If I had been good and not been cheeky, on Sunday my dad would take me to Club Row to see the animals. That week I asked if I could buy a twopenny fortune. The fortune seller had a yellow budgerigar perched on his shoulder and a tray stuffed with rows of little envelopes suspended around his neck. When you handed over your two pennies, the budgie would fly down, pick out one of the envelopes with its beak and hand it to you. The bystanders watched in silence as I opened the envelope.
‘You will win the football pools, get married and have four children,’ I read out to a round of applause.
I managed two of the three, but winning the football pools wasn’t one of them!!
I had qualified in dentistry and was half way through my medical training when we got married in 1956. By the time I completed my second post as a house physician, and was now able to work outside a hospital, I was five months pregnant with Simon.
Unfortunately, I developed raised blood pressure and fluid retention towards the end of my pregnancy and was prescribed strict rest. I was bored out of my mind. Two weeks before Simon was due, I was delighted when Josh’s cousins invited us for dinner. Both of them were great cooks and bon viveurs.
In 1960 we weren’t generally aware of the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy so when we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of dry sherry, as was the custom. I had two glasses of a very good Hungarian red wine with the delicious meal and a snifter of brandy with my after-dinner coffee.
Then my waters broke and Josh drove to the hospital in our old Morris 8 banger as fast as it would go.
When I arrived at the hospital where I’d trained, the midwife settled me in and sent Josh back for the case I kept ready for such an emergency.
‘Nothing’s happening at the moment,’ she said. ‘Just take this Seconal. It will help you to sleep. As it’s your first baby it could be ages yet.’
‘I really don’t need it. I’m more like a dormouse than anything. I’ll be asleep in no time.’
‘Be good now, Dr Waterman,’ she said. So I swallowed the capsule.
But soon my contractions started.
‘I’ll just give you something for the pain,’ the midwife said.
‘It’s not really hurting,’ I said.
‘Be good,’ she said, and gave me an injection of Pethidine.
By now, I’d had a glass of sherry, two large glasses of wine, a brandy, a capsule of Seconal and an injection of Pethidine. I was as high as a kite!!
I knew a few dirty songs and sang them at the top of my voice, but I knew a lot more hymns and started to sing them while the midwife exhorted me to push.
Finally, her instructions got through to me and my gorgeous baby boy was born. Amazingly, the moment I held Simon in my arms, I was stone cold sober. What incredible beings we are!!
Many thanks to those who’ve contacted me to say they are going to give my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ as a Hanukah or
‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End and making good
Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99