Archive for the ‘Family Stories’ Category

Natal Narratives

Many mothers, like me, must have been feeling empathy for our Prime Minister over recent days and weeks.  My first child was born three days after her due date, and I recall several highlights of that time more than fifty years ago.

  • Being told by the hospital not to come in until my contractions were regular. If I’d obeyed she’d have been born at home.
  • Birth happened barely an hour after I’d been admitted – so different from friends’ stories of 20-30 hours labour
  • A concerned nurse saying ‘you’re not pushing, are you?’.  I couldn’t help it!
  • A nurse who offered to ‘turn on the taps’ when she wanted a urine sample.  Being young and naive I imagined this was some invasive procedure and firmly declined
  • Ten days in a single room to enjoy my new daughter.  Hard to imagine what it must be like to be sent home after just a few hours.

Our first baby at two months

I hope Jacinda’s time goes well.  What are your memories of childbirth experiences?

“The times may change but birth is still
a wonderful and special thrill.”


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I was kidnapped by Victorian Railways in Australia.  I was visitng my brother in Melbourne and he knew I loved train travel.  We were on an inner city circuit and he asked if I would like to go around again.  “Yes, please!”  Unbeknownst to us this particular train changed routes at 3pm and headed off into the hinterland.  Luckily we were able to get off, cross the tracks, and catch a train back to the city in time to retrieve our car, and get to the airport for my flight home to New Zealand.

“The train ran off a different way.
It’s lucky I got home that day.”

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Mishandled Mouse

Daughter Number One was thrilled she’d been chosen to bring the class mouse home for the holidays.  On Thursday afternoon it arrived, complete with cage and treadmill.  Daughter Number Two, a pre-schooler, was fascinated and delighted to be allowed to hold and stroke it.  An hour later the mouse was lying on the cage floor, decidedly dead.  An inquisition elicited the fact that younger daughter, feeling the mouse was a little grubby, had carefully washed it with her facecloth and cold water.

What to do?  Unthinkable for elder daughter to have to face her classmates with the news the mouse had not survived even one night in our house.  It fell to me to drive across the city to a shopping centre open late on Thursday night, and carefully choose a look-alike replacement.  Classmates need never know our family secret.

“I hate to say that in our house
we can’t be trusted with a mouse.”

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Purrfect Pair

Stephen needs new slippers, but sadly I could not persudae him to buy these ones even though they were his size.

Fluffy feet for men

You’d think he’d have been keen to have feet that matched Ziggy’s!

Ziggy’s fluffy feet

“He did not want his little piggies
to look exactly just like Ziggy’s.”

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Ruth preparing to abseil

Have you every done something that was out of the ordinary?  Some years ago I went abseiling.  I’m definitely not a sporty person, but I was attracted because the woman facilitator, Ali Watersong. was someone I knew and trusted.  She is also a psychodrama practitioner, and on the Friday evening we went to a preparatory session where we addressed the rock we were to climb, and worked through our fears.

The next morning we drove to Castle Rock in the Port Hills, and climbed up, complete with ropes, helmets, and other equipment.  It was my first experience of serious rock climbing, and it was daunting.  At the top I was overcome by emotion, remembering the rock climbing done by my father who died when I was very young.

I was gently encouraged to step off and abseil down, which I did with a tremendous feeling of achievement.  I didn’t want ever to do it again, but I’m pleased to know that I could overcome my fears and do something that took immense personal courage.

“To step off was the hardest thing
but that day I went abseiling.”

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A friend recommended this film as being funny and full of clever one-liners.  I found it excellent, more serious than I expected, but there were some very clever lines.  With a wonderful woman hero (Gemma Arterton) and Bill Nighy – what’s not to like?

Perhaps I found it serious because the air raid scenes reminded me strongly of my mother-in-law, who endured the London blitz while her husband was serving overseas.  Night after night she went down into the shelter carrying a small baby whose father never saw her until she was three years old.

The theme of the propaganda film within the film reminded me of a poem I learned years ago (maybe at Primary School?), ‘Dunkirk 1940’.  I’ve no idea who the poet was.  Do you know?

“The little ships, the little ships, rushed out across the sea
to save the luckless armies from death and slavery
from Tyne and Thames and Tamar, the Severn and the Clyde
the little ships, the little ships, went out in all their pride
and home they brought their warriors, weary and ragged and worn
back to the hills and the shires, and the towns where they were born
three hundred thousand warriors, from hell to home they came
in the little ships, the little ships, of everlasting fame.”

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My Mother

Mother and me with koala 1981

I am the child of a single parent who was the child of a single parent.  My father died when I was five.  My mother’s father died when she was two.  As a child I never met anyone else who didn’t have a father.  I never thought to question my mother as to how that had been for her, and while she sometimes talked about the things she and her mother had done together she never mentioned her lack of a father.

I’ve been listening to a radio programme where children of single parents talked about how the experience has shaped them.  Many became more resilient and independent.  Most talked about how hard their mothers worked to provide for them which was true for me too.  I think what I mostly learned from my mother was the importance of being good and kind.

I wonder how many other fatherless daughters are out there.  I’d love to hear from you.

“There was no-one else I knew
who didn’t have a father too.”



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