Ever since I was a little girl I have always been a bit soppy over babies. Although I was more a ‘climbing trees’ sort of girl than a ‘playing with dolls’ girl, I still looked longingly into prams to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the baby. So when I discovered I was going to have one of my own, it was a time of great excitement.
Fortunately Michael was also thrilled, although we certainly hadn’t worked out how we would manage financially. Pregnancy definitely suited me and in spite of putting on rather a lot of weight, I was glowing with health.
We were renting a flat close to Pulteney Bridge in Bath, and I spent many happy hours exploring shops and alleyways around the city. I grew to love its golden stone and Georgian splendour.
With some considerable help from my father, we were able to buy our first house. It was a quaint little cottage half-way up a very steep lane. We had a tiny gravelled parking area at right angles to the lane, so reversing out had to be very carefully negotiated. One time, with pregnant lack of logic, I managed to get the car stuck right across the lane, completely blocking it to other traffic. I couldn’t go backwards or I would have hit the opposite wall and I couldn’t go forward without bumping into the corner of the house. So I left the car blocking the road until some confident man came and offered to help.
In those days, estimating baby’s due date was not an accurate science.We guessed around the beginning of October. As time drew close, I used to read my horoscope in the paper every morning, and if I could manipulate the forecast into a hint that the baby might arrive that day, I wouldn’t go out, just in case.
But October came and went. My mother was embarrassed to go out because people kept asking her if the baby had arrived yet. On the last day of October, the day after my birthday, the doctor sent me into hospital to be induced.
First they gave me castor oil, which had a marvellous effect on my bowels, but absolutely no effect on the baby. Then they tried to rupture the membrane, but apparently that was too tough. Ladies were coming into hospital, having their babies and going home, and mine still hadn’t arrived. It was getting depressing. I was fortunate to be in the bed next to a very dear girl who cheered me along and encouraged me to eat my rice pudding because it would be good for the baby. In spite of this we are still friends to this day although geographically thousands of miles apart. Her lovely husband remembered me perpetually in tears, firstly because I hadn’t had my baby, then because I had.
On the fourth of November I was put on a drip, which finally started labour, and in the middle of the night, to the accompaniment of bangs and whooshes from the Guy Fawkes celebrations carrying on outside, my beautiful baby daughter arrived.
I had wanted Michael to be present at the birth, but being of squeamish disposition, he remained outside in the corridor.
I had never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. I felt as proud as if I’d won an Olympic gold. The baby’s head was a bit elongated and slightly resembled a rugby ball after the long labour, but as I counted her fingers and toes, I thought she was absolutely perfect, which of course, she was.
The next day my parents drove up from Bridport to the hospital in Bath. They brought the fruits of my mother’s labours: little matinee jackets, booties and bonnets.
As they were leaving to go home, my father lagged behind and said to me ‘My girl, you’ll get lots and lots of advice on how to bring up this child, but I’m telling you now there’s only one way.’
My heart sank a bit as I wondered what was coming. But he looked me in the eye and said ‘And that’s your way.’
I think that was the kindest advice I ever had.