Isabel helped to bring you into the world Theo. She was my midwife. When she wasn’t delivering babies, she’d be delivering lambs or calves on her own farm. She was a large, strong, Yorkshire woman, down to earth and practical. I reckoned that if she could pull a calf out, she wouldn’t have a problem with us.

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On New Years Eve afternoon it started to snow. I was in the girls bedroom changing their bed sheets when I looked out the window and noticed large goose down snowflakes starting to fall. Your dad and I had been invited to a party that evening but the snow didn’t let up. By early evening it had become a blizzard and strong winds felled the electricity lines. We lit candles and cooked soup on the wood stove.

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January 1996 seemed like a very long month to me. Your dad struggled to get to work because of the snow and he was away in London quite a bit. When at last the snow melted it then turned bitterly cold again and soon the yard became a sheet of ice. I was frightened about slipping and falling over especially now that you were becoming a noticeable bump. The school in the village was open but the roads were closed up where we lived. It didn’t stop your determined eldest sister walking the three and a half miles down the hill and going to classes as normal. She even stopped at the shops on the way home and bought us all some treats. Your other 3 sisters stayed at home, they were too little they might have got lost in a snowdrift!

Something wonderful appeared in the skies over that winter Theo. It was a comet called Hale-Bopp. At first it just looked like a large star but then it slowly developed a tail that blazed out behind it. We were lucky living where we did. There wasn’t a street lamp for miles around so the sky was as black as Indian ink. The comet was easy to spot on cloudless evenings. Sometimes you’d wake me in the night with your strong kicks or when you rolled over inside my belly. I’d creep out of bed so as not to disturb your father and go downstairs; put a coat on over my nightdress and go out into the yard. There I would stand, gazing up at this extraordinary sight until I could bear the cold no longer.

By the end of February the geese and chickens had started to lay again. The geese laid their eggs in the stupidest places. Only one out of the 8 geese managed to hatch her eggs and only 4 of the goslings survived. You were terrified of the geese when you were a toddler. They used to chase you around the yard, hissing and spitting at you.

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At the end of March the sheep and goats were just a couple of weeks away from lambing and kidding. While I was still able to do the other farm work, Isabel had given me strict instructions to keep away from sheep and goats once they started to give birth. There is a bug that pregnant women can catch if they come into contact with the afterbirth or blood of a newly birthed sheep or goat. This bug causes abortion in women. I didn’t want to risk losing you Theo so just for the weeks of lambing I hired some help to take care of the ewes. Leonora took over the goats. I taught her how to milk them. She was wonderful. Every morning before school, she’d go down into the goat shed with the milking pail and churn and I’d hear her singing as she settled down to milk the 4 nannies. There was a special tune that she used to hum, I can’t remember it now but it was her ‘milking’ song. She’d milk them again in the evening after she’d finished her homework and let me know how things were progressing with the ladies. Your sister was a great help. There aren’t many 11 year olds who can do that.

May finally arrived. Because the winter had been so long, spring was late in coming. The leaves on the trees were only just beginning to open and there was still a nip in the air. You were supposed to have put in an appearance on May 5th, your great-aunts birthday but following in the tradition of your sisters you also decided to be late.

I had cleaned and scrubbed the house from top to bottom, been out to buy nappies and had washed and aired all the baby clothes that had been stored away for the past 5 years. Georgia had just started primary school a few weeks before your arrival. She now smelt of school and classrooms when she came home and, as well as bringing back her new reading book, she also brought us a bout of nits. She liked being at school though and looked very sweet in her uniform. I wasn’t sure what Georgia would make of you she’d been the baby for so long.

Around 4am on the morning of May 15th, I woke with a bad pain. The house was still sleeping but dawn was breaking outside. I went downstairs ran a bath and washed my hair. I wasn’t sure if you were teasing me Theo or whether this was actually it. For about a week my early labour had been stop start, stop start. You were very laid back but I was becoming increasingly impatient.

By 6am I knew for sure that you were on your way. I woke up your dad and then went to make the packed lunches and get breakfast for your sisters. There was a lot of excitement in the house that morning and your sisters made daddy promise to ring the school the minute that you were born. They didn’t know that you were going to be a boy. I’d kept it a surprise from everybody apart from your dad of course.

I watched the girls run down the farm track, heard their voices as they scrambled through the short cut in the wood, over the beck, and then up the other side to the road. Mrs Murgatroyd was waiting for them in the school taxi.

Isabel was called ‘I’ll be over soon enough love. Just going to make me’ self a cooked break-fast’.

