Sunday, 9 October 2011

1950s midwifery

I was working ooooop north this week and so had the opportunity to go and see a very dear friend of my mum. She (not my mum!) is 95 and one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. She's super fit, her mind is active (she was able to correct the directions that her daughter had given me to the restaurant we went to), and until last year was jetting off on holiday all over the world.

Unfortunately, she had a couple of heart issues a month or so ago, although she looked very well when I saw her. This problem meant that she spent a week in hospital, where she told me she struggled to do nothing but stay in bed. One of the nurses asked her when she had last spent any time in hospital.

"1939" she said, which is when she had her first child. Her second was born at home, as was the norm in those days, so she was very interested when I told her that my big plan was to avoid the hospital.

When you think these days that you call the midwife and they ask you to wait until it's unbearable before you drive in, it's incredible to hear about the old days. Often, a husband would appear at the house (no phone lines back then) having arrived by horse and cart after being dispatched by a wife in labour.

My lovely grandma was a rural midwife who would often cycle to houses or climb mountains on foot - sometimes by torchlight, deliver a baby and return home. We climbed one of these recently in daylight and I kept falling into the bog and got so bitten by midges, wet and miserable that I didn't make it to the summit, but retired to the pub to wait for everyone else.