“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.”
William Shakespeare, King Lear
Dr Gladstone graduated from Edinburgh Medical School in the summer of 1938, just in time to serve in World War II. He survived Dunkirk and other atrocities of war, before moving to Gloucestershire with his wife in 1948 to find solace. Nothing fazed him anymore, the soft, reassuring tone of his lilting Scottish accent, reflected the calm within.
‘Now, Elizabeth, I just want you to count to three and breathe in through your nose, then on the count of four, breathe out through your mouth…’
‘And I… just… want… you… to get this bloody thing out of me!’
‘Elizabeth, your baby’s doing very well. He or she is just about to make their presence known.’
‘Well bully for the baby, but I’m not doing very well… just get it out of me!’
Brow furrowed, Dr Gladstone peered at her vagina through his round, metal-framed spectacles and calmly announced that the baby’s head was crowning. Elizabeth’s piercing scream echoed around the Churn Valley as she kicked out her right leg, the ball of her foot impacting with the bridge of the good doctor’s nose.
He was still mopping up the blood oozing from his nostrils as Elizabeth pushed one last time. Lisa Elizabeth Grant shot out of her vagina coated in a mix of amniotic fluid, blood and vernix, her cries drowned out by Elizabeth blood-curdling screams.
‘That’s the last time I’m ever bloody well going through all this! Do you hear me, Fergus Grant? You can keep your trousers on in future!’ Fergus heard as he ran down the path from the farm to the house, as did all the neighbours living within a five-mile radius and, given his relationship with Elizabeth, it was likely Lisa would remain an only child.
Elizabeth was never going to be a natural when it came to motherhood, given the dearth of affection she had received as a child, so there was little hope for Lisa.
She was a bonny baby, weighing in at 7lbs, with a full head of blonde hair. When the pink bundle was placed in Elizabeth’s arms she looked at the swaddling child and held her at arm’s length.
‘It’s covered in hair!’
‘Some babies are born with a full head of hair, Elizabeth. It’s perfectly normal.’ Dr Gladstone reassured her.
‘Well, it can’t be hygienic!’ She muttered, pursing her lips as she separated the towel Lisa was wrapped in with her thumb and forefinger. ‘And it’s covered in all that revolting greasy stuff as well! It needs cleaning,’ and handed ‘it’ back to the midwife instructing her to ‘Cut all its hair off and wash it! It can’t possibly be normal!’ Which was the moment Fergus burst through the door.
‘I swear if anybody touches one single hair on my child’s head, they will have me to answer to!’
‘You have a daughter Fergus, congratulations.’ Dr Gladstone slapped him on his back as the midwife placed Lisa in his arms.
His tears were spontaneous. Holding his daughter for the first time he was overwhelmed by his emotions. She was so small, so vulnerable.
‘You’re so beautiful.’ He whispered. ‘I’m going to take great care of you… always.’
‘Oh for God’s sake Fergus! What about me? I’ve just forced that great big head out of my vagina!’