Some of you may be aware that my Mum is a retired midwife from the old school of nursing much as portrayed in many “Carry On” films. My earliest memories of her is going off for work in a blue dress uniform with frilly arm cuffs, larger than life navy blue superhero cape with the red bands crisscrossed across her chest to keep it in place and the handkerchief part of her white cap floating behind her.
Over the years she has been called upon by friends and family alike to change dressings, recommend medications for a variety of symptoms and tend to an array of ailments. She is still able to detect a pregnancy in its early stages often long before the expectant mother not to mention the many times when some stranger has whipped out a rash for more formal identification upon discovering her occupation.
Earlier in the year a young single mum rented out one of the houses in our street along with her five-year old son. As the months passed it became apparent that she was pregnant and in the last couple of weeks Hobo, our black rescue cat, had taken to sleeping outside her front door. Not an uncommon occurrence for the big fella, as with many animals he has this uncanny ability to be the first to notify us of an impending arrival.
So it was no surprise that a loud knocking on the door notified us that our neighbour had gone into premature labour and owing to the recent storms and flooding, the ambulance was unable to get through to the village. With the organisational ability that a Regimental Sergeant Major would have been proud of, my mother surveyed the scene and realised that the increasing regularity of the girl’s labour pains meant we would be unable to get her upstairs before the baby was delivered. This was going to be no mean feat as my mother herself had just had recent knee surgery but irrespective of the environment, one thing was sure; this baby was on his way. “Fetch your father” the Sergeant Major barked at me.
My father was no fan of the practicalities of childbirth preferring instead to travel behind the ambulance in his car whilst my mother had been transported to the hospital in the advanced stages of labour when my sister and I were born. He blanched when I gave him the news but was rather relieved when he realised he was just being called upon to assist me in changing the light bulbs to provide a well-lit lounge whilst my mother made our neighbour as comfortable as she could on the lounge floor.
By this time Hobo had strolled in, as any open door is an invitation as far as he’s concerned, looking at us all as if to say “don’t say I didn’t warn you”.
As Dad and I kept the little boy distracted in the kitchen leaving the Matron to tend to his mother his little brother screamed his way into the world. As it was Xmas Eve the timely arrival of this little baby had not gone unnoticed and we realised how lucky we were to be part of our own nativity story. Whilst there were no wise men bearing gifts, the news of the delivery had spread fast and the couple that owned the local village shop arrived with supplies for the baby. An elderly lady who made blankets for the Syrian refugees brought one for our new arrival and even Sid & Ernie (the dynamic duo) had borrowed a tractor to drive through the floods to transport the local practise doctor who had arrived somewhat late to the party but announced that my Mum had done a sterling job.
Whilst this wasn’t the holy birth, it was a tiny miracle nevertheless as are all births and one which had brought many of us together on a stormy Christmas Eve in a little Devon village.
So I want to take this opportunity thank all the Emergency Services who are never truly off duty regardless of the time of year and to whom many of us owe a huge debt of thanks.