The millennium bisected two of the happiest days of my life – namely the births of my children, James and Charlotte, in 1999 and 2001 respectively.
I remember well the preparation and anticipation of the new arrival and the frantic decorating to get everything ready.
When James was on his way, there was also the feeling of trepidation of the unknown, which is no doubt usual for first time parents-to-be. Typically, he chose the most inopportune moment to enter the world. At the time we were having laminate flooring put down throughout the house as we thought it would be easier to clean once the baby had arrived.
I was at work in Whiteley and got the call to come home as the labour pains had started. The look on the faces of the two guys laying the floor when we said we had to leave because the baby coming was a picture.
We made the dash to St Mary’s Hospital, only to return home a couple of hours later as nothing was happening. However, an hour or so later we were back at the hospital again and were there for the duration. I had packed a survival kit of a newspaper and a packet of bourbons which lasted about an hour of the eight it took for James to enter the world at 1am. I then had to find a payphone to let the new grandparents know before getting home at 4am. The laminate floor was finished.
The next morning I went back to the hospital to be met by eager grandparents wanting to meet their first grandchild. They congregated in the waiting room while I went off to find mother and baby. He was being bathed so we got him ready and I proudly carried him to the room. I was immediately berated by the nurse who rightly said I should have pushed him in the wheeled cot. Lesson learned.
Charlotte was in more of a hurry. I was working at Basingstoke at the time and I got the call while I was in the middle of conducting an interview. I also didn’t have a car that day but managed to catch somebody who was leaving and heading in my direction to give me a lift.
Everything happened so quickly. One minute mum-to-be and granny were sitting in the garden eating strawberries, the next minute an ambulance was called and they were on their way to St Mary’s. James had to be left with the neighbour until I got home. I believe the blue light was called because there was a real chance Charlotte was going to be born in the ambulance and then on the grass verge outside the hospital. Very dignified.
I got home, jumped in the car and headed to the hospital. I ran to the ward and burst in and there was granny standing, holding the baby. In all the excitement, I didn’t even know the sex of the baby as it was handed to me. I think the whole labour lasted less than half-an-hour. Charlotte was obviously very impatient or didn’t like strawberries.
I took James in to meet his new sister and he was curious, more so of the controls on the bed than his sister. He was a bit confused as to why she was called Charlotte as the bump had been referred to as Gladys during the pregnancy. He couldn’t say Charlotte properly so called her Louie – a name that still sticks today.