This is the follow-up to New Year 1957 which was drifted away from last time. Before I begin, an extra memory that I missed in earlier posts. I think I mentioned our Mum sending Annabel and me occasionally to the Kidston Hall in Kilmacolm to have our dinner (lunch) there after rationing started in the 1940s. I couldn’t remember what the organisation was called. I first knew the People’s Friend magazine as a child at the Toll House, when Annie S. Swan was the main authoress. Her stories were lovely and suitable for any age of reader. At various times it was passed on from Mum Mitchell or my own Mum, or I bought it myself, and it became an item on the message line when we retired. Each year John bought me the Annual at Christmas. This year I got it myself and last night was reading it. When I came to the page headed I’d Like to Know I was pleased to see that a lady had written to say her Mum had told her that when she and her future husband were courting they had gone to a British Restaurant. She asked what it was as her Mum couldn’t remember, like me. They were first called Community Feeding Centres, set up by the Ministry of Food and run by local communities on a non-profit-making basis during WW2. A meal cost a maximum of 9d (pennies) with no second helpings allowed. To give an idea of their scope, in the London County Council alone in 1942 there were 1,899 BRs. Commercial restaurants were not subject to rationing, but no meal could be more than three courses and maximum price was 5/- (shillings). The BR was a wonderful help for families and helped them to eke out the weekly food rations.The weather wasn’t too severe in winter 1956/57. I was still wearing cotton dresses in October, which was a good thing because I don’t think they ever fitted me again. We had plenty exercise, we were happy and enjoyed all the happenings around us. Of course, John had to work hard too. We were amazed to see the gathering of swallows when the time came for them to migrate to warmer places. Every telephone wire and roof was covered, and to see the birds spread their wings and leave was a spectacular but sad/happy moment. Winter was coming. However, they came back and did it all again every year. I decided not to buy any ‘glamorous’ maternity clothes. (As if there were any then!) I had a couple of skirts which were designed for the condition and some cotton bright coloured smocks which were really kitchen overalls. They were colourful, comfortable, cool when the weather was warm with space for woollies underneath in the cold, just the thing, as well as being useful afterwards.
The time went by, busy each day and always something special every now and then such as the Anniversaries for the Churches, Guilds and Sunday Schools, not to mention the local choirs and events in other denominations. Anyone who thinks living in a wee country town is dull and quiet might get a surprise, or would have done in our time anyway. A lot revolved round the Churches but of course there was less ‘competition’ then. Most supported each other’s occasions, and the Supper provided was worth coming for never mind the Concert. And all the time the year was rolling round towards the Very Special Event (for the Mitchell and Stroud families anyway). It was a warm summer, lovely for gentle strolls and sitting by the River South Tyne. Mary was around and Isobel Tallantyre; they were in my age group, Irene Thynne was much younger, Mrs Thynne and various others. Far from family as we were, John and I never felt lonely. We had had no choice in where we would live and work but we felt greatly blessed in having being sent to Haltwhistle Circuit. I realised how fortunate we were in having all the pre- and post-natal facilities on the doorstep. Everything in walking distance. Almost every day I passed the Hospital just a few minutes from home, where the Staff were local and nobody was a stranger.
