I did not return to work after Catherine was born. It was not so much a decision as the way things were, back in the early ‘70s. None of the young mums I knew then went out to work and none of us questioned whether or not we were doing the right thing by staying at home with the children instead of contributing to the family income. Unless one had a convenient granny, there were no other child-minding options then.
I found motherhood totally fulfilling. I took great pride in pegging out pristine white towelling nappies, although our bathroom had a constant sickly stench of nappisan. My first washing machine was a single tub top loader, which you had to stand over while it did its thing, making sure the draining hose did not jump out of the sink and flood the kitchen. Although the floor was generally awash every day as I hauled the wet clothes from the washing machine and wound them through a mangle before dropping them into a separate spin-dryer.
My days passed very happily pushing the heavy pram up and down the hills of Bath, window-shopping and occasionally ducking into a shop fitting-room if the baby demanded the breast. My back was grateful when Catherine was able to sit and the pram was replaced with a lightweight buggy. The only problem with that being there was nowhere to put any shopping. Our house was halfway up one of those long steep hills, and the fruit and vegetable shop was at the bottom. As we only had one car, which Michael drove to work, it meant a daily trip to the shops to buy only the amount I could carry.
I was a frequent visitor to the Laura Ashley shop which sold patchwork bundles of remnant fabric for some ridiculously low price. It was pot luck, as sometimes there were pieces large enough to make an entire baby garment. Other times I had fun making little dresses or dungarees with contrasting legs and bibs and pockets.
It wasn’t long before we decided that our baby should have a brother or sister. In my mind I thought it would be good to have two children close together, then a gap, then another two, then a gap before finally having my last two somewhere in my late thirties or early forties. But that was before we went into the economics of such a large family.
Catherine was eighteen months old when her baby sister arrived. Once again, I had gone into hospital to be induced, but on my first night I was given a sleeping tablet, so when the labour pains started, I drifted back to sleep between contractions, without the need for gas and air. Almost disappointing!
I had always liked the name Abigail, but somehow when our first daughter was born, she didn’t look like an Abigail. This baby, with her crop of brown hair and beautiful dark eyes, did.