Baby Make It Soon; a very different birth experience
Baby Make it Soon, Make it Soon
(c) Jane Risdon 2013
The flat was hot and sticky even though it was early October. She tossed and turned as the back ache persisted, eventually she headed for the loo for the umpteenth time in the last hour. Gasping as pains gripped her stomach she managed to get back into the bedroom where he was sleeping at last. They had been up most of the night after she’d seen ‘an old woman’ leaning over her, smiling at her soon after getting into bed. He’d dropped off immediately having just got in from their mammoth recording session at Strawberry.
The old woman was dressed in the style of a Scottish crofter from two hundred years ago; she had a grey shawl over her head and shoulders and was wearing a long tartan skirt. She had a craggy face, kindly with crab apple cheeks, rosy and bursting with health. The girl didn’t feel fear as she looked at this woman who seemed not to mean her harm.
Instead she reached out to her sleeping partner and shook his shoulder, whispering urgently, ‘wake up, quick wake up, please,’ unable to take her eyes off the old woman.
After a lot of moaning and muttering he woke up, ‘What’s up?’
Of course the woman had vanished by this time and when he put the light on there wasn’t anyone there. Seeing how upset she was he listened to her story over and over as he walked through the flat just to be sure they were indeed alone.
‘Being three weeks over-due and that glass of cider has given you nightmares.’ He said.
The cider was an attempt to start her labour, she’d heard somewhere that bumpy car rides and alcohol might help. Several bumpy rides had not worked so far however. Actually it was the threat of being induced in the next few days which must have eventually worked; she was convinced she was now in labour.
Later she attempted to wake him again. ‘Please wake up; I think the baby’s coming.’
Eventually he roused himself complaining of tummy ache.
‘If you want to know what tummy ache is, try being me.’ She’d snapped.
In between pains she got her things together, ready for admission to St Mary’s. Every time she tried to get into the loo he was in there, feeling sick and in pain too.
She’d wait ages until he was able to come out again. It soon became clear that he wouldn’t be able to walk up to the phone box in the high street to make the call to the hospital and if instructed, for an ambulance.
She dressed and set off for the phone box leaving him writhing in agony on their bed.
‘Don’t know how I’ll manage the gig tonight,’ he shouted as she left the flat.
The first phone box had been vandalised and was out of action. She walked three streets to find the next box which stank of urine; she thought she’d throw up.
Realising she hadn’t enough coins for the call she went into the newsagents to get some change. She purchased a packet of Rowntrees Fruit Gums and an Agatha Christie paperback, nearly buckling to her knees as another wave of pain hit her.
She made it to the call box and dialed the hospital. After waiting forever the call was answered and after some questions about her present status, she was advised not to wait for an ambulance but to get a taxi and come straight in.
Of course there wasn’t a phone book for her to use, it had been removed. Apart from adverts for ‘French Lessons’ and ‘Private Massage’, there weren’t any adverts for taxi companies.
Gripping on to the ledge she tried hard to remember the drummer’s phone number. After fighting to remain upright she managed to make the call and spoke to his girlfriend who reminded her that the band were due to go to Cornwall later that morning so she would see if everyone was ready and would try to send the van round for her as soon as possible.
‘It’s fully loaded with the gear and they’ll need to leave immediately they’ve dropped you off at the hospital.’
At this point she could care less; she’d go to hospital on the back of a horse if it meant getting there.
Back at the flat she found him in the loo again, throwing up and groaning loudly.
‘Is your stuff ready?’ she shouted through the bathroom door.
A retching sound was her only answer.
‘The band’s on the way. You’ll drop me off at the hospital, and then you’ll go straight off to Cornwall.’ She shouted.
They were headlining in Penzance that night and had to get there in time to set up and have a quick run through before the supporting bands were due on.
In the end she packed his stuff for him in between gripping pains and dashes to the loo. He was quite incapable, the pains in his stomach overwhelming him so that all he could do was lay prostrate on their tiny single bed.
