Twenty-five years after her passing, I swear my mum sent me a precious gift; my recently-found 1952 Baby Book. I’m 67 years old now, the youngest of six kids, and long ago made peace with the fact that parents, siblings and relatives in general do not become overly excited when bub number six makes an appearance.
There’s no hospital family visits, ‘first day home’ or ‘isn’t she cute’ photos. No a’hoopin’ and a’hollerin’ heralded my birth, more like a “Hoo-hum, what’d she have this time?” occasion. My only claim to fame was that, being a girl, I evened out the boy/girl ratio; three of each. Hey, I’m owning it and wearing it like a badge of honour; like, yeah, I planned that. You’d have to be the youngest of a large family to grasp the pathetic reasoning, so I’ll not even try to explain.
Nevertheless, all my siblings and everyone I knew either had baby details, birth notations or copies of hospital discharge papers … You know, baby memorabilia. Being number six, I had nothing to prove I had been actually born into this family apart from a ‘maybe forged’ birth certificate. Between the ages of approximately six and 12 years I remember I became almost obsessed with this fantasy.
Please do not misinterpret my insecurities as having had a neglected, ignored, hurtful childhood, but Mum could never find my baby ‘paraphernalia’ and it raised my suspicion hackles. Even though she was constantly telling me she loved me and wanted me the same as her first born, I believed she was valiantly trying to cover up a family secret and I was it!
I was so wrong.
Mum passed many moons ago and I still cling to a few little trinkets and the odd small box. Now — you’re just going to have to take my word on this — but, looking through the last of Mum’s knick-knacks recently, I found a small container, all tattered and ready for the discard pile. I always found it difficult to part with Mum’s bits and bobs, but I honestly don’t remember seeing it before. It rattled when shaken so I opened it, hoping for no creepy crawlies. I didn’t have my glasses on so all I saw was this rather dirty, book-like shape with very faint writing on the front. I got my glasses.
It said Baby Book. What?! Whose Baby Book?
MY baby book! MY Baby Book! MY BABY BOOK!
Inside was a personal treasure trove I didn’t even know existed.
On a yellowing piece of calico it announced an Ellen Quinn (my mum’s name, obviously my maiden name) had given birth on May 23, 1952 (me); Sex: female (me); birth weight: 9lb 11oz (me). Our number was: 6802. Can you believe that?! Our number was 6802!
Unceremoniously attached to this most beautiful of calico squares, by safety pin, is a cardboard outline cut-out. What the actual… ? It’s a cardboard cut-out of my baby foot; my baby foot. Now I can’t see because the tears are steaming; that’s my baby foot, cardboard cut-out! Then something else fell out …
I am now looking at a Baby’s Reference Card from the Brisbane Women’s Hospital that suggests Mum took me with her on her first visit to the Baby Clinic. It states for all to see; Baby Quinn (me) when first weighed in the nursery 8lb 12oz and weight at discharge was 8lb 15oz. (Down from 9lb 11oz? Isn’t that a huge weight loss? Should we be worried?)
The fact I have it in black and white that Mum was breastfeeding me every four hours is quite overwhelming and I honestly don’t know why.
Hold on, there’s more; a first birthday card to me; not one of my brothers and sisters, me. Awesome, amazing, astounding, remarkable.
My mum was awe-inspiring in many, many ways. She answered my constant, relentless, persistent insecure ‘where-did-I come-from’ concerns with continual, loving, verbal reassurances but mostly with huge, never-ending cuddles, back tickles and fairy (index finger) magic circles that cured any manner of childhood ills.
You know what, I think I was extremely lucky to be number six because, as Mum whispered quietly to me the day before she passed; “I was just practising on the other five”. Giggle, giggle … she never could fib very well.
Mama, thanks for this gift of my precious baby bits and pieces. I don’t know how you did it, don’t want to know; I’m just going to accept it, appreciate it and love it. And listen up y’all, do not question or mess with a girl who was 9lb 11oz born and sixth in line, we’re bloody fierce little munchkins and now I’ve got proof.