Read by Beverley Longhurst
Birth partner — husband only. No-one else to be admitted until post-natal ward.
Midwives — would prefer female midwives and other medical staff.
Positions for labour — would prefer active labour if possible to enable me to work with gravity.
Monitoring — where monitoring is necessary we would like explanations as to why it is being done.
Episiotomy — would like to avoid if possible.
Placenta — happy to have the injection to speed delivery and prevent bleeding.
Vitamin K — happy for baby to have this injection.
Visitors — I wish to see no-one except invited guests and medical staff — no non-essential staff, sales reps, or other visitors please.
Particularly not my mother-in-law.
Actually, the same goes for my father-in-law. And my mother. We’ll see them when we’re ready. If they ring up to ask which ward I’m on, please tell them nothing. If they want to make the trip down to London to stay, that’s up to them. We don’t plan to have any visitors at home for the first week at least.
If I have to have a caesarean then my husband will fetch more clothes for me from home. He will have done the laundry while I am in hospital. He will also have stocked up on groceries (including baby toiletries in the event that the baby is premature and we have not had time to get these in). He will also, ideally long before the birth, have assembled the new chest of drawers for the baby’s things. He will go out and buy a car seat so that we can bring the baby home from the hospital. He will have mopped the floors.
He will have painted the hallway, including the woodwork, so that we are not ashamed to open the door. It is fine saying that the rooms we live in are the important things, but the postman, neighbours and other people who come to the door only see the disgusting hallway, and gain a false impression of the flat.
If the baby needs medical attention, then my husband is to remain with the baby at all times. Similarly if I need a general anaesthetic for any reason then my husband should take the baby and stay with it. I would like to breastfeed, so if I am still unconscious after the baby is born then the baby should be placed on my breast to encourage it to suckle.
Please monitor my blood pressure hourly as there is a history of problems in the family.
In the event of my death, my sister has all my bank account, pension and life assurance details.
Did I mention that I particularly do not wish to see any sales reps after the birth?
Please keep my wedding dress for my baby to have when she is older. In the event of my death, that is. The shoes and veil and tiara as well.
There are casseroles and a lasagna in the freezer. Also flapjacks – I have not tried freezing these before but I am assured they will be fine.
Some of my eggs (as in ova) have been frozen too, so there is the potential for a sibling for my child. I sanction this.
The life assurance payout could be used as a deposit on a house. I believe there would also be some death benefits due from my employer — you could check this.
I am happy with an open casket and a wake as per family tradition, but please check my family’s wishes.
On no account is my mother-in-law to choose hymns or readings for my funeral, nor to read at it. I have still not forgiven her for the wedding.
If you need someone to make a decision and cannot get any sense out of my husband, please try my sister.
I would like the baby to take my husband’s family name.
I am happy for it to be baptized.
If the baby is baptized then my sister is to be a godparent.
I think I would like it to have a name from our list, but see what it looks like once it is born.
The baby is to be placed on its back to sleep.
My husband will need some help to look after it. I am happy for family members to contribute, but would prefer the involvement to some extent of a trained professional.
The sling, cotton wool balls and other bits and pieces are in the large Ikea bag at the back of the wardrobe.
I will leave to my husband the decision as to whether to use reusable nappies or disposables.
Please keep my grandmother’s locket, my rings and other heirlooms for the baby (my sister can tell you which). My friends Marie and Katy can have some of my other pieces of jewellery if they would like them.
My sister might like my grandmother’s pink bowls.
I don’t know what you will do with my clothes and shoes. I hope you don’t throw all of them away.
The gold cross belongs to my mother — give it back to her. She gave it to me and I love it but I’ve never worn it.
I need a haircut. Perhaps my usual hairdresser could do it. If he is squeamish, please work from a picture.
Don’t bury me in my maternity clothes.
Please try to keep the laundry under control. Also the kitchen. If you do nothing else, try to keep the kitchen, bathroom and toilet clean. Be vigilant about mopping the floors, especially when the baby starts to crawl.
Don’t leave her with the neighbours, however nice they seem. My mother can come over if you are stuck. Or I would prefer that you took her to stay with your parents, even. But they are not to take her to that evangelical church. And give all our parents clear instructions eg about sleeping on the back, as things have changed.