John lit the fire in the morning and brought me a cup of tea, he vacuumed latterly, turned the handle of the mangle, brought in coal – anything that he thought was too strenuous for me. I felt like a fraud but it was good to feel cossetted. I was at the Ante-natal Clinic regularly and learned how to bath the baby etc. All good fun. There were about twenty of us all at various stages of expectancy. Our baby was due on Saturday 13th July, so I stayed close to home. Sunday came and I walked down to Church as usual. Monday passed by, another lovely sunny day. Then early on the morning of Tuesday, 16th July, the most noticeable warning that things are moving happened. I had thought I might panic, but I was totally calm and ready to go. John phoned John Bowerbank, the young man who ran the hospital car, while I got my case in which was all I needed. I took a book and magazines but didn’t get time to read them. We arrived at the Hospital just after 7 a.m. the taxi ride having taken about 2 minutes. We were received and John was sent off home, no place for husbands in those days. For myself, if I had had the choice, I would still have said send him home! I had a bath, was examined and put to bed in a single room where I spent the whole day dozing with the occasional examination until after 6 pm. It was time for the Labour Ward.I forgot to mention the two indignities I suffered. First was being shaved, I won’t elaborate where. Nobody had warned me of that. The other was being given an enema before going into the bath. I didn’t have a clue about that either and was hardly in the bath when I had to jump out, or perhaps struggle out is more like it. I leave you to guess why. I really needed the day in bed after all that! Boots produced a series of helpful little health booklets in the Fifties and I had the Having a Baby one, which was very helpful, but they never mentioned the above two items. I learned exactly how the process went and was confident I would get along fine. I searched my bureau to see if I had it but I probably passed it on. Anyway, with the able assistance of Sister Cuthbert and Nurse Ridley I had an enjoyable and happy experience with no screeching etc. as portrayed on TV. I had gas and air, but hardly used it. Dr Adamson arrived before the baby appeared. Sister said you have a little girl, I said “Anabel Christine”, and waited for my first look at the little miracle. She was 8lbs 6ozs, 21 inches long, blonde and absolutely beautiful. She was taken away to be bathed and dressed.
I was tidied up and transferred to the ward of five beds. What I didn’t know was that John had been playing tennis with the youth club all afternoon then they had all gathered at the Hospital gates where somebody had given them the news about 7.30 pm. So it was quickly broadcast and I was probably famous for 5 minutes! John was allowed to come to see me, and to look at Anabel through the glass wall of the nursery. The Nurse pointed out the wrong baby, who had lots of very dark hair which was a surprise for him. Fortunately she realised and he was shown the bonny wee blonde. We had so many happy ,special days in our life but we agreed this day of achievement topped them all!
I was in the Hospital for two weeks which was the norm at that time. The first hurdle was feeding the baby, but we both got the hang of it quickly. Well, I tell a lie, the first hurdle was actually having what seemed like boiling water poured over an unmentionable part of our anatomy by Sister Cuthbert every day. All of us did more moaning than we did having the baby. Naturally, we complained to be told by Sister she had poured it over her hand and she didn’t feel it very hot. None had the courage to point out the difference in sensitivity! However we survived. The babies were kept in the nursery except for feeding and visiting, which meant new mothers could sleep well between soon after 10pm until about 5am. I suppose they must have had a bottle of milk in the night. Anabel was a good sleeper but apparently some cried a lot. It was a bit like an extended party, we all enjoyed each other’s company and everybody was so happy in spite of sore nipples and spoonfuls of Sennacot Granules every day. The youngest Mum among us gave us all a laugh at feeding time when she suddenly said, “Ooh, my baby is just like a little Hoover”!One day, the Sennacot having failed in my case, I was given another new experience. The nurse kindly administered a suppository and I offer no explanation. I was asked to sit in the group and stay there for a minimum of half-an-hour, longer if possible. Just as the half hour was almost up, who should walk in but Mr Thynne, come to visit me. I was delighted to see him and we chatted away, while the other girls all sat trying not to burst into fits of giggles. I got more and more uncomfortable and the girls were near hysterics when Mr Thynne got up to go after about 20 minutes. The Staff had all had a look in during the visit and they knew! It was the laugh of the day. I shot out the door and came back and joined in the hysteria. We all wanted to be home but I think we realised it was a time of rest and getting to know our babies and becoming accustomed to handling them and just loving them.
When I said to people that I had enjoyed having Anabel and hadn’t had any unbearable pain, their usual response was that you forget it all afterwards. John told me later that Sister Cuthbert had rung the Elliotts and told them that the Mitchell baby had been her easiest delivery ever, just like it was meant to be. I was very lucky to have had such a happy event. John came with John the driver and we went home, no longer two but three. The new one set the timetable, she was the Boss!