When I was born...

The story of my birth in 1986

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The Thackray Birth Stories project aims to bring together researchers from the University of Leeds, curators from the Thackray Medical Museum and local parents and visitors to explore stories of childbirth and think about how the museum should tell those stories.
From The Thackray Birth Stories project by thackraybirthstories

As part of the Thackray Birth Stories project, I'm going to tell the story of my own birth. The project encourages people of all ages to tell stories about their births, their children's births and to respond to the collections of the Thackray Medical Museum. So I've taken up the challenge myself!


To add your story, after you've created a Yarn account, incorporate this passage in your first paragraph of your own story. To do this, select the 'quote this passage' button on the right hand side. You might want to tell a bit about what happened, where the birth took place and who was there. But it's entirely up to you - share as much or as little as you like! By quoting this passage, we'll be able to find and read your story.
From Contribute your story to the Thackray Birth Stories project... by thackraybirthstories

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A window onto 1980s life in Stourbridge

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The first challenge is telling a story that you don't remember. But I've heard lots of details about what happened when I was born, from my parents and other relatives. My parents were living in Amblecote, Stourbridge in the Black Country. I was their first child, and my mum dutifully recorded all the fetal movements leading up to the birth - though found this more unsettling than comforting, apparently...

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The former QE2 hospital - as of 2010, the hospital moved to a shiny new building.

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In common with the majority at this time, I was born in hospital, in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in nearby Birmingham. It was 9th April 1986, but unseasonably cold - the first thing I can recall knowing about my birth was the snowy blizzards that went on all day.

AlisonK — 1 year ago

It snowed heavily all night 8/9 April, and Laura's father left in a blizzard on the morning of the 9th. I (I'm Laura's mum) remember looking out of a window in a hot hospital ward onto six inches of snow in the car park.

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Over the years, I've learnt a few details about how the birth went. Being a first baby, my mum was in labour for some hours. She finally chose to have an epidural to reduce the pain (I was clearly somewhat reluctant to enter the world...)

AlisonK — 1 year ago

I wrote some notes about the birth shortly afterwards – I must have needed to process the event. Significantly, from the journey to hospital ‘Couldn’t even concentrate on The Archers on the way…’

AlisonK — 1 year ago

And yes I certainly remember the epidural, and the almost instant pain relief. ‘Sat and chatted to Phil (Laura’s dad) and Cath (sister-in-law, who very sweetly arrived at the hospital late at night) until 12.30pm.’

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As for the delivery itself, things were made more difficult because the umbilical cord was wrapped round my neck. My dad tells me he stood in front of the baby heart monitor screen to ensure my mum couldn't see my heart rate dipping because the cord was stopping me breathing. Forceps were needed - then I finally arrived at 3.59am.

AlisonK — 1 year ago

The midwife was fantastic, doctor not so much; at one point the doctor examined me and thought she felt the head – but the wise midwife assessed it was a shoulder and we were all good to go. Forceps not great ‘Feet up in stirrups, epidural topped up – yards of green cloth’ but baby’s welfare paramount, and suddenly there she was, my beautiful baby girl.

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Known as 'girl of Alison King' for the first few days. I don't know where the name 'Laura' came from...

AlisonK — 1 year ago

We had some names in mind - Holly was one. But Laura came to mind when we met her - Laura Catherine, second name being a traditional family name from the Kings.

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Marmalade on toast. The natural(?) choice after giving birth...

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I know two small details about what happened next. Firstly, when my mum tried to get out of bed to come and see me in my bed she went flying - the epidural was still in full force and removed all feeling from her legs. No one was (seriously) hurt!

Secondly, on repeated occasions my Aunty Cath proudly tells me about how she was first to come and visit me and my parents in hospital. The detail she - and so I - remember was that they all sat and ate marmalade on toast... It's funny the details that get passed down, and the moments that characterise such a big family moment.

AlisonK — 1 year ago

My legs went from under me on the following day. I could move them all right but they protested when asked to take my weight. Laura’s cot-on-wheels went flying across the ward, but no damage done. I certainly recall the toast – the best slice of my life – but I don’t think the NHS ran to marmalade post-delivery even then.

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Congratulations cards to my parents

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Here are some of the cards my parents received from family and friends. I wonder when this practice started? One thing I noticed was how much less pink there is than today - the cards are much more varied that the new baby ones you see in the shops today.

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Baby clothes and blankets

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I was greeted by some traditional hand-knitted items - a jumper/dress knitted by my grandma (with matching trousers, not shown here!) and a shawl knitted by my mum. The 'sheepy blanket' was a big presence throughout my childhood...

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