Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Summer 1983 was wonderful. Long sunny days spent playing in the garden waiting for the arrival of Junior Mad. Madette was a delicious little animal who loved to fill her sunhat up with water and hurl it at her resting mother.

After all the scares of Madette's early arrival, I was desperate to avoid seeing the inside of another neonatal intensive care unit. At 27 weeks, we had a few contractions. They subdued them and put me on ventolin for the duration. A scan at 33 weeks showed everything going according to plan. I was just ecstatic to have reached 33 weeks. They talked about an elective C-section at 37 weeks given the size of the monster versus my small frame. Ha! 37 weeks. If only.

At 34 weeks, I talked to the team at the hospital. Cut a deal. If I could get beyond 36 weeks and the baby was in good general health and it all went well, they would treat us as a normal full-term delivery. I bargained with the Devil to get to the end with a lovely healthy baby.

The sand drained through the hour-glass and I reached 35 weeks. One more week to go. Just hang on in there, little one. Monday I saw the midwife. She said you're not going to be here this time next week, are you? No. I knew that already.

Wednesday, the last day of week 36, was filled with low level back-ache. Just ignore it. Wait till it becomes more interesting before registering it. By the early evening, I'd tidied the house into submission and made sure The Bag was packed and repacked.

Staying with my "keeping it normal" plan, we went to the swimming pool for Madette to have a splash with her dad. I opted out. We hadn't planned a water birth.

After the swim, Madette went off for bedtime to a friend. We watched the clock move slowly through midnight. I'd won. I'd kept my part of the deal. We'd made it through the 36 week barrier. Old Harry smiled over my shoulder.

Junior Mad was born at 04:04. At just under 3kg he weighed nearly twice his sister's birth weight. No high tech delivery. No audience of medical staff and students. I screamed bloody hell and then pop. There he was. Small, peaceful man left in my arms while the midwife cleared away. I unwrapped the blanket and stroked his small perfect hands. Slim fingers, oval nails. Just like my dad, who would never see him.

We moved to the post-natal ward to wait out our time before going home. Babies were kept in the main nursery overnight so he would be there until 8 o'clock. Just before 8, a nurse appeared and said that they were going to move him to special care since he was a bit cold in the main nursery. No. I struggled out of bed. No. Angry, tearful, I composed myself and explained that I'd kept my side of the deal. They had no right to fuck it up by letting him get cold. Ignoring the remonstrations that I hadn't rested for my required four hours, I whirled off to the special care unit, flinching at the sound of the apnoea mattress alarms. Get out of my face, Beelzebub. This wasn't part of the deal.

Holding my babe close, I refused to move. His temperature returned to normal almost immediately. The main nursery had a large window thrown open and the first cool autumn morning air was filling the room. All the babies were a bit chilled. Junior Mad just happened to be the newest one to arrive. Grudgingly, I accepted some breakfast but wouldn't let him out of my sight.

The consultant arrived for the ward round. Perhaps, he should stay in for the day? The consultant saw my jaw set and had another flick through the notes. Feeding normally ... lots of experience with a small baby ... healthy in every respect... no reason not to go home. I swallowed the urge to make a sharp comment about knowing how to keep new babies warm as well. A call to the post-natal ward for a quick check over by a doctor for me and that was it.

Home. Watching the small pulse at the top of his head. Skin against skin. Home. Time to keep my bargain with the Devil. He came to extract his payment. No, not my other child. Not even my immortal soul.

Into the hands of Madette, he thrust a small battery operated dog. A consolation for the baby brother who had just invaded her life. It walked, it barked. It enchanted Madette. It drove me nuts. Every time I settled down to feed Junior Mad, she picked the thing up and off it would go. Twenty-six years on, I can still hear it.

Thanks, Satan. You're a mate. I took the batteries out.

Happy Birthday, Junior Mad


  1. More often than not, a mothers intuition knows better than any doctor.

  2. Our NHS is wonderful when you have an emergency. Madette is a walking, breathing, arguing tribute to that. But they manage still to stuff up simple things and the inability to join up the dots is beyond irritating.

  3. This is such a wonderful blog MBNAD x It makes me laugh cry and laugh again and also think and do lots of ooohs and ahhhs. I have to say that the laugh in this entry was picturing Madette filling her sunhat with water and slinging it at you! Sorry, but it is quite a funny picture! Catherine x

  4. After being put on ventolin, I found it very hard to sleep and would be wide awake by 5 am. I'd get up and do all the household chores before breakfast and then have the day to play with Madette. I was supposed to take it easy. We had bought a little paddling pool and a recliner chair so that I could sit and watch her as she pottered in and out of the water. Since it was such hot weather, I dutifully put her sunhat on every time. And every time she ignored the toys in the pool, whipped off the hat, filled it up with water and walked carefully over to the chair and hefted the water at me. It was very hot weather and I was grateful for the cool off ;-)

  5. Happy birthday Junior. I know the sound of the dog and can hear it now!

  6. This post made my skin prickle all over. Beautifully written, with such love. Happy Birthday, Junior mad - just finished Daughter's 4th birthday celebrations today and I'm fighting not to recall her traumatic birth. Just the joy of holding her in my arms after such a long wait. Unlike you, I wasn't nearly a month early but almost a month late!

  7. I don't do children, never had any, never wanted any. But occasionally I wish I had had the opportunity to have to write a post like this one. Observing the depth of a mother's love in other people I sometimes think maybe there's something I missed. On the other hand....
    Great post.

  8. I loved (still love) being a mother. The happiness that I have experienced through my children has defined my life. I would have had at least 4, if getting to the end of a pregnancy hadn't been such a big deal. But if I hadn't been able to have my own, I hope that I would have lived a happy and fulfilled life without being consumed by the need to have my own children. Not better or worse, just different.

    Thanks for all the really lovely comments on this post.

    Mad x


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