Donal weighed in at 2lbs which is just short of a Kilo. He was a very premature baby that his mother carried for less than six months. He had no hair, eyelashes, eyebrows or nails and his skin was porous. He was not expected to survive for very long so the Paediatrician suggested taking him home. His actual words were “He might as well die at home as in here!”
Donal’s homecoming was not as easy as it sounds. His father was sent to find a ‘small’ cot/crib which he did, and it was ready and waiting for the new occupant when he arrived with his ill mother and a nurse. The nurse lived with and became part of the family over the next six months, she was called ‘No-No’ by Donal’s two year-old brother, and the name stuck. To this day if you say the name ‘No-No’ to any of the family they know exactly who you mean.
The Paediatrician soon arrived and set to work.
He gave precise instructions about feeding and cleaning the baby. Donal was not to be washed or bathed in water! His skin was to be cleaned with olive oil and cotton wool. Food was to be administered by medicine dropper, every hour on the hour! He rigged up a large light bulb over the cot to provide extra heat for the premature baby and it was to remain on night and day. Being wintertime the temperature was quite low. A fire was lit in the bedroom and kept going day and night.
Each day was a milestone, but there were many when they fought to keep the baby alive. The Paediatrician was a regular caller and was delighted with any little improvement. The danger stage eventually passed and Donal was introduced to bottle feeding and began to put on a little weight. The first size baby clothes fitted and slowly the pleasure of washing and bath-time became part of the daily routine. The light was removed from over the cot, but Donal slept in it for a full year.
With Donal’s move to a normal sized baby cot the little one was cleaned, covered and stored in the loft. It was used again with pride for the arrival of his four younger siblings.
The little cot appeared for the first time 62 years ago. There were no incubators, or ‘Baby Units’ in hospitals like we have today, the only clothes for premature babies were dolls clothes. Houses had no central heating and washing was all done by hand. Nappies were rinsed, then boiled and when washing was complete they were line dried. The feeding bottles were sterilised by boiling. A baby was hard work back then!
The little cot moved through the family for the arrival of each new baby. Cousins, nieces and nephews all started their lives in it. I spent my early months in it as did Elly. For Donal the most precious moment was the day he placed his own daughter in the little cot. Now once again the cot is stored away and who knows, someday Donal might be blessed with a grandchild to sleep in that very special Cot.