Writing 101: Dark Clouds on the Horizon

My children were born in a hospital where midwives did the deliveries, a doctor was only brought in if there were problems.

We lived in a small town which could be cut off from the city in bad weather so pregnant women were sent to the city on their due date. I’d been in the hospital for ten days, getting out of bed at 7:00 so everything could be made spick and span before the doctors did their rounds. No sitting on the made beds until after the doctors had left the ward. The sheer boredom of the day was only broken by meals being brought in and chats with the other women in the same situation. Because of the distance none of us were able to have visitors everyday so I was excited when labour finally started. The excitement didn’t last, it was replaced by pure misery.

It was my first child and I had no idea how things would be. There were no antenatal classes where we lived and no pregnant women’s groups. Birth was just a natural part of life, thousands of women gave birth every hour didn’t they? It had to be simple but it wasn’t.  After hours that seemed like a lifetime full of fear and pain I heard the midwife say to the nurse, “You’d better get Dr.Mackay up.”  She sounded resigned to failure.

When the pains were really bad I’d tried to use the gas but I didn’t know how and my hands cramped into claws. I’d tried to do everything they said, to push when they told me to push but they’d said I was doing it wrongly and I was just going to burst blood vessels on my face. I’d moaned, “Oh God” and the midwife had sharply told me “We’ll have none of that!” It went on and on until I thought they could just have the baby if they’d let me out of there. Set me free of it all. I no longer cared that I’d carried my child for 9 months and endured awful morning, afternoon and evening sickness. I just wanted out. If only they would make it all end. Then I heard those words and I knew things were going badly.

From somewhere deep inside I found the strength I desperately needed. I pushed and pushed until my baby was born. The midwife said it was a girl and took her where I couldn’t see then I heard a tiny cry and relief washed over me. A white, porcelain doll with two little purple veins showing on her forehead was put into my arms. Like me she was fine, just exhausted. I felt I was the cleverest woman on earth.

Perhaps if I hadn’t overheard the midwife’s aside to the nurse the outcome would have been tragically different.


Writing 101: Our House

Throughout my childhood I lived in just two houses, one until I was six the next until I left home at twenty.

Our house was old. Built in about 1900 from red brick, fronted with stone and when we moved in it was all original, the laundry, “bathroom” and kitchen. By the time I was twelve Dad had made improvements in all those areas.

The front door had a heavy knocker and a weird contraption to open it. A small round handle was on the inside and it lifted a bar which allowed the door to open but there was a heavy old key too. The front door opened into the passageway which went the whole length of the house with rooms opening off each side.

There were four fireplaces, a beautiful white marble one in a front room and a black marble one in what was our Dining Room. The other two were wooden with inlaid tiles. We only had a fire in the Dining Room and Dad always insisted the door be kept shut to keep the warmth in which meant in winter the rest of the house was very cold. All of the rooms had very high ceilings.

Apart from the four big rooms at the front of the house there was a smaller bedroom and a very narrow pantry. There was a step down then to a porch area with bathroom and kitchen going off to the sides. How the rooms were used changed over time. When I was twelve my oldest brother had already left home but that still left my other brother, my two sisters and me so most of the rooms were bedrooms.

The toilet had been updated from a “long drop” to a flushing one connected to a septic tank but it was still away from the house and I hated having to go out to it in the dark.

Our yard was big! Big enough for at least a dozen different kinds of fruit trees as well as Mum’s ornamental plants, sheds and vegie gardens. We always had chooks but since my brothers went to an Agricultural High School we’d also had geese. I hated the geese. They were dirty and nasty. Very dirty and very nasty .

We knew everyone all around from old Captain White, an ornithologist, to the newest immigrants who came from Europe for a better life in South Australia. When I was twelve, new houses were being established in the area which until then had been mostly market gardens.

Today, on the site of our home, are fourteen, two-storey townhouses. What a different life it will be for the kids who live there now.