of the beautiful baby you were, the gorgeous unselfish little girl that you were, and the sensitive, compassionate, intelligent, capable woman that you are. I am proud to be your mother. I love you. x

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tania
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 16:43:13

    That is really lovely Mum and interesting to read about the day I arrived into the world – thank you. I really shouldn’t be crying on my birthday but now I am….. love you too xxxx

    Reply

  2. elsieshufflebottom
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 16:53:22

    xxx

    Reply

  3. motherscuffer
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 20:20:20

    That is such a lovely post and has had me crying too! x

    Reply

  4. elsieshufflebottom
    Apr 18, 2012 @ 21:08:12

    It makes me cry too….

    Reply

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