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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 47 - A Baby Daughter

…Woody arrived in gown, bootees and mask, looking sheepish and scared. He was told to stand by my head out of the way. I was efficiently gasping with the gas mask and was rather grumpy with Woody who wanted me to be quieter with the pains before the gas took control at each wave of pain. At one of the last huge contractions I groaned so loudly that Woody took fright and rushed from the theatre leaping right over a gas bottle in his efforts to get out of there quickly…

Gayle Woodward gives birth to baby Karyn.

I thought a lot about the state of our relationship. There seemed to be nothing I could do. I was completely dependent on my husband for money to live. I seemed to be bringing up the two boys alone and although I liked this idea for I believed my way was the best, it was difficult when one or the other was sick and he was away on one of his regular weekly business trips.

Jeff began to suffer from asthma as the winter approached and this was frightening in itself. I decided to make the most I could of it. We had the nursery ready for the new baby and Mark’s bed had been moved to Jeff’s room which they would now share. This room was only big enough for the two beds and their clothes. They slept in divan beds with storage underneath. The toys were now in a toy box made by my father and stored downstairs on the garage floor which was the concreted end of the basement. I would sit on the round chair in the nursery and stare at the bassinet and changing table, thinking.

My friend Carol and her sister Diane visited me one afternoon at the end of my pregnancy. Diane was very exotic, I thought. She had married an Italian dam builder and lived in the snowy central North Island town of Turangi. I had only met her a few times; I knew she was a teacher. Diane told me she knew I was going to have a girl. She had dreamed vividly of me, sitting up in a bed in a room filled with pink flowers. They were covering the walls, the ceiling, the bed, the floor. I was delighted and stored this vision away to be visited at night in the last few weeks.

The Queens Birthday holiday in 1976 was on Monday 7th June. It was a clear but cold early winter’s day on that holiday, when the first contractions announced that the pregnancy would soon be over. In the afternoon, we drove the boys to their grandparents’ house in Takapuna and set off with my suitcase in hand to the Mater hospital.

We felt like old hands now. I knew what to expect and Woody was invited to be in the delivery suite for the birth. He had received no training nor had he seen films of childbirth. I was surprised that he agreed, but smugly pleased that he would be with me throughout and would find out how difficult this was.

We worked through the labour together. It was so different this time. I had no enema and was not shaved. I was treated with intelligence and empathy by the nurses. There seemed to have been a climate change in the maternity unit of the hospital and I welcomed it. This was a short but intense labour. I was eager for it all to be over and breathed expertly.

At six thirty I was transferred to the delivery suite. I joked to the religious sisters acting as theatre staff, “If it’s not a girl, I want you to put it back!” I got the curt reply that all babies were God’s children and we should love whatever we got!

Woody arrived in gown, bootees and mask, looking sheepish and scared. He was told to stand by my head out of the way. I was efficiently gasping with the gas mask and was rather grumpy with Woody who wanted me to be quieter with the pains before the gas took control at each wave of pain. At one of the last huge contractions I groaned so loudly that Woody took fright and rushed from the theatre leaping right over a gas bottle in his efforts to get out of there quickly.

He burst out through the swinging theatre doors. I registered his departure, but was too busy to care. This baby was easy to push out and very soon it seemed, I could hear the glorious sound of my baby’s first cry and someone was saying to me “It’s a girl!” “Oh” I gasped. “Please tell my husband quickly!”

I received our daughter to hold and could not resist checking just to make sure she was female. I could not believe that I had the baby girl I so wanted and dreamed about. We thought she was beautiful, with dark and long hair. She weighed 8lbs 15ozs and was the same length as Jeff and almost the same weight. She was Karyn. We had picked out this name and decided to have the ‘y’ spelling in her name the same as in my name. It was written on her chart and we phoned the families, first our boys who were nonplussed to hear that they had a baby sister. My parents were delighted and we made a special call to Carol to be relayed to Diane, that her prediction had been positive.

I was so happy. I did not feel tired or sore and got out of bed early. I got breastfeeding established early and would sit in a chair beside my bed in order to feed her. I was an experienced mother and I moved around the rooms encouraging other new mothers with their breastfeeding efforts. I developed feelings of tender devotion to this child. She was absolutely what we wanted in our last child. Her dark hair was the only problem. It stuck upright instead of lying flat, rather like a mane. I determined that she would always wear a bonnet when out in public. I knew this hair would most likely fall out to be replaced by the blonde hair the boys had sported but I felt fiercely protective of this perfect baby and did not want anybody to say anything disparaging about her.

We took her home. I was very surprised when Woody told me when we walked in the door that he had changed all the beds so I would not have to do that chore. I was even more surprised to find all the bedding lying on the floor of the laundry, as yet unwashed. I got over this shock and then Woody got a phone call. He had been home with the boys for the past few days and had forgotten a business function he should attend that very night. Without a backward look, he dressed quickly and left. I looked at the boys and Mark grinned as only Mark could. His smile said ‘It’s alright Mum, you’re home!’ I had fed Karyn twice by the time Woody got home. And done the laundry, cooked dinner for three and got two excited young boys to sleep with a story each. Clearly, Woody and I both had a job we were devoted to; mine was at home with my children.

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