I’ve been writing some family history pieces and I began to think about being in hospital to have my children. For my first child I went onto the maternity ward the night before and sat around on my bed chatting to other mothers, wandering about, chilling, reading, all very casual. The only slight thing was that I couldn’t eat or drink as I was having a Caesarean, but that was no real problem. Husband arrived at eight o’clock and we walked up to the operating theatre. He was gowned up, but due to his size and giant feet there were no hospital clogs big enough so the nurses tied to hats on each foot. I climbed onto the operating table/bench, and ‘Teddy bears picnic’ was playing. It was all very relaxed and in fact while everything was being prepared the jolly anaesthetist took a phone call from his garage about his car which was in for a service. This may sound casual in a wrong way, but I didn’t feel so, it just seemed a very ordinary thing – and in fact it was and within a few minutes of the local anaesthetic, I was lying down and before I knew it, there was my baby! My husband was the first to hold him, then me, then we processed back to a room of my own, and all was well and I could have a cup of tea. The baby was there beside me, visitors came that same day, and it was so chilled and yet exciting.
How very different it was for my mum and dad when I was born. This is what I wrote yesterday:
I was born in Cambridge, in Mill Road Maternity Hospital and stayed there for ten days only because that was what happened then. I was separated from my mum and put in a little cot with all the other new borns, and she lay in bed on a ward, I guess with their mothers, a whole row of young women not with their babies. She would have stayed in bed – birth being thought of as a debilitating activity in those days, she must have felt sad and maybe frightened, or maybe the other women were companionable, all in the same maternity boat. I and the other babies would have been brought through every four hours to be fed, a rigid regime no matter how much we tiny infants cried.
Men were only able to see their new children from behind a window, a line of identical cots with barely visible little ones. They couldn’t hold them, or even properly look at them in the strictly regulated visiting times. My dad was very practical, and a good cook, so he would have coped at home without mum, and he may very well have gone round to be with his own newly widowed mother. My grandpa died in the November before I was born in January. I never knew him but my father spoke so often about him that I felt I had done.
My mum was born in Winchester, I am guessing in the rented house where her parents then lived. My grandmother may have been attended by a nurse and the three other children probably looked after elsewhere while the new baby was born. I don’t know whether any of grandma’s family were able to be with her, certainly grandpa would not have been permitted to be in attendance! I think mum’s mum, my grandma, was born in a hospital or clinic in Marylebone; even though her parents weren’t married, and her mother never acknowledged by her rich Jewish paternal grandmother, they would not have wanted a grandchild born in rented rooms somewhere.
As for my great grandma, the original Lois, she would have been born at home, in the small rented cottage in Woodnewton in 1853. Her name when registered was Lowes! She had five older siblings, would they have been sent to the neighbours, or to any nearby relatives? There may have been some local woman who came to help her, but probably there would not have been a doctor, unless there was some problem, but after six previous experiences of having a baby (one sadly died at the age of two) my great-great grandma would have been an experienced mother. As for her mother, my great- great-great grandmother, who gave birth to her in 1817, it’s not even clear if she was Mary or Martha, and I have no idea where she was born except that her birth was registered in Oundle, Northamptonshire.
My featured image show’s my grandma, the pretty dark-haired woman in the middle with her son on her shoulders, my grandpa behind them, surrounded by hiss family. It was taken in 1919, As well as my grandad, there are in this picture his parents, and his grandparents. The oldest chap, my great-great grandfather was born in 1838 and my g-g-grandma a year later.