Luckily their flat mate was away staying with her married boyfriend whilst his wife and kids were in Scotland visiting her parents.
She made a cup of tea and tried to eat a boiled egg but left it in the end. He couldn’t eat or drink a thing.
An hour had passed since the promise of the van and she kept watching the road outside, anxiety building. She didn’t have any more strength to get to the phone box again and he was completely incapacitated as his pains came faster and faster.
She mopped his brow and tried to sound sympathetic, but her own pains were becoming unbearable too.
A horn sounded outside and she looked out of the sitting room window to see the group van trying to find a parking space outside the house.
The lead singer was sitting in the front as usual, legs up on the dashboard, huge white oval-shaped shades over his eyes. Asleep she presumed, whilst the bass player tried to guide the van into the small space between the multi-coloured paisley Ford Zephyr and the blue Mini with the Union Jack on the doors.
She grabbed her bag and shouted for her baby’s father to hurry up and lock the door on the way out. She headed down the stairs passing her landlord as he poked his head out of his basement kitchen.
He and his wife never missed the comings and goings of their tenants; always on the lookout for any breach of the rental agreement and an excuse to up the rent by way of placation.
‘Don’t you go bringing any brat back to this house,’ he grunted, poking his finger almost in her face.
The lead singer didn’t want to sit in the back of the van; he always sat in the front where he could spy any hot chicks wandering past in their mini-skirts and hot pants.
If he spied any he would fire off a round of potatoes from his spud-gun making them jump and notice him. Not that the van was invisible; it was covered in multi-coloured lipstick messages and drawings left by their fans, and at any rate seeing group vans passing by was quite common and spotting the names of the groups on their vehicles was almost a national past time – for the female population that is.
After a lot of grunting and groaning in-between the gripping pains of labour she tried to hoist herself into the back of the van but the aircraft seats with their arms either side, made it impossible for her in her condition. She just couldn’t make it.
‘She’ll have to sit in the front,’ the drummer suggested.
‘Please, just anywhere, we need to go – soon.’ She pleaded.
The lead singer moaned and had a hissy fit until the bass player physically dragged him from the front seat and shoved him in the back hurling threats and abuse at him.
Eventually the threat of a punch in the face proved to be an irresistible incentive coming from a former national school boxing champ, and he settled into the centre seat muttering under his breath.
She managed to get her leg up and into the van, and with a bit of shoving on her rear by her boyfriend she was able to get into the front seat. She tried to place her feet on the floor but had to kick the various empty crisp and cigarette packets to one side before she could settle in.
The drummer was puffing away happily which made her feel queasy. Her boyfriend got in the back complaining about his pains and sickness.
‘California dreaming,’ floated from the radio, The Mamas and Papas’ lyrics in stark contrast as they set off towards Goldhawk Road.
The Hammersmith traffic was starting to build for the Thursday morning rush-hour so progress was ‘painfully’ slow. Her boyfriend moaned and groaned in the back and hung his head out of the window fearful of throwing up all over the singer who sat between him and the bass player rolling a joint and complaining about missing the ‘scenery.’
She tried to get comfortable, first leaning forward and then pushing herself back into the seat as each pain convulsed through her body. The drummer explained he’d seen it all before, being the father of three.
‘I know your pain!’
‘No you bloody don’t’ she gasped. ‘You’ve no bloody idea.’
‘Stop swearing.’ Her boyfriend’s voice sounded strained, ‘I hate it when women swear.’
They pulled into a Petrol station and the drummer jumped down to see to the refuelling whilst the band had a whip round for the payment. They’d recoup it from their manager later but the singer really didn’t want to part with any cash; besides he needed change.
After a lot of complaining and a little gentle persuasion – by way of a thump on the arm from the bass player – he climbed over the bass player and went into the newsagents next to the petrol station and purchased a comic, some sweets and a packet of cigarettes. He almost threw his contribution at the drummer.
