Chapter  6, Pt 5 of 5


The nurses were reluctant to provide bedpans at odd hours. They brought them round to fit in the routine and you were asked to use them. There was nearly a revolt over this in our ward. “You cannot do these things by order,” we grumbled. “It is impossible.”

Then one of the expectant mothers who was usually walking about in her paisley silk dressing gown, came to our rescue. “Never mind girls,” she said. “I will break the rules. I will get the necessary container whenever any of you want it. I will hide it inside my dressing gown then no one would be the wiser.” And she was as good as her word.

The husbands were allowed to come for an hour every evening, and then the ward would resemble a proper courting place. Some of the couples would sit holding hands whispering endearing words to each other. They would come out with the running commentaries of the day’s happenings. While pretending to read a book I would watch and listen to everything with amusement.

The lady opposite to me was rather concerned because my husband would not come every evening to sit with me and kiss me good night. “No,” she said, “I would not like to be a doctor’s wife. He spends more time with other women than with his wife.”

After the bell had gone and the husbands had been persuaded to leave their wives in peace, we would put on our earphones and listen to the community singing programme on the radio. Then suddenly the sweet voices of nearly 18 mothers in bed would join in the chorus and the ward would seem like a music hall. That impressive sound and scene is with me still.

It was a great day for me when after about three weeks of my baby’s birth, I was taken down to the Physiotherapy Department to try and stand on my feet. While the two nurses held you tight, you learnt to walk again. You were surprised not to feel any pain, though your legs were like blocks of lead. Everybody looked different somehow. You wanted to jump for joy but you could not. You took only a few steps and that was enough for one day.

The next day and for several days afterwards, you felt like a child who had just found his feet. You kept walking round the bed and to the lady opposite. Then you begged the nurse to help you so that you could walk to the toilet. Oh, how you hated those bed-pans, the necessary evils, you wanted to finish with them for ever. Next, you had your first bath in the tub, while nurse stood and watched you. For the first time in four months you felt really clean. No more blanket baths for you. You felt most grateful and humble.

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