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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 32 - The Plunket Way

…It was so nice to get home to our little house and put baby Jeffrey into his beautiful bassinet. We had decided on this name coming home from the hospital. It was one of the names we had picked out and just seemed right for him… Gayle Woodward and her husband Woody experience the delights and frights of looking after their first child.

The next morning I was moved to a ward with five other women. We were told to shower in the communal shower room. I felt faint as I walked down the corridor and so was escorted by a nurse who gave me a stool to sit on in the shower. The hot water was very special but the feeling of bruising and swelling between my legs was not. I had no stitches but was sore.

Our babies would be wheeled into us at feeding times. The first few times baby was handed to me swaddled up in soft cotton blankets. I could only see his face and I thought that at least was beautiful. I was shown how to breastfeed and thankfully he seemed to know instinctively how.

Visitors came bearing flowers and kisses. It was early spring and the flowers were perfumed and gorgeous. The family had to look at our baby through the nursery window. Dad came back to my bedside to say, “He’s a funny little thing, isn’t he”. I had never ever been angry with my father before in my life. I was fierce that day with my denial. “He’s not! He’s beautiful!” I blurted. I knew then that I would go to the end of the earth and lay down my life if asked for this child.

The pain of the labour was already forgotten. By the third day I had plucked up enough courage to undo his blankets and look at his fingers and toes. They were perfect but I did not like the look of the remainder of his umbilical cord looking black and sore. I was given a demonstration of bathing my baby in the nursery and did so, under supervision.

After ten days, I was deemed to be healed enough and Baby Woodward was feeding well and gaining weight so we could go home. Woody paid the hospital fees and we were both upset to find I had been charged for The Herald newspaper which came to my bedside each morning. I did not recollect asking for it and thought it was complimentary.

It was so nice to get home to our little house and put baby Jeffrey into his beautiful bassinet. We had decided on this name coming home from the hospital. It was one of the names we had picked out and just seemed right for him. He was to have a second name that reflected his two grandfathers’ names. They were both Frank, although Woody’s Dad was really William Francis. We did not fancy the name Frank so Jeffrey got Francis as a second name.

I floundered around trying to do the best for Jeffrey. I was feeding often and got very tired getting up twice in the night for feeds. There was still cooking and cleaning to do and lots and lots of washing, including the nappies which had to be hand scrubbed in the tub before being washed in the washing machine. It seemed difficult to fit it all in a day.

I tried to get a routine working but found that babies don’t work like six year olds. But I determined that I would treat this learning to be a mother as a career. I seriously began to read everything I could get my hands on. My ‘bible’ was a Plunket publication written by Dr Neil Begg who was Director of Medical Services for the Plunket society. If later in America, Dr Spock was to teach a whole generation of new mothers how to bring up their children, in New Zealand, the Plunket way was the only correct way as far as we were concerned.

The manual explained how to make a bassinet, how to bath your baby, how to make up milk mixtures, when to include solid food, in fact all and sundry. I included my child development knowledge from my Teachers College days. I began to formulate theories of my own. I would not smack if at all possible and I would offer learning experiences at every opportunity with follow up encouragement. I was not going to reward normal developmental milestones and was not going to push Jeffrey to achieve those milestones. I believed he was ‘programmed’ to attain them at his own speed.

Putting the knowledge to work was another matter. At five weeks of age the Plunket Nurse said that Jeffrey had a head cold. He was grizzly and could not manage to feed properly. This of course was because of his blocked up nose, but we thought of everything bad. One night when we both so tired from trying to get him to eat or sleep I said tearfully, “I think he’s going to die”. Woody answered, “So do I”.

The next day we took him to our doctor. We were given drops to give him and he soon recovered. We laughed later at our ignorance. No classes or books can ready you for the first time a newborn is sick. It is so frightening. The baby is relying on the new parents and these inexperienced people have no idea of what to do. However, in spite of us, Jeffrey survived and prospered.

Life settled down to a happy and peaceful routine. We would have dinner with my parents and usually lunch with Woody’s folks once each week. My Dad was enchanted by his little grandson. By three months of age, he was weaned and I began to write again in the afternoons when he was asleep. I had a new interest to write about:


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