Meantime she rocked back and forth trying not to make too much fuss, besides she was worried about her boyfriend who seemed to be in labour too. God! She didn’t know how much longer she could hang on.
In the nicest voice she could muster she asked ‘are we nearly there yet?’ as the van crept through Notting hill.
All three musicians were smoking now and she thought she would throw up. Her boyfriend had turned green, his head hanging out of the window to avoid the fug.
Tony Blackburn played Canned Heat’s ‘On the Road Again.’ Radio One was a constant whenever the group were in the van.
She wound the window down amid angry complaints from the singer whose perfectly coiffed hair was getting blown around from all directions now.
‘I spent a bloody fortune at Vidal Sassoon’s,’ he yelled from behind her ‘I don’t need you to cock it up before I’ve even had chance to go on stage or have a photo with it!’
‘Put a cork in it,’ shouted the bass player, ‘Or I will.’
On the Bayswater Road they stopped to let several Arabs in full traditional dress cross in front of them heading into Hyde Park, closely followed by a group of Hari Krishna followers in their flowing robes with shaven heads; chanting, ringing bells and swinging burning incense as they passed in front of them.
‘Oh! Oh! Oh!’ her boyfriend, groaned from his backseat.
‘Give it a rest you idiot.’ The lead singer elbowed his lead guitarist in the ribs causing him to stick his head out of the window again.
‘You better get over it ‘coz we can’t cancel tonight.’
‘Shut up,’ said the bass player fed up with it all.
‘I’ve got a chick lined up for tonight.’ the lead singer said, ‘that bird who came backstage last time we played down there, you know, the one in the see through blouse and hot pants.’
‘You’ve always got a chick lined up somewhere,’ the lead guitarist said, taking deep breaths, then suddenly erupting in a coughing fit from the fumes of a Fuller’s brewery lorry turning right next to them.
‘Everlasting Love’ came on the Radio and the drummer turned the volume up humming along, tapping the steering wheel.
‘Yeah, well you don’t do too badly.’
‘Not any more I don’t, not now,’ her boyfriend leaned forward and tapped her on the shoulder, ‘No need, hey babe?’
‘I don’t bloody care,’ she groaned ‘Are we there yet?’
‘Haven’t driven down this way for ages,’ the drummer shouted over his shoulder as he turned into Praed Street. ‘Anyone know where we are supposed to drop her off?’
‘I think outside the front entrance is all right. I’ve seen people getting into cars there.’ She grunted beside him.
‘What if I drop you outside the station?’ he asked joining the bumper to bumper traffic which was just as bad on both sides of the street.
‘I don’t think I can walk that far and I don’t think you can park outside the station, there are meters now I seem to recall.’
They drove slowly getting closer to the hospital where Penicillin was discovered, cars were parked all along both sides of the road making it difficult to stop anywhere, even if there was a space. The opposite side of the road was the same.
Traffic in both directions moved at snail’s pace and in front of them a large delivery lorry decided to stop and unload goods for a shop on the opposite side of the road. All traffic halted and horns began to blare. She gripped the edge of her seat, anxiety adding to her problems.
‘Keep calm, keep calm; breathe deeply,’ she said out loud to herself.
‘I am,’ came the reply from the rear, ‘I am.’
‘Mind that bloody bike.’ shouted the bass player over her shoulder, nearly deafening her.
‘Watch it,’ the lead singer sat forward and gripped the back of the drummer’s seat.
‘Shut up and let me drive.’
‘Call yourself a bloody driver. Just wish we had our road manager here, always bloody missing when you need him.’ the singer blew smoke between the front seats, making her head spin.
‘When you get yourself a bloody driving license you prat, you can start telling me how to drive,’ the drummer yelled back, ‘until then keep it zipped or I’ll get the champ to smack you one until I can get my hands on you.’
‘Erm’ she said, ‘sorry, but you’ve gone right past the entrance,’ she couldn’t believe it.
