Life of Margaret…

Born 7th April 1951, by her Dad.

 

Preface:

Margaret Jeremy, as Edna and I had named our prospective firstborn, since we didn’t know her sex at that point and were, so to speak, hedging our bets, first made her presence felt in Lynmouth, North Devon, during our Summer holiday in August 1950. We blamed Edna’s sickness on some Devon clotted cream, an accusation that would no doubt have earned us a severe reprimand from the locals, had they known. Returning home and over time, as the trouble became more pronounced and the facts came to light, a change came over our lives. My rambling weekends were decreased to one per month and Edna’s ceased entirely. A visit to the antenatal clinic convinced Edna that she suffered from kidney trouble and eggs and cheese were struck  remorsefully from her diet, much to her distress, since these foods were our particular favourites.  Although they were not removed from mine, things did become a little uncomfortable on occasion as she glowered across the table at me as I ate not only my own, but her ration too.

I personally expected all my workmates to be au fait with the situation from the occasion when Edna first visited the clinic, village gossip being what it is, but, to my surprise, no-one seemed to know anything and I certainly had no intention of giving away any secrets. Miners are not renowned for their sensitivity.

Time passed, as it will, and March came upon us. By this time, I had curtailed my rambling activities and, instead, various rambling friends visited us as we passed our weekends in hectic preparation. Came Wednesday, March 21st and Edna visited the clinic as usual. I was on the night shift and awakened from my sleep at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I was surprised and annoyed to hear a commotion in the next bedroom.

Clad only in my shirt, I stepped onto the landing to apprise myself of the reason for the disturbance and encountered my cousin Marion coming out of the next room. Modestly averting her gaze and apologizing  for the noise, she informed me that Edna had been sent home from the clinic with strict orders to go straight to bed and await the arrival of the doctor. I went in to find Edna in bed and not a little alarmed. Apparently, her blood pressure  was high and her kidneys, which had behaved themselves admirably up to now, were showing signs of excessive wear and tear.

On Thursday, Dr. Hargreaves dispatched Edna to Jessop’s Hospital after some complicated and highly indelicate mathematics concerning intake and excretion of water. From this point onward, my health began to suffer. Up to now, I had scoffed at those tales of husbands who were ill during their wife’s pregnancy. Now I began to  sleep badly, have tooth ache, back ache and head ache, to say nothing of experiencing some twinges in my left knee. (In fact, I had had some cartledge trouble during the preceding year, but I still put the current pain down to pregnancy.)

Good Friday was spent in gloomy foreboding and constant telephonic communication with Jessop’s Hospital. Of course, I never got to speak to Edna, but had to rely on messages passed via switchboard. At work, I had no time to think about my troubles, or Edna’s either for that matter. As is usual with miners on the last shift before the Bank Holidays, there had been a lot of absenteeism and I had to work a market shift on a district where the roof conditions were rather uncertain. Therefore, I was too busy watching out for my personal safety to worry overmuch about anything other than a roof fall.

Saturday found me anxiously awaiting visiting hours, which were seven to eight in the evening at Jessop’s and I duly turned up at the appointed hours on tenterhooks. Edna was apparently in vulgarly  robust health and a very bad temper.  It seemed that she had spent a very trying two days being alternately “pawed about” (her words) by a whole army of nurses and doctors, one of whom Edna described as a “supercilious bastard” who, she seemed to think, regarded her as a malingerer.

Sunday was a little better and Mrs Hague came over to see her daughter. By this time Edna had been put into a ward with four other women and her spirits were beginning to revive. My sleep, however, continued to suffer but when one of the men at work suggested that I was “breeding”, I didn’t rise to the bait. This is a very coarse local expression amongst miners to indicate a downcast  and slightly off colour condition. Strangely enough, even though Edna and I had been seen out and about quite a lot during the preceding weeks by the Orgreave men, no-one seemed to be aware of the true condition of things – or else they may have been being discreet, a state of affairs unheard of amongst miners.

The week passed dolefully. As I was on “afternoons”, my mother visited the hospital on my behalf on Wednesday 28th and then on Saturday I turned up once more. By this time, things were beginning to move in that there was a movement afoot to persuade Edna into giving birth to twins. This movement was being violently opposed by Edna. Sunday found the medical profession giving ground and Bessie reported that the movement was dying down. I turned out the following Wednesday and then followed a couple of days of anxious waiting. Friday the 6th was DER TAG, according to the doctors and we had already begun to phone twice a day with tireless persistence. The bulletin continued to be “No change” but we began to suspect something when  on Friday morning the operator at Jessop’s took an unusually long time to give us the hackneyed reply.

On Saturday the 7th of April we had Eric, Stella, Andrew and Martin to tea and at 5 p.m. I rang the hospital. The news came:- “Your wife has a baby daughter but she is still under anaesthetic.” I was instructed to ring up again before going to the hospital that evening. at 7 p.m. I received the “all clear” and rushed up to Jessop’s like a man possessed. Edna was looking pale and bewildered and the room still reeked of ether. It seemed that Edna had first begun to feel labour pains on Thursday but puzzled the doctors by not conforming to the usual order of things. About 1 p.m. on Saturday it was deemed necessary to remove  the baby forcibly, with Edna under anaesthetic.

While she was telling me all this, a nurse came and asked me whether I had seen my daughter. Edna warned me that the baby might be a bit battered and I went out filled with foreboding. I donned a mask and went into a small room where stood a lone cot looking very small and forlorn. Feeling full of awe, I approached and looked down upon a dark head, be-spattered with blood, but with peacefully closed eyes. Except for the blood, I could see nothing to be afraid of and felt suddenly relieved. The nurse told me that the baby would weigh about 9lbs 13 oz and she assured me that the baby was perfectly alright but would not be allowed to go to her mother until she had settled down.

I returned to tell Edna all about the new arrival, which she had not yet seen for herseilf and I assured her, as the nurse had assured me, that all was well.

Later, I went to Wombwell to break the news to the Hagues. Earlier I had attempted to reach them on the telephone via Cresswells, their neighbours, but it seemed that Cresswells had been out all day.  Mr and Mrs Hague, with Bessie and Jack, were in the Reform Club when I arrived and, when I told them the news, there was great rejoicing. Mr Hague would have liked a boy but he grinned happily nevertheless and immediately demanded that we “wash the baby’s head”, a ceremony with no complications, which merely required the payment on my part for drinks all round as a celebration. Thus ended for me the first day of my daughter’s life.

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