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Monday, February 20, 2012

Citizen Me: A New Life

September 1, 1980. I arrived in Britain expecting a baby in 6 weeks! The Man had arrived back in England at the end of the previous June. England was a blessed relief from one of the hottest summers on record. From Texas to New England temperatures ranged from 95 to 110 every day for the entire time. I spent the months with my parents while The Man got himself invited back into the Air Force and arranged to re-occupy his house in Norfolk. Then there was finding a doctor and arranging a hospital and a school for my very American son. Everything fell into place with only one or two hiccups, one being the baby boy arrived three weeks early!

The doctor I had had briefly in the States had spoken so vehemently against the  NHS that I was terrified of having anything to do with it and in order to placate me, The Man arranged me to be treated as a private patient. When the obstetrician came to see me he informed me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted my baby to be circumcised he would refuse to be my doctor! I was so shocked at his adamant behaviour that I went along with his suggestion. Which actually turned out several years later to be an unfortunate mistake! I don't know if it is still the case in the States, but at that time it was usual to circumcise baby boys as a matter of course.

 I was soon established in my new home and there was a lot of 'getting used to' to go through! In the  States there was almost universal use of disposal 'nappies' (a new word to remember instead of 'diapers'). The word 'nappies' I was to discover was short for 'napkins' -- and one did not use that word for 'serviettes', which are what, in Britain, one puts on the table next to the forks!!!

The baby had been delivered by a mid-wife, which I had heard about but never experienced. When I got home I had been assigned a 'health visitor', who was also a mid-wife. All women in Britain who have a baby are assigned a  'health visitor'. When you first arrive home she comes several times a month to check that you are coping the little one and that the baby's weight is on target and so on. They also are on the lookout for post natal stress. My health visitor was a lovely woman, but ... Well she definitely did not approve of disposable 'nappies'. Also they are made of terry cloth -- square pieces, so completely unlike the more gauze like diapers I had used in the States.   Somehow she implied that having terry nappies and soaking them in whatever that solution is called in buckets is more meaningful!! This was the process as I remember it:

  • Fill bucket with water and required amount of 'Milton'  sterilizing liquid
  • If nappy is just wet dump it in, if not rinse out and get rid of unpleasant stuff and dump it in.
  • Soak nappies for however long it says (as little as 15 minutes, apparently)
  • Take nappies out and rinse and ring and wash in washing machine
  • Hang up to dry.
Well, due to the cost of disposables and being nagged to death, I used these terry things -- very unhappily -- but any excuse at all to use disposables and I did!!! To top everything off, for the first three weeks or so we had a colicky baby on our hands -- thank goodness that lasted for such a short time -- seemed like forever though!

In addition to the trials and tribulations of 'babyville' I was cold all the time. The house was fairly new and had a furnace that heats up at night on cheap rate electricity and then heats the house during the day. By two in the afternoon the heat was running out! No more warm warm house in the cooler months. The thermostat was much lower than what I was used to. I was used to rarely having to wear a sweater inside -- excuse me, a cardigan or jumper -- and when I did I felt quite uncomfortable with the bulk. This sounds minor -- but there were a lot of changes going on here!

There was the shock of not having a clothes dryer -- I was expected to 'peg' them out on the line or use the airing cupboard. The first time I 'hung' the clothes on the line, The Man started laughing at me -- I wanted to cry -- in fact I think my eyes did fill with tears. Oh Woe, Woe, Woe was Me!

But there was someone who got me through it, someone who always made me smile and whom I am grateful to this day. Whatever would I have done without my early mornings with that Irish charmer, Terry Wogan? 

23 comments:

  1. Love this post and I am glad that England made you so welcome, despite all the changes. Good old Terry!! I found moving from Africa (after being there for 50 year) was a massive change, and now I have ended up in France. The thing I miss most is my dish washer which I left in Africa, no room for it here! Life here though is where I now feel at home again. Take care. Diane

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    1. Don't get me started on dishwashers!!! The Man and I have a BIG difference of opinion on having one! But I'm determined to win in the end... ;-)

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  2. Ah, the culture shock of England. I felt these things when we visited Scotland too, when I was pregnant 31 years ago. As for the nappies and the circumcision, my daughter and her husband have their own new set of rules that baby science has come up with, and not circumcising boys is much more the norm now, which seems quite civilized to me. Our one-month-old grandson seems quite pleased about it too.

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    1. It's just unfortunate that for this particular child it turned out to be necessary -- and quite traumatic, too!

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  3. (Didn't mean to sound like I had my Lesley in Scotland; I didn't. Just had morning sickness in a cold flat with terrible instant soup . . . but wow, Edinburgh was gorgeous.)

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    1. Morning sickness is bad enough without having those circumstances! I agree, though, Edinburgh is gorgeous!

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  4. Thanks for dropping over and visiting the Bear's blog.

    I dare say that life "across the pond" was quite different from that in America. Universal medicare and all those good things. (So like Canada, in some respects.)

    The important thing is that you all survived. Which might seem amazing, given your interesting start in Britain.

    I'll be back.

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    1. Hi there! Very nice to have you visit! No doubt about it Universal Medical Care changes lives for the much better!

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  5. G'day Broad. Great post. I can remember using the terry nappies when my two kids were babies. Brings back some memories, that does. Take care. Liz...

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    1. Brings back memories for me, too, Liz -- and not for the better!

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  6. Great post. Mrs.C. Tried using a diaper pale for a month to protect the environment, but a month was all the environment got.

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    1. I think that now the environmental issues have improved and they are now made to be biodegradable -- but at that time, people weren't so concerned and it was easy to ignore!! Which I did at every opportunity...

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  7. Interesting post Broad.

    I remember buying all the terry nappies before my daughter was born and I actually used them as nappies only ONCE! I discovered disposables at the hospital and continued to use them. The terry 'nappies' were used as shoulder savers!!

    Not very environmentally friendly, but a life saver ...

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    1. Indeed, it's all about saving lives -- not to mention sanity!

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  8. So many memories Broad! I used terry cloth nappies for my kids and was very proud when my mum-in-law commented on how very white they looked drying on the Hills Hoist outside. When my daughter used Pampers for her horde I was shocked at the utter waste...ah, things change, don't they?

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  9. Great post, Broad. Coping with culture shock AND a new baby must have been really hard work! I had my first 12 years before you and back then there weren't any disposables. It was terry nappies or nothing and I'd never heard of tumble-dryers, let alone had one. The US was a long way ahead of us on the domestic front back then. But I have had a dishwasher for the last 25 years and can't imagine life without it. :-)

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  10. Dear Broad,
    As Perpetua has said, this was a great posting. You really brought him to me what moving to another country is like--especially when you'r pregnant. I so enjoyed watching and listening to "Silver Bells" by Terry Wogan. I'd never before heard of him and the video was so creative. I surely like the voice of the second man. They harmonized so beautifully together.

    Peace.

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    1. I didn't know about 'Silver Bells'. The second man, Aled Jones became very famous when he was a choir boy and sang in cartoon, 'The Snowman'. He is a very popular young man here -- we have watched him grow from a little boy to a young man with children himself!

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    2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlX3WYUVzuk&feature=related

      Dee, if you copy and paste the above into your browser you can hear Aled singing 'Walking in the Air' from 'The Snowman!'

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    3. Dear Broad,
      Thank you for suggesting that link to me. I've never heard the song "Walking in the Air." It's lovely. I listened to the version you sent me to and then to a nine-year-old singing the song beautifully. Here's the link for that version.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av0QpbAXHq8&feature=related

      Thank you,
      Dee

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!