‘See what you’ve done now,’ shouted her boyfriend, ‘Now we’ve got to go to the end of the road and see if we can turn right and come back up,’
‘Can’t do that; there’s no right turn at the bottom.’ The drummer hissed through gritted teeth, his patience rapidly disappearing.
‘Gonna have to turn left as soon as you can then and come right round in a circle and try again,’ the bass player suggested.
‘Oh no, oh no, please no,’ she was almost in tears now.
Marmalade came on the radio ‘Baby make it soon.’
Horns blared as the drummer tried to overtake a Bedford van which had stopped ahead of them. An on-coming number seventeen bus just squeezed past them on the other side of the street, the driver making a fist at the drummer.
‘Please I’ve got to get to the hospital, now!’ she mumbled.
‘Don’t you start giving me grief,’ yelled the drummer managing to find a left turn at last.
‘Hey man!’ her boyfriend shouted from the rear, ‘don’t be like that to the lady, she’s in pain,’
‘She’s a bloody pain, that’s what she is,’ said the lead singer, ‘If we don’t dump her soon we’re gonna be late getting to Cornwall and I don’t want to miss my bird.’
‘For God’s sake let me out of here, I’ve got to get out!’ screamed the labouring girl as they drove past the hospital for the third time, her scream attracting the attention of a meter maid waiting on the pavement near where the van was waiting in traffic, about a hundred yards from the entrance to St Mary’s.
‘Hey Rita Meter Maid,’ shouted the bass player through the open window, ‘Any spaces?’
The meter maid gave him a look which said ‘what a prat,’ and turned on her heel, heading in the opposite direction.
‘Idiot, she could’ve helped,’ grunted her boyfriend.
‘STOP! Stop now!’ screeched the pregnant girl, unable to stand another second going round and round Paddington, up and down Praed Street. ‘Let me out.’
The drummer slammed on the brakes in shock and the lorry behind nearly rear-ended them by the sound of his brakes screeching as he had to do an emergency stop.
She opened the van door and tried to slide down to the road, traffic on the other side of the road coming to a dead stop at the sight of the pregnant woman struggling to get out of the van. Her boyfriend yelled at her ‘Get back in, what the hell are you doing?’
‘I can’t stand it any longer, throw my bag out,’ she pressed herself up against the van as the traffic started again, ‘then bugger off the lot of you,’
The lead singer joyfully threw her bag to her, ‘Here take it, now I can see my bird,’, as her boyfriend tried to get out of the van on the other side.
‘Hang on, what are you doing?’ her boyfriend tried to stand up but his pain was too acute. ‘Wait for me.’
‘Bugger off and leave me alone,’ she walked gingerly round to the front of the van and on to the pavement. ‘Go and find a space and meet me inside,’ she hobbled off towards the main entrance of St. Mary’s.
They never found a parking space and in the end just drove off to their gig in Cornwall. She gave up waiting and was admitted and prepared for the birth. After three hours nothing had happened and
so they took her down to theatre and broke her waters for her – three bucket loads of water later she sat in a side ward waiting for the birth.
She chomped on Rowntrees Fruit Gums as she read her Agatha Christie. Students gathered around her, some prodding and poking her and others just staring – it was a teaching hospital after all.
‘How are doctors supposed to learn if everyone refuses to have them present for births?’ the doctor had said when she expressed horror at the audience gathering for her baby’s birth.
The chimes of Big Ben marked the passing of time as she laboured on. Nothing was offered to ease her labour, no gas and air, no pain killers. They discussed her as if she wasn’t able to hear.
‘This baby is really overdue. It was too small and in distress when we had her come in for a short rest a few weeks back, so we need to prepare for an underweight baby, possibly in need of an incubator,’
She gazed around the room past caring; all the faces swam in and out of focus and the chimes grew dimmer – she thought it was four thirtyish – when all of a sudden there was a communal gasp. The baby had arrived. Oh God! She thought, there’s something wrong, but she didn’t ask, just watched twenty pairs of eyes follow her baby behind the curtain.
