It was a little like preparing for an exam 36



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“Do you want to see your baby born?” a female voice kindly asked. Helped to sit up I saw the dark furrowed forehead, shoulders, and a hand.

That was it, I reached for the hand and clutched it. I was bathed in circling fluids, from the hands touching, to my throat constricting, to my eyes. Then circling to run back on my baby daughter. “It’s a girl,” they said unnecessarily. She knew her first tears as she drew her first breath, my joyful tears, a fitting beginning.


Family Photos 432


It was a little like preparing for an exam, preparing for the baby to be born. Wanting very badly to do well, yet no one telling you the subject. It wasn’t a fear of pain that gripped me, just fear of doing the wrong thing.

I was waiting on a hard narrow bed, not knowing how I would cope. The doctor was small and neat and from Thailand. I was his first patient outside his homeland. I suddenly felt an even heavier weight of responsibility.

The part of me he was holding was obviously not meant to be dislodged. The rubbery mask was placed near me, my finger on the button breathing deeply. But it was just a trick on their part, a ploy, something to do with my hands. So I threw it aside!

I was breathing in all the air in that sterile room, sucking in enough to burst. Forcing it into my lungs, lift the rib cage, room for more. In staccato bursts I expelled it. Now I was in control, elated. They stood by as I used the air to advantage. Husbands were banned in those days. So Brian never saw our children born.

When Kerry was born, I was nearly twenty-one. We had moved to New Zealand, which was 12,000 miles from my family. I had left hospital that wintry June day and was deposited in a completely new house. With a two week old baby!

My husband went back to work. He had moved into the property while I was having Kerry. A friend’s mother came to stay for a few hours, Dolly was also scared as she had little experience of new born babies. Dolly and I sat on the bed and watched the wool wrapped bundle with real fear. Kerry stirred and then began projectile vomiting.

It didn’t get a lot better that day; we set fire to the oven too.

Kerry and I learned to cope together, My fumbling efforts were watched by her with almost patience. She knew I would eventually learn. I am sure I made some mistakes, and perhaps my daughter carries the scars yet, but it gave me a much needed chance to make my own decisions, and it cemented the family unit.

The first Christmas after Kerry was born we had a holiday with friends in The Bay of Islands. The journey took a full day in a rattling old car. We negotiated the bush tracks quite well until the exhaust fell off. Then we roared through the tiny towns like a tank, drawing spectators at every stop.

We carried very little, a few nappies, towels and a minimum of clothes. The house was perched on the edge of the beach. We had no proper bed for her so Kerry slept in a suitcase with the lid propped up the first night. ( Until we got the cot from a friend). There was a lullaby of cicadas chirping, and the ocean crashing below. Thank goodness, she was a good baby. On the new diet of milk straight from Bay of Island cows she thrived.

 What are your memories of learning how to be a parent?

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. I remember working until the day before giving birth, never getting to any prenatal classes and thinking I was going to die in labour. Wasn’t expecting to go into labour and thought I had food poisoning. Hospital said to come in and bring my bag. What bag? So I went in with my possessions in a garbage bag. Also remember being terrified of bathing her and she knew it and would stiffen and scream. Following children were much easier.

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