Sunday, 23 September 2012

Learning Curve




Where have they gone, the  gleaming Silver Cross coach-built prams, gently bouncing on their sprung leather suspension systems? Where are their silken canopies with the fringed edges?
Where are the little Viyella vests tied with tiny ribbons, the fine cotton nightdresses, the knitted bootees, the smocked dresses that took half an hour to iron?
Matinee coats and matching bonnets........where are they?
Where, in particular, are the hand-embroidered delicate lawn Christening robes, like the hem of that in the photograph? It's about eighty years old now, but I doubt it will be worn again.

Some of them might be on eBay, but most of them are long consigned to the tip and I learn, in my impending Grandmotherhood, that babies no longer have prams.
They have travel systems.
They don't wear little vests tied with white ribbon,
They have body suits.
I won't even mention the nappies, even though I still use a couple of thirty-three year old muslin squares as dusters.

Gone are the days of lying-in, of extended convalescence after child-birth. I did not experience any of that, but my mother did. A couple of weeks of bed-rest on a light diet, then a gradual return to gentle exercise and, ideally, not venturing out in public until one had been 'churched'. My mother may have baulked at that, but probably not at the extended rest period.
'The Churching of Women' appears in the prayer books, a prayer of thankfulness for deliverance and preservation in face of the great danger of child-birth. The baby doesn't get much of a mention, except in Psalm 127, when during the brief service, children are likened to arrows in the hands of the giant, and 'Happy is the man who hath his quiver full of them'.

This makes me feel distinctly elderly, but it's not really so very long ago that pregnancy and childbirth were seen by many  as an illness, a weakness, something to be concealed, something vaguely shameful. Thirty or so years ago we wore smocks like marquees in an attempt to conceal the bulge beneath, whereas now the bulge appears proudly emphasised in tee shirt and crop tops.
Forty or so years ago and fathers waited in the waiting room until they were told who had been delivered, whereas now they attend classes and learn all about breathing and birthing positions, and take photos of the emerging head with their mobile phones.

I am learning, for which I am thankful.
I am also concealing a secret stash of traditional toys, nursery rhyme books and even a seventy-two year old smocked Viyella dress.
I wish I still had the Silver Cross pram, but it was used by at least two other families after we had it, and it was third-hand then.

Good job the parents-in-waiting don't read this blog!










15 comments:

marigold jam said...

Lovely post - I was only ready recently that even when I was boirn giving birth was still quite a dangerous undertaking and with no NHS medical care was very hit and miss and only available to those who could afford it. Thank goodness this is not the case nowadays. I guess the modern mother has neither the time nor the inclination for washing and ironing (what's ironing my daughter would say?!)the beautiful smocked and embroidered clothes nor would the little knitted matinee coats be machine washable - easy care is the watchword now. I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad but bodysuits and disposable nappies will never have the same value as vintage items will they!

Jee said...

I was considered odd by my contemporaries 30 yrs ago for using wrapround vests, viyella nighties and smocked dresses for my daughter, but the awful stretchtowelling babygros , often too tight fitting on the toes and hanging off the shoulders, didn't appeal. I'm reliably informed that some sources are now recommending as much bed rest as possible in the first fortnight after birth so we're going round in circles there! Saw a lovely coachbuilt pram the flea fair this morning.

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold: I think of my poor mother giving birth in the early days of the war, and I'm sure she deserved the bed-rest, even if it was in the Black Out.

Jee: Yes, most things go in circles, and I should have gone to the Flea Fair!

Jane said...

You we're wise not to go, I got very wet even spending most of the time in the sheds! Hope you're ok.

Zhoen said...

And my mother was drugged for the births of her children, handed them later.

People seem so shocked, these days, when women are harmed by childbirth, or if babies don't survive. When my grandmother lost 3 of nine children born, and that was pretty good.

The Elephant's Child said...

My partner's sister tried very hard to conceal her pregnancies some twenty five years ago.
And I suppose I am showing my age but I don't think that very pregnant women in bikinis look good. And yes I know that very pregnant is not accurate but it is still a good description.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: there have been such huge changes in attitude, in even a relatively short time. It's interesting that Jee had noticed the pendulum swinging back towards bed-rest.

Elephant's Child: Facebook gives people a lot to be embarrassed about as they can display photos of their abdomens week by week!

Peregrina said...

Would a forty-two-year old Mothercare pram do? It's still hanging in our garage. I could gently remove and re-house the spiders.

Relatively Retiring said...

Peregrina: Yes! Lovely! What's your charge for shipping to UK....or perhaps you could bring it on a visit?

Molly said...

I thought I had made a comment on this post---maybe I just thought about it and, obviously, never did! I agree with your comments on Persiflage's blog about wishing that "Mary," of recent Isabelle fame, would start a blog of her own. Such a lovely writer and thoughtful person would be a great addition to our little circle of bloggy friends....

Viyella---now there's a blast from the past! What a lovely soft, luxurious fabric that was. I wonder if it's still made and available somewhere?

Frances said...

Lovely post, RR, brought back great memories.
It reminded me of another blast from the past, tho' ...during the 70s here and no doubt elsewhere, when a wife died her death notice referred to her as "relict of (husband's name)". It's a good job that that custom died out.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: Viyella is still going as a company:
http://www.viyella.co.uk/ but I don't think you can buy the fabric to make the little smocks. A sad loss!
There was Clydella as well.......

Frances: good to hear from you. Oh yes, the 'relict of.....' There is still the odd occasion when I'm referred to as 'John's widow' which always comes as a shock.

Isabelle said...

We still have the christening robe, but Grandson was too big for it by the time that his dad decided that he was ok with the baby being christened. I have hopes for Volume 2...

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: I'm sure the Christening robe in the photo will remain unworn. It's very small in the bodice, long in the skirt, so would only fit a fairly new-born - or a doll. As my grandchild is a girl she just might like dolls! All the best to your second edition.

Md Rajon said...

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