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The Day Before Yesterday: 70 - A Son Called Rodney

Gladys Schofield named her second son Rodney, after a British ship involved in a great naval victory.

Mum had a neighbour. This large house had been made into two, many years earlier. They were almost surrounded by the Golf Links except for the small lane up to our row of houses. The lady next door to her was also expecting, two weeks before me, so Mum felt very privileged when her husband came around to see if she would stay with his wife, while he went to phone the midwife.

Wjen she was in labour, with Mum's experience she soon knew the baby was almost here, so quickly got busy knowing what would be required. The husband returned to announce the midwife was on her way but so was the baby and Mum had to deliver it. It was already wrapped warmly in a blanket beside the mother when the midwife arrived. The baby girl was called Christine. "Oh dear", I thought. That was the name I had chosen, what should I do now?

The news was very exciting in early April. A big sea battle had been fought and the outcome had been in our favour. They had sunk a large German battleship and were singing the praises of the ships involved. One was called The Rodney, what an unusual name I thought. If ever I have another child, I would like to call it Rodney. It was like a tonic to the people, knowing things were turning at last a little in our favour and we started to think more about when the war would be over, not if.

It was the night of the thirteenth of April, Alan was a good little boy and was fast asleep in bed. I was thinking of joining him in our big bed upstairs, when a tell tale pain crept around my inside. I didn't think much about it after all it was ten more days before my baby was due but I looked at the mantle clock just the same. It was ten minutes to ten, another pain about twelve minutes later made me realise I was going to spend this night downstairs. I knew it was now up to me and never felt so alone in my life. No one was expecting me to give birth so early, hadn't Alan gone the other way to come ten days late, so thinking it may just be fake, I tried to settle down to sleep a while in the single bed, after I had seen we had plenty of coal on hand for the fire and made sure everything was in readiness just in case.

The pains were sharper than I had experienced with Alan but hadn't he taken twenty hours, so I relaxed. No use waking anyone, there would be plenty of time in the morning. I wheeled the pram to a more convenient position, close to the fire and aired the blankets and tiny garments and made a cup of tea. This was going to be a long night.

I climbed the stairs once again to check on my little son but he hadn't stirred but a sharper pain made me grip the banister for a while, before descending again. The clock now said one thirty. I knew now this baby was more determined to get into the world than Alan was and I had better go next door, to waken my friend who had already told me I must do this but we didn't expect to so soon.

I had only given a quiet knock on the door, not wanting to awaken the children and a window opened upstairs, "Is that you love?" a voice said. "I have been wondering, I couldn't sleep" and with those words she let me in, only pausing to dress herself. On seeing how bad I was, she awakened her husband saying, "Phone the midwife Clem while I sit with Gladys.''

Poor bewildered man, he stared from his wife to me, then back up the stairs he had just descended and decided it was best to do as his wife had asked him and was soon striding up the steep path to the solitary phone at the top. Having done his duty, Clem crept back to bed, his children like Alan, unaware of all the drama taking place this night.

The midwife was an hour getting to our home. One of the ambulance men had driven her to the top of the lane, she had walked the rest of the way. This lady was middle aged. I suppose they were short staffed too, the younger ones helping with the war effort. Anyway, she would be experienced, she examined me while Ethel made yet another cup of tea and my pains disappeared just as before.

Seeing this was going to take longer after all, I told Ethel to go back home and get some sleep. I was in capable hands now, she agreed but said "I will pop down the lane, to let your mum know what is happening.''

It wasn't long before Mum arrived, she hadn't taken much awakening either and the teapot was shared once more.

It wasn't until dawn that my pains decided to come back with a vengeance and I was ordered on to the bed again. I was worried the little boy upstairs would soon be wakening but Mum assured me she would take him down to my sisters, until my husband could get home.

Even this birth had been taken care of beforehand, a telegram already filled in, lay on the sideboard. All it needed was the sex of the child and the date, to bring my husband. He could have seven days leave for the birth of a baby.

This child was proving more difficult to deliver, the cord being firmly wrapped around his neck The lusty baby was already trying to cry with only his head exposed.

The midwife meanwhile made a move to push back the head to free it from the cord. I heard my mum say "No, no, the baby I delivered next door was the same. I managed to unwind it, with the next pain." And this is what they did, having already breathed, my second son could have suffocated. It was a tricky situation but it worked for me.

This sturdy boy was named Rodney. He was not as tall as his brother but had a larger head and a little round face and looked more like his granddad than his dad. He had big blue eyes and I was thankful he was born. It was just ten o'clock in the morning.


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