Thursday, December 14, 2017

When happy birthdays weren't

It was my mother's birthday. Happy Birthday I called to the autumn clouds and set off by train for her birth place, and the neighbourhood where she lived for so much of the younger part of her life.
It was on this year's pilgrimage that a penny dropped from another birth day about what must have been a rather common characteristic back then.
This lady gave birth to two of her sons while bombs shrieked from the night sky, and great ack-ack guns shook the parish and the house and the kitchen itself, the scene of the chancy deliveries.

Insane days

Back in those insane days, medics were not available for anything as natural as deliveries of brother Chris and me. Medics were needed for the war.
Pregnant mothers were stationed together in pairs, so they could perform basic textbook midwifery on each other.For a very private woman like my mother, it's a surprise that this wartime ritual didn't act as the perfect contraception.
Even years later, she didn't speak of her anguish. Imagining the scene plus a further torment that she and perhaps zillions experienced in these home delivery scenarios was not difficult.

Surrendered intimacy

Not only was their intimacy surrendered to totally inexperienced helpers, the mothers were often of totally different backgrounds.
And the lady who was to act as the deliverer, and for whom my mother would be amateur-midwife, did not get along together at all. What scenes there must have been as the unavoidable date approached – for both of them. What could it have been like when the unmistakable signs of labour began?
The government must have been very aware of the contradictions that giving birth meant for so many people in war-time. However, a warring nation needs young men, fighters to replace the colossal slaughter of the battlefields, even if new arrivals wouldn't be ready for perhaps seventeen years.  .... ...Continues on


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