For the last few months, I’ve shared some very personal and very practical reasons for looking after yourself and the ones you love. Yesterday saw us celebrating Martha’s 15th birthday, and reminded me that we have come a long way, both geographically and emotionally.
It’s not all been rainbows, white sands and smooth sailing, but then, life never is. It’s surviving those twists and turns in the journey that give you stories worth sharing, and so in the light of full disclosure, I thought you’d enjoy a less-than-glamorous story of Christmas past. The other one about a baby.
Martha was born on 17th December, so Christmas that year was a little hazy. In truth, there is very little I can remember of it apart from mastitis, Shirley Bassey and startled medical professionals.
I should tell you that she was born at home, in a screaming hurry. I went into labour halfway through the Royal Variety Performance, with Shirley Bassey belting out “Light My Fire.” Fifteen minutes later, a baby was born unto us, to the somewhat prescient notes of “I Am What I Am.”
It’s a rousing way to enter the world, and if this was a not so gentle message from God, I probably should have paid more attention. In my defence, I was more interested in the question of whether or not the midwife would make it in time to catch her (she did – and we have the skid marks on the front lawn to prove it) and how quickly she could lay her hands on the drugs.
The noticeable lack of the latter is the only reason I can think of to explain my endorphin fueled excursion the following morning. With Shirley’s battle cry resonating in my ears, I loaded myself, my mother, a four year old Tom and a less-than-a-day old baby into the car and set off for Milford Docks. Not necessarily the most picturesque location, but it did have the benefit of both Tesco and Boots stores, so I could slip in a bit of Christmas grocery and gift shopping. Because that’s obviously a priority when you have a newborn baby.
Predictably, halfway into the expedition, Shirley’s thrall and the postpartum euphoria wore off and pain and reality kicked in. I needed pharmaceutical help, and I needed it in quantity. Having experienced the holiday shopping frenzy once, I had no intention of repeating any excursion that involved queuing until well into the New Year.
The drugs in question were regular over-the-counter painkillers. However, in the UK, in an effort to reduce non-prescription drug overdoses, stores are forbidden to sell more than sixteen 500mg tablets to a customer in one transaction unless personally sanctioned by a pharmacist. To the less mathematically inclined amongst you, that’s 48 hours worth. I didn’t intend to venture out again until well into the New Year, and the number of boxes stacked in Tom’s arms as he tottered towards the register clearly reflected my intent.
You have to give the pharmacist credit for vigilance. I waited my turn slumped semi-conscious in a chair, while my four year old son helpfully approached the counter to pay on my behalf. The pharmacist took one look at my unwashed hair, disheveled clothing and glazed expression and clearly decided that I had a more sinister purpose for the drugs than mere pain relief. Either I was suicidal or homicidal, and he intended to find out which.
I was sternly summoned to the counter from my distant chair, and he spent the considerable time it took me to hobble over rehearsing his ‘Drugs are Not to be Trifled With’ lecture and finding the number for the Samaritans.
When I finally reached the counter, his demeanor was frosty. He obviously felt that not only were my intentions dubious, but I was shamelessly dragging a small boy into my evil plan.
“What do you want this many for?” he asked in icy tones.
“I had a baby. Last night.”
At this, his eyes bulged somewhat, and he began frantically scanning the store to see just where I had dumped the baby. He didn’t have to look far, because my mother was toting a newborn Martha around like she was the new Messiah, and treating anyone showing interest to a full rundown of the entire birth experience. Spotting the pharmacist looking in her direction, she mistook amazement for interest and hurried over to present the baby to be worshipped and give the poor, unsuspecting man a minute by minute account of the birth story. With repeats of the good bits.
I got my drugs with no further comment, but I’ve never been sure whether it was the recent birth or the manic parent that tipped the scales in my favor. All I can tell you is that Wise Men come in all shapes and sizes.
Happy Christmas to One and All.