‘Good God!’ said the nurse
‘Well, well,’ said the doctor
It seemed an age waiting whilst everyone disappeared behind the curtain. She lay there with her legs stuck up in the air; a bowl of water and a sponge had been placed beside her.
‘Clean yourself up dear,’ the nurse had said before she disappeared behind the curtain too, ‘We’ll get you a nice cuppa soon and there’s pea soup for dinner if you’re in time.’
After a while the nurse appeared again ‘You have a lovely baby boy’ she said and the doctor came back and said ‘yes, a lovely baby boy, just weighed in at 9 pounds eleven ounces.; how about that, little bruiser.’
The nurse held the baby in her arms ‘ imagine, and we all thought he was going to be such a tiny little one because he had stopped growing; even at your last check up he was still too small.’
‘Done some catching up in the last week, whatever have you been up to?’ laughed the other nurse.
She looked at them in disbelief and promptly threw up.
Two days later and the baby lay in a Perspex cot at the end of her bed. The whole band sat around the bed staring at the cross-eyed jaundiced baby in the cot, who was trying hard to raise himself up on his arms. They looked around at the other babies, so tiny and still and then glanced knowingly at each other as they compared babies.
‘Is he normal?’ her boyfriend asked, ‘he just seems, well…um…a bit odd.’
‘He never stops eating, they call him bouncer,’ she said a bit upset at the slur upon her child.
‘Yeah, but is he supposed to be trying to get up?’ the lead singer looked perplexed.
‘Those babies over there, they look like, well, like proper babies and he is sort of…..’ the bass player’s voice trailed off when he saw the look on the drummer’s face which seemed to say, ‘don’t go there mate.’
‘Two weeks in here, well I guess that is good.’ said the new father, trying to change the subject. ‘We’ve lost the flat so we’ve got to find somewhere that’ll take a baby.’ He thought the baby was a bit big when all the others looked like, well, new babies really. He kept quiet.
She was past caring. She’d watched the other new mothers getting their flower deliveries, the visitors and the general fussing of excited family and friends, feeling so totally alone, until now. No- one had visited her, congratulated her, sent flowers or cards. She’d sat hour after hour feeding and changing her son with one eye on the ward door hoping someone would come.
The Indian lady opposite even had food brought in and her whole family sat around eating curry and laughing and (tonight) all she had eaten was the bloody pea soup, cottage pie and apple pie meal the ward staff seem to served every other day; all eaten on her own.
The band had arrived just after dinner and the ward staff had been really confused, they whispered ‘which one do you think is the dad?’ and giggled as the lead singer flirted and chatted them up. By the end of the visit, he had a date with the staff nurse.
Ten days later and she waited for the band to arrive to take her and the baby home; well, to the drummer’s home until they could find a room or a flat of their own. Her boyfriend had forgotten her case with the baby clothes and her own clothes on his only other visit the day before, and so she prayed he would remember to bring them so they could be discharged.
Two hours later than expected he arrived with the case and said the rest of the band were waiting outside as they were on their way back to Cornwall.
‘You need to hurry, we’re running late. Dropping you off with Sue, she’ll look after you; she’s got three of her own.’
She went into the bathroom at the end of the ward to change whilst he held the fourteen pound blue-eyed baby with the long blonde ‘Beatle’ cut, and made a fuss over him. Secretly he was thrilled to bits with his new family.
Eventually one of the nurses went to find her because she’d been gone far too long. The nurse found her sitting on the side of the bath in tears, the open suitcase on the floor in front of her – full of books. It was the right case, but during the move from the flat someone had removed the contents and replaced them with books……the nurse said she’d tell her boyfriend to come back tomorrow; she wasn’t going to be discharged today after-all.
‘Baby make it soon,’ played on the radio as the band headed off to Cornwall. The lead guitarist tried to smile but his heart was heavy. Disappointment and embarrassment had overwhelmed him when he heard what had happened. Never again, he vowed. ‘I’ll make it better, baby,’ he said to himself, ‘Baby I’ll make it soon.’