The only blight was mother insisting there would be no visits to their house until after dark as the neighbours would see I was expecting. I was flabbergasted but I just didn’t go at all. Less stress all round.
My health was not the best but I had a doctor who cared. The day the baby was born was “D Day”. Planes had been going over all day and there were rumours of landings. Some said invasion, some said landings. I kept going until the six o’clock news that a successful landing had taken place on the French coast.
I looked at Ted and said “I have to go. I can’t wait any longer”. An ambulance rushed me to the nursing home while bombs dropped and whistles blew and police waved us on. It was still early hours of the morning, six o’clock before he was born. I had a German nurse, a catholic refugee, and what a mess up. She told the assistant nurse to give me chloroform and the dill poured it straight on my face. My skin and eyes were burnt and in the muddle the sister declared the baby wasn’t breathing and placed him on a marble shelf. At that moment the door opened and in walked Ted. Hearing the nurse say he was dead he grabbed him and started to massage and breath into him. Lo and behold he whimpered and Ted wrapped him in a blanket and told the nurse to see to him.
Meanwhile I was haemorrhaging and causing concern. Everything calmed down and the doctor finally got through. I was exhausted.
That day I tried to feed baby but as usual no milk but I gave him his feeds by bottle.
The second day the nurse said he was sleeping and would be kept in the nursery for the day. I wasn’t happy and began to demand to see him. Then all hell broke loose.
A “Doodle Bug” landed outside. How I ended up under the bed I don’t know but about a ton of dirt was on top of me and I had to be dug out. Ted came tearing over and I demanded to go home. If we were going to die we would all go together. The staff refused to let the baby go until Ted threatened to call the police. We were dressed and out of there in no time flat.
Once at home we had to go to the shelter in our dining room. It was a large metal box supposed to protect one from blast and debris. My first thought was baby’s feed but he couldn’t get the teat into his mouth. Then I saw his tongue was swollen and falling back his throat. I hooked it out and picked him up and ran to a doctor at the end of the road. At first she said come in the morning but one look at him and she said follow me to the hospital and soon as you can. We bundled the other kids in the car, which I had a special permit for on health grounds, and raced to the hospital.
My baby, now called David, was whisked away to isolation and I was told I could only view him through a small window. I was beside myself with worry. He had infantile diarrhoea which at two days old had a ninety nine death rate. The doctors advised me not to try to see him so that the loss would be easier. What a hopeless thing to say to a mother.
Apparently at the nursing home the sterilisation equipment had broken down and all nappies etc. were washed by hand. It was found other babies had died but it was covered up. I had to give a statement and eventually the people responsible went to jail.
The day came when I could take David home. He was so frail and skin and bone. Against the other babies he was fragile. Of course he had to go down with pneumonia. I slept on the floor for nights and what do you know Bryan came down with measles. Was that a time. White coats, rubber gloves and masks. Change for each visit to a room. David didn’t get it though and slowly pulled through.
When David was so ill at the hospital an S.O.S. went out for bananas. Americans flying lend lease aeroplanes in to Britain would bring them in and the hospital would pick them up. They made a food for David from them I was told.
David grew and seemed perfect until my last visit to the hospital when I saw the doctor attending him. He shocked me by saying of course I understood that David’s brain was affected and he would never be more than five years old in brain development. At first I cried and then got my back up and said “He’s wrong. David will be as good as any of them.”
I worked continually with David teaching him little things at first and then letters and figures. It was a strain on my patience but we persisted. He learnt his letters by a jungle made from chairs and cushions. A mountain was a chair with a letter at the top. Hurrah! A cushion was a lake or swamp that he had to swim to another letter. It was a great game and he learnt the letters. By the time school came he could cope and while not clever was not left behind either.
When he was five an elderly doctor told me I was killing him with fussing. To wrap him up and send him out into the snow with the other kids. It was hard to let go but I did and he survived. Bryan was my mainstay. He always looked out for David and cared for him.
The war continued for awhile but we were lucky. A petrol ration was allowed us on a doctor’s order as I was so ill. I didn’t think I was ill but why refuse a gift of that order.
Life continued with little change. The rations still went on but there were no bombs to deal with.
Ted decided we would go for a drive one afternoon and on the way back we passed a house well set back from the road. I suddenly said ''Stop. That’s an Elizabethan Manor.” Lo and behold a man came out of the house and pasted a FOR SALE notice up on a board.
Ted left the car and walked away saying “Just stay there.” He walked up to the front door and disappeared inside. When he came out he was all smiles. “Would you like to live there” he sprang on me. I was overjoyed. In the days that followed there were bank and lawyer meetings and then the day came when Ted said “The house is yours”. Meanwhile he had given notice to the house agent and we could arrange to move.
Ted arranged for his mother to come over and look after the children while Ted cleared up and I went with the removal van to the new house. I had cleaned like a madman the day before but his mother set too and bless her heart did the final cleaning.
Of course that morning I felt really ill and by the time the moving men left I was acting by rote. I lit a fire in the dining room, put a rug down beside it and just passed out. Ted arrived with the family and kneeling down shook me but I only groaned. He rang a doctor who came quickly and next thing I was in bed with pneumonia. Ted's mother set to and saw to everything, for which I was very grateful. A few days later I was back on my feet and to the doctor’s horror carried on as usual. It was all very well lecturing me but the family needed feeding, washing and everything else.
Ah well I survived.
When I tried to thank Mother-in-Law for her help she informed me she did it for Teddy. The children were always referred to as “Teddy’s children”. Well that was true. I was only the chosen vessel. The poor woman couldn't see that we should at least be friends. I can understand her fixation but it was a pity.