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Birth Story

Proverbs 31:31 (New International Version)
31 Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Mum is much on my mind at the moment. I'm thankful that in less than three days I will be with her.

Here is a story that I heard every year on the eve of my birthday, which is on June 1st. Mum stopped telling it after her stroke, but the wonderful thing is that the weekend before the stroke happened (in October 2003,) I asked her to tell it to me again. This was because Susan Stewart's daughter Marjorie, was interviewing me for my biography, which she was writing for a school project and I wanted to make sure I had the details of my birth story right.

Talking to me about it must have stirred up memories, because Mum wrote a long letter to me that weekend, chronicling the whole thing. It was the last letter she ever wrote, because on that Monday, she collapsed at the post office in the village, where she had just put it into the letter box.

I was expected on June 12th 1950. In those days there were no such thing as pre-natal classes and women's bodies were a mystery, even to some women. I remember as a pre-teen, Mum telling me the "facts of life;" wanting me to be prepared and not horrified at the changes she told me were coming. No one used to speak of such things when she was a child and she told me of girls being terrified when suddenly they started bleeding--even thinking they were dying.

She showed me a diagram of a baby growing in the womb, and then the going through the stages of its delivery. That carefully saved scrap of paper was all she had had to prepare her when I was on the way. On one of my recent visits to England I found it among some papers. It was almost sixty years old by then and Mum said that I could keep it--this "baby birthing road map."

Mum had only been in England for three years in 1950. That England was far from cosmopolitan and she often felt like, and was called, a "foreigner." Her mother-in-law's welcome, when her son brought home his beautiful, dark haired bride to meet her, was, "Couldn't you have found an English girl to marry?"

Her family was far away in Holland and Mum was all alone on the day she went into labour, almost two weeks early. She lived in a house called Silvermount Cottage deep in the countryside near the little village of Waldingham, Surrey. The people she lived with were away on a trip to Liverpool, and Dad was on duty at the Guard’s Barracks in Caterham.

It was May 31st and she had a terrible stomach-ache all day, but in between the griping stomach pains, she spent the day washing baby clothes, which had arrived in a package from Holland, sent by her own dear mother.

As it began to get dark, the pain was more insistent and she knew she had to get help. She began to walk to Waldingham. It was quite a distance and she knew she needed to get there fast, so she took a short cut up a hill, along a rough path through the trees; a path so steep it was called locally, The Drainpipe. This was the part of the story that Mum loved to laugh about; how she climbed the drainpipe.

It was a great relief when she made it to her friend Mrs. Saffin’s shop, where she said to Mrs. Saffin, “I think I have a cold on my bladder.” (This must have been the great understatement of all time.)

Mrs. Saffin quickly assessed the situation and said, “You don’t have a cold on your bladder, you’re going to have a baby”, and they quickly called a doctor. They got her to Redhill Hospital, and on the stroke of midnight, I was born.

Mum always emphasized that all through the labour she kept thinking that at the end of it she would be holding her baby and that was what made the pain bearable. When they placed me in her arms she counted all of my fingers and toes and thought of what a miracle it was to be holding her own baby. I was named Belinda after a character in the 1948 movie Johnny Belinda. I never felt anything but cherished, fully and completely, by this wonderful mother.

How I thank God for her and celebrate all that she is and has been to us.

Proverbs 31:28 (New International Version)
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
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