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Diary Saturday 12th July 1997:

Yesterday at six minutes to four ‘o clock in the afternoon Victoria gave birth to a little man. His name is Joshua. It is the nickname for Michael Manley but this is not why we chose it. Nuttal hospital is a wonderful nineteen-twenties creation, a twentieth-century exercise in Palladianism, with two pavilions arranged either side of a central block. I suppose it was built at the same time as such Palladian buildings in New Delhi in India built by and under the influence of Edwin Lutyens. The detailing is very interesting, full of hospital thinking: rounded edges to the floor, lots of ventilation and a simple efficient arrangement of rooms. Beds in the middle of the room to help making them up a little easier.

The maternity ward lies behind the Palladian main building and is a modest Caribbean thing, low single storey building around a courtyard and a deep veranda in red painted concrete. Lovely, like a roman atrium. Pleasant and worn at the edges and with colourful tiles in the rooms. The labour room, that is the room where women in labour were asked to do their thing, had acquired a triple function as corridor, storage room and.. labour room. As the proper door to the other building was one room further, nurses tended to use the labour room to pass from one to the other, to save themselves the effort of walking a few paces further. In any case it was an excuse to peep. So while Victoria was contorted in pain, a cheery nurse would enter open a fridge and grab a bag of plasma and call “Hello dear, in pain are we? Now where are those drip bags?” and off she would go again, with a fresh drip bag for some other patient down the corridor.

When things became urgent, Victoria was taken to the delivery room. This was a well-used room, last modernised in the fifties. In the centre stood half a bed of solid cast iron, painted white before independence and left to rust. As Victoria came in, the nurse, fierce and large by virtue of the job, extended the special delivery bed with a specially split construction to aid the gynaecologist with the delivery. Bright plastic covered cushions in a wild floral pattern were plucked off the floor and shoved under Victoria’s bottom without too much ceremony, while the nurse deliberated in herself and with her Christian conscience whether I was allowed to be present at the birth. I gave her little choice, but was ordered to stand at Victoria’s head to prevent any indelicacy.

In came the smiley Gynaecologist. Victoria’s legs had been held together to prevent the baby from emerging before the Gynaecologist’s entrance. He smiled at me a bright, rather overenthusiastic smile and felt obviously uncomfortable at finding himself between Victoria’s legs while her husband was there standing at her side. After delivery he sewed the whole thing back up again. Joshua was tagged and taken away. I waited and looked around the room. Upon a shelf stood a row of multiplex planks. Flat planks, about half an inch thick, in the shape of a stretched out new-born baby. I did not ask what they were for. It seemed bad form at the time. Instead the doctor and I spent a happy few minutes inspecting and discussing a healthy placenta with its rich reds and purples and its intricate structures.




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