We’ve all heard the very un-PC Jewish Mother jokes, including those about her calling out to rescue her drowning children ‘Save my son, the doctor’ or ‘Save my grandson, the psychiatrist!!’ Well, my eldest son is a doctor, a Professor, and our youngest is a Professor of Physics.
She nearly didn’t make it though. I was 34 weeks pregnant and we had just been to visit our elder son after his ear operation. A trickle of liquid down my legs indicated that my membranes had broken six weeks early. At the maternity department, just across the road, the obstetrics registrar advised me to rest.
‘See if you can get this little one a bit more mature, Abby,’ he said. ‘Safer at home, though. Less chance of picking up a hospital infection.’
After about a week, mostly in bed, my contractions started. I was disappointed that the ambulance man wouldn’t put on the bell.
‘It’s only for emergencies,’ he said. ‘Looks as if it will be some time yet.’
Josh met me at the labour ward and almost as soon as I arrived my contractions started in earnest. As my baby was premature I couldn’t have a painkilling injection and had to push very carefully. Premature babies need to be delivered very gently to avoid damage to their brains.
Jane came out bright pink and crying loudly. She weighed 4½ pounds, which was a good weight for a premature baby. After letting us have a quick look at her, she was whisked off to the prem baby unit and I was deposited in a side room in the post-natal ward. I quickly fell asleep. When I awoke, I asked several times when I could see my baby, but was always told they were busy in the prem unit.
Finally, the Professor of Paediatrics came to see me.
‘I would get your husband to come back, Abby,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid your baby’s not doing well. She’s developed Respiratory Disease of the Newborn. She may not make the night.’
I begged to go down and see her, but he said there was a lot going on in the prem unit.
‘Better not,’ he replied.
They made me take a sleeping pill and I dozed off, waking several times in the night.
Finally, night sister came in, finishing her rounds. I was almost too scared to ask how my baby was doing, was she still alive, but she said she’d pop down to the prem unit and see. She was back in a few minutes that seemed like hours as I waited to hear the worst.
‘She’s holding her own,’ she said. ‘You can pop down for a few minutes.’
My little girl was in an incubator, panting away, trying to take in enough oxygen, tubes coming out of everywhere.
‘You’re so lucky you had her here, Dr Waterman,’ the prem unit sister said. ‘RDN is prof’s speciality and her distress was picked up really early.’
I knew Respiratory Disease of the Newborn was a condition in which the lungs didn’t expand properly at birth and at that time was often fatal.
When Josh brought our other three children in to see her, they looked like giants compared with her.
Jane pulled through, became a competent flautist, so her lungs were obviously not permanently damaged, was as bright as a button and is now an internationally known Professor of Physics.
Just shows that where there’s life there’s hope!!
I wish you all a Fantastic New Year. Many thanks to those who’ve contacted me to say they have enjoyed my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.
‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.
Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99