I had to laugh, Isabel had a hearty appetite as most Yorkshire folk do. No matter that my contractions were becoming stronger and were now 10 minutes apart. I put my boots on and went for a walk. The chickens and geese reminded me that it was their breakfast time. I threw them some corn and went up to the fields to check the cows. Every so often I’d have to hold on tight to a fence or a gate try to remember my breathing, try to relax through the wave of pain that was now gripping me harder and for longer as the minutes passed. I rested myself against the 5 bar gate and watched the cows lying down chewing the cud in the early morning dew and thought of Ted Keighley. I had a talk to him and a little cry. ‘It’s the circle of life Ted’  ‘Yes’ he answered me ‘Now go and have your baby, the midwife has arrived’.

And so she had. Thump, rattle, thump, bang, bumpedy bump. I could hear Isabel’s beat up Citreon making itself down the track. She pulled into the yard and I went to greet her. ‘Bloody ‘ell Lottie, that’s 2 exhausts you now owe me and probably a couple of new tyres!’

She pulled her bag out from the back of the car and a large canister of entonox. ‘I’ve bought 2 just in case’ she said and winked at me.

The kettle was put on, but not for the reasons that they always do it in the movies. This was purely to slake Isabel’s and her assistant Ann, thirsts. By the time the last mug had been drained, and the contents of the biscuit tin demolished, Isabel deemed it time for us to make for the bedroom.

You were born in an old cast iron Victorian bed. It looked like something out of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Your dear, sweet Granny bought it for me years ago in a junk shop. The base springs were so old that the mattress used to have a permanent dip in the middle. Isabel sorted out the bed sheets and I paced around the room while your dad did what most dads do at these times which is to read the paper or a book. This stage is quite boring Theo and I don’t blame him in the least.

It wasn’t long before I took advantage of the gas and air. A few deep mouthfuls of it and I was feeling as high as a kite. I’d almost forgotten that I was meant to be giving birth until Isabel gently reminded me that it was getting to the stage where I needed to start pushing. When I say pushing, I really do mean pushing. This is why it’s called labour. It’s hard work. Through the numbness of the entonox I listened to the sheep calling to their lambs in the fields outside the bedroom window. I heard the curlews call up on the moor on the other side, and I could hear your dad and the midwives talking but I was lost in my own world giving birth to you.

‘Now then, put some back into it lass, we don’t want that miserable doctor coming up here and saying “I told you so”. A bit more energy love, that’s it, just a few more of them pushes and it’ll be over’. I dug my nails hard into your dad’s hands but he never faltered, he never let go of my hands. ‘Here we go, here we go’ I heard Isabel saying whilst she instructed the other midwife to make sure that all clocks and watches were set on the right time.

And finally, at exactly five minutes past midday you were born. For the last few moments before you made your grand entrance into the world I had closed my eyes, suddenly frightened. I’m not sure why. I came to with a shriek from Isabel. ‘Well, would you believe it! Bloody ‘heck, It’s a boy! It’s a boy Lottie! Open your eyes!’

In all of your life to date Theo, you will never have seen such joy as that of your sisters faces that afternoon when they raced back down the track, across the beck, through the woods and up to the bedroom. You will possibly also not have had 4 girls all at once asking if they can see your willy! Well I sincerely hope not. Love Mummy XXX

HAPPY BIRTHDAY THEO!

43 Comments

    1. Thank you April. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. 17 years goes so quickly! scary. My boy won’t be awake yet but I hope to have a Happy Birthday skype call with him in an hour or so 🙂 XX

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  1. I’ve just received a lovely email from my eldest daughter, Leonora. She’s not read this post yet but I’m laughing because of something that she wrote in the last paragraph and I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing it…

    In her email she was talking about Theo being 17 today and her memories of the day. She still lives in Yorkshire.

    ‘ its May 15th and its pissing with rain and blowing a gale! And speaking of May 15th Theo’s birthday and I cant believe that I have a brother of 17! I still remember the day he was born. Running as fast as our legs would carry us down the drive at Gillbeck all just to see his willy!

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  2. Lottie, this is so sweet and so lovingly written. I cried bit after reading the ending. A grand finale to have a son after the four daughters. Life on the farm was quite an experience. How times have changed for you. You worked incredibly hard and I can’t wrap it around my head how you manged all the farm chores  plus raising five children. You are indeed an incredible woman and so talented.          ~yvonne~

       

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    1. Thank you Yvonne. It sure was a grand finale. How did I manage it all? I look back now and do wonder! It was non-stop all day everyday but I loved it. And the children were great, they played together and amused themselves while I got on with my work.

