Have I ever told you about the day Alex was born? Probably, actually. But I’ll tell you anyway.
I really hadn’t enjoyed my hospital experience when Weeza was born and I was pretty keen to have my second baby at home. My doctor, a GP of the old school, was happy to officiate – home births were very unusual 40 years ago, so younger doctors were less likely to agree to it (nowadays, I think it’s left to midwives).
Al was due in early April and we all waited to see if he’d become a poisson d’avril – but the day passed uneventfully. The next morning, however, I started to feel as if he might be planning an appearance. It was two days before Weeza’s second birthday and it had been agreed that we’d all go and stay at my mother’s house, which was the family home where I’d grown up. She had remarried, six years after my father’s death, two months previously and my stepfather Wilf, bless him, was entirely good-humoured – keen, indeed – to have the family descend on him. He’d taken on my mother and her eleven dogs, after all.
So, at some time during the day, we went over there with our suitcases. My doctor, whom we called Kit (that was his name, not some reference to his stethoscope), had decreed that there should be an oxygen cylinder to hand, in case – well, I’m not sure in case of what. I suppose if things had gone wrong, I’d have been shipped off to hospital toot sweet. Anyway, the nice woman from the chemist turned up with it in the early afternoon – I’ve now remembered, Al was actually due on the 8th, so there was thought to be plenty of time. I went to help her carry it in and she wouldn’t let me “don’t want to start you off, do we?” she said laughingly. I didn’t tell her I’d been in labour for some hours already.
Anyway, things progressed as they normally do in those cases. The midwife was a very nice woman, the wife of the local Methodist minister. There was a slight kerfuffle when someone decided to nail down a loose board in the passageway outside the bedroom and hit the nail through the water pipe. I can’t quite remember how that was resolved, but I suspect an emergency plumber had to be called in.
They tried to give me gas and air, which I loathed – in a warmish room, breathing in icy cold air through a mask was unpleasant, but I was too polite to say so and pretended to use it, while Kit complained that I wasn’t breathing it in right. And Al was born around 10.30 and all was lovely.
Kit made sure everything was all right, the baby was weighed and given to me and, in due course, he left for home – he only lived two roads away. And the midwife carried on cleaning and tidying things up and then, at about midnight, I realised I hadn’t eaten all day and I was very hungry. So my mother went down and made sandwiches from the roast lamb they’d had for dinner, with brown bread, mint sauce and salt. I can remember the taste still – the meat hadn’t been in the fridge yet so it wasn’t chilled, just perfect. And the baby had had a feed (not roast lamb sandwiches, obvs) and gone to sleep and I was totally happy.
And the next morning, little Weeza came in to see her new brother and I changed her nappy and the contrast between a well-covered little toddler and a skinny new-born baby is another thing I still remember so clearly. I did my usual thing of lying her down and kissing her all over her face until she was laughing and breathless.
Can’t remember when he was introduced to the dogs. Probably not for a day or two. I do know the first time I left him with my mother though. It was the day that Russell and I went to look at a house that was coming up for auction at his firm. I fell in love again and we bought it, though it hadn’t been in my mind at all to move house.