I always felt that I had no training for parenthood and that my efforts were very much trial and error. On day three of Elly’s little life I was politely asked to please stop talking to her by another mother. This lady was in a bed diagonally across from me in a four bedded unit of the maternity ward, she was breastfeeding on demand. Her problem was that her son stopped feeding every time he heard my voice. Such a pity his mum didn’t try talking to him as she fed him. I talked non stop to Elly from the day she was born, always calmly and quietly – even when she was asleep!
Day four brought another problem, passing the nursery (where all the babies slept) on my way to the bathroom first thing in the morning, I paused to gaze at my little bundle… but my precious treasure was not there! Suddenly panic-stricken, I am sure the colour drained from my face. Clinging to the window ledge I scanned all the baby cots to make sure I was not mistaken.
Elly was not there!
The Nursing Sister appeared from the nursing station and I turned to her with dread. “We had to move Elly in with the incubators last night” she said.
My heart sank. “What happened? Why didn’t you call me”?
“There was nothing wrong” she said. “You know we have two nurses in the nursery all night with the babies; well every time they spoke to each other Elly lifted her head. We moved her so that she would sleep.” Sister went on to say “When you get home I suggest you put Elly into her own room straight away or otherwise you will never get a night’s sleep.”
At nine months independent Elly showed her colours! She was in her high chair which was drawn close to the dinner table. I had her dish of food on her tray. Jack and I were eating dinner. I filled her spoon with food and tried to feed her. Stubborn Annie Elly refused my offering and closed her mouth tighter than a vice. I set the spoon down and continued with my own dinner.
Through the corner of my eye I saw a tiny hand lift the spoon and put it in her mouth. The empty spoon was returned to the plate. Waiting until the food was swallowed I tried once more to feed her. Again my effort was refused. Setting the spoon down on the dish I returned to my dinner. I watched as a little hand lifted the spoon and emptied the contents into her mouth. This pattern continued for the remainder of the meal and indeed for all meals until Elly was able to fill the spoon herself.
Elly loved stories and very quickly learned to read. The first proper book that she read was Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne and that was before she started primary school. Elly became an avid reader, as hungry for words as she was for food! At five she could read faster than I do even now! I did my best to feed her hunger with food for the mind as well as food for the body.
I hope I did a good job.