Girl is Born
Ruby’s screams had subsided and were replaced by the lusty cry of a newborn baby. Walter stopped pacing the footpath in front of his home and peeked in the front door.
“It’s a baby girl,” the midwife said with false cheerfulness. Her eyes were tired and her body sagged. “Your wife… she’s not good. I think we should get the doctor.”
Walter cursed under his breath. Money was tight and the doctor would be another expense he could not afford. His mind drifted back seven years, when his first wife lay dying in that same room.
“Yes, yes, of course, I’ll get him now.”
As he ran towards the doctor’s house he quickly became breathless. He was now forty seven years old and not as fit as the young footballer who had married Hannah Simons almost twenty years before. In ten minutes he had reached the clinic where the Irishman Dr Dunlop lived and worked. His wife answered Walter’s frantic ringing.
“My wife …she may be dying. She just had a baby, a girl, but the midwife said she has lost a lot of blood.” Walter gasped out his words.
Marion Dobson smiled encouragingly. “Now don’t you be worrying. I’m sure your wife’s a strong young woman. I’ll send the doctor as soon as he gets back. He’s attending a sick man right now but I’m sure he won’t be too long.”
Walter turned to retrace the mile to his home. He found his wife pale and semi conscious, tossing in the bed as wave after wave of pain coursed through her body.
The midwife turned to leave.
“You’ll have to get someone to care for that baby, Mr Lane. Your wife won’t be able to feed the poor waif in her condition. I have to go as I’ve got my own bairns to see to.”
“But who can I ask?”, cried Walter, suddenly terrified of being left alone with a dying wife and a helpless infant.
“I’ll send Mary.” The midwife’s attitude softened towards the troubled man. “She’ll get some milk and a feeding bottle. You just give her the money. It’s called Glaxo – the milk for the baby. It’s better than straight cow’s milk as it doesn’t upset their little tummies so much.”
The midwife faced the groaning, writhing form on the bed. “Good luck, Mr Lane. I hope the doctor can help. There’s nothing more I can do. I’ve tried all I can to stop the bleeding. Maybe he can give her some medicine to stop the cramps.”
It seemed an eternity before Dr Dunlop’s horse and cart arrived. The doctor tied his horse to the front fence and walked straight in the open door. He motioned Walter out of the bedroom and closed the door behind him. Ten minute’s later he came out into the hall where Walter stood anxiously.
“It will be touch and go,” he said. “The afterbirth has not come completely away. I’ve given her some medicine which should help.”
He spent the next hour with Ruby but finally had to leave and attend to other patients. Moments later, a plainly dressed young woman arrived at the front gate with a battered suitcase.
“Mrs Hammond said I was to come and help. My name’s Mary and I’m used to looking after children. I’ve got ten brothers and sisters and I’m the eldest. I’ve had to leave next sister down to look after the young ‘uns while I’m here. Now where’s that baby?”
Walter felt some relief for the first time that day. Ruby lay quietly on the bed, probably as a result of laudanum administered by the doctor. The baby was taken care of and at last he could attend to his own needs. He cut a slice of bread, smearing it with dripping, and ate hungrily. He threw some kindling in the fireplace and soon the comforting crackling of a fire and the soft depth of his favourite arm chair lulled him into a deep, unconscious sleep.