      It was a great experience. There were tough times for sure. The weather was hard to deal with. I’d often be snowed in and because of my fear of ice and driving, it left me housebound for days. This is because of my accident years ago. It also didn’t help that we lived on the top of a hill and had a ravine to one side of the track!

      But then if there hadn’t been all of those struggles plus others, it wouldn’t have made it the incredible adventure that it was!

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      1. Thanks for the lovely reply. So interesting. I would not have driven that track either. Better to be safe than sorry. Of course it helped that you were strong and young. The life was a good one for your children’s formative years. I bet they often speak of the farm and all that they experienced.

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    1. Thank you Steve. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the trilogy. I wasn’t planning on writing 3 posts based on this topic, it’s just how it turned out. I realised that there was so much that I could write about that time. Even so I still had to leave out lots of details and stories so as to try to keep it a reasonable length.

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  3. What a wonderful story and tribute to your boy. We had a baby in the same year! You should write a book, dear Lottie, you make the “ordinary” seem quite extraordinary. Happy Birthday to dear Theo. And his willy. 😉

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    1. I don’t know if you remember but I have Serena staying here at the moment? She’s my middle child. I wrote this post early yesterday morning and then read it to her when she was having breakfast. I said ‘I’m not sure the ending is ok, the willy part’ and she said ‘No Mum, you have to leave it in, it’s the truth!’

      Poor Theo, if he does read this he will probably throttle me! (and you with your comment!!) X

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  4. This is a real tear jerker, Lottie. I demand a book, TV serial and film. I should think Theo will consider this the best birthday present ever, unless of course he is going to get driving lessons! The illustrations are magical. You are gifted, Empress, truly gifted. Forgive the smudges on the screen, they may just be tears.

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    1. Oh Andrew, you are kind. I’m made up that you like it and for your kind words, thank you so much.

      I spoke to Theo yesterday and told him that this trilogy was my special gift to him. I’m not sure if he’s read it, but I hope he does, if not now, then maybe one day he will.

      I think he was much more excited about my telling him that Pete has sent some money to his bank account to be honest!! Kids eh?! 🙂

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  5. You have a remarkable gift in bringing memories to life thank you for inviting us into the story with your words and illustrations.
    My brother, too, was fascinated by this baby’s tiny nakedness. I apparently used the opportunity to send a stream of pee into his eye! And the sibling rivalry was launched.

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    1. That’s such a funny story. I do hope that your not still peeing into his eye? poor boy!

      I think Theo did something similiar. Of course it caused much mirth amongst his sisters and they positively encouraged it!

      You can imagine how being the youngest and the only boy, how doted on he was by everyone. He didn’t bother to learn to walk for ages, he didn’t need to. He knew that his sisters would rush to his aid, all he had to do was smile!

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  6. Happy Birthday, Theo! And what a wonderful birthday gift for him, Lottie. Fabulous tale and all the sweeter because it’s true.

    You put the reader right there with you on that farm, with the sounds and sights firmly centered in our minds. Your writing, dear Sister, is vivid and real. These are the highest compliments I can ever give to a piece. xoxo

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    1. I’ve just read your comment above. You’ve made me cry. I’m bowled over by the kind words, your encouragement. I’m made up that this post has touched readers in this way. It was quite an emotional journey writing it but I loved every moment.
      Your last sentence has left me lost for words, all I can say is Thank you once again sweet sister xoxo

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  7. Ah Lottie! I bore two of my three at home. It is an experience like none other, though your walk through the farmyard in the throes of labor has won you my admiration for life! Thank you enormously for sharing this intimate, heartwarming story. You’re my hero!

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    1. Sherry, I wish that I’d had them all at home. I’m glad you had the home birth experience too, It’s special isn’t it and so much nicer than being in a hospital. Your Hero! WOW! I’m speechless 🙂 xxx

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  8. What a beautiful post. I’ve seen your comments on other people’s blogs but hadn’t come by to look for myself til today. I’m glad I came. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much Val and I’m glad you did drop by it’s much appreciated. Thank you also for now following this blog. I’m about to return the compliment and look forward to reading your posts shortly!

      To quote the previous post that you read. ‘Thanks for reaching out and connecting!’ 😉

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  9. Aww so lovely Lottie. Beautiful story to share with us and to have a Theo as well! Wow. I grew up on James Herriot as an aspiring ‘vet’nry’ and this story just sounds so true from this warm at heart and cold on toes part of the world.

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    1. Thank you Chas. It was a touch James ‘Erriot! The Dales longhouse with barn attached was just like the ones on the film. It was very special having Theo delivered at home, I’m so glad that I didn’t give in to the wishes of my doctor 😀

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