Never allow the baby to eat melon or butternut squash at your parents’ house: I have seen what they do to it. If you need to prepare food for her while there, refrain from using their tea towels. This might be the time to educate your father on the subject of hand hygiene. And lavatory hygiene, for that matter.
Do not allow your mother to dress our daughter. If she buys clothes for her, ever — and you must discourage this — please ensure that they are not in that hideous shade of terracotta that does nothing for anybody. You might tell your mother that she herself would take ten years off if only she would wear normal-coloured neutrals and stop shopping at Per Una. I never did find a nice way to say it.
Keep the bathroom cupboard closed at all times because of the asbestos. Don’t keep anything in this cupboard. Treat it as if it were sealed up. In fact, having it sealed up would not be a bad idea. Consult my uncle on this.
There is a DVD of instructions with the pram, telling you how to assemble and collapse it.
You know I would prefer it if you continued to wash the tea towels at 95˚.
If you do use reusable nappies, buy a sanitizing product from the supermarket to pre-soak them (you can also use this in the washing machine to be doubly safe).
Ruth is probably right when she says we need net curtains or blinds for safety.
Don’t drink alone in the house with the baby. One beer is OK.
Don’t let anyone smoke in the house, of course.
Before our child begins to talk, please try to break the habit of using the reflexive pronoun willy nilly.
(While we are on the subject, it is “Excuse me,” not “ ’Scuse, please”. “Scusi” would be just about acceptable were you Italian, but you are not).
The Christmas card list is in the bottom desk drawer, along with miscellaneous cards for emergencies. It’s just family, distant family and old friends we don’t see much. I tend not to bother sending to our normal circle as we see them all anyway. There’s no need to keep sending to my old friends once I’m gone of course, but you could use this list as the basis for writing to people to let them know of my death and the baby’s birth. Remember the non-Christians too — they’re not on the list.
Should Gabriella, my former tutor, attempt to write an obituary for me in one of those ‘Other Lives’ slots, you are to repudiate it immediately. She has form for this kind of thing and is as cunning as a fox.
Do get the leak in the cistern sorted out sooner rather than later — we don’t know what it’s doing to the electricals, and I’m sure it’s responsible for the damp wood smell.
If you can get the floors painted that would be wonderful, but make sure you get the baby out of the house while you do it and until the paint has fully dried.
When you bathe her, the water needs to be body temperature or slightly cooler. You could buy a thermometer if it’s easier.
You know I don’t believe in an afterlife, I just believe that the world goes on after me. So I don’t believe I’ll be watching you, but I want you to be happy.
Take her to see the flowers in the park and in the market.
People will always ask you about me, especially as the baby grows up and you collect her from nursery or from school. The baby will ask about me too, once she realizes. I wonder how long it takes a child to be conscious of a missing parent?
The two of you will have a wonderful relationship. You’ll have to get my mother or Katy to help with things like clothes.
If anything at all happens to the baby you must love it just as much.
I don’t believe in an afterlife but I believe that we will all sleep one day. We won’t be conscious of being together but we will be.
Sunday morning, I can see the two of you walking along Columbia Road, past the hospice, to the flower market.
You’re wearing a pink coat with flowers on the pockets. The stallholders pick you up to get a better look.
I wonder who you’ll be? Who you’ll look like, sound like, smell like? Whether you’ll have my hair. What you’ll do to the world.
Will you do this, too, one day? Will a dark line spread along your belly? Will you live to tell the tale?
You’re a big, fleshy egg. I’m the spoon. Carefully carrying you to the end of the race. Not trying to win, just to finish. Don’t break, don’t break.
(c) Uschi Gatward, 2014
Uschi Gatward was born in East London and lives there now. Her story ‘Pink Lemonade’ was published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology (Vol. 6) in 2013. ‘The Clinic’ is forthcoming in issue twelve of Structo. Other work is online at Litro. Uschi is a guest blogger for Mslexia.
Beverley Longhurst trained at Webber Douglas. She has worked in a range of theatre including All My Sons, Remembrance of Things Past and Mourning Becomes Electra (National Theatre), Way Upstream (Derby Playhouse), Shadow Language (Theatre 503). She has also worked in TV including the BBC sketch show Little Miss Jocelyn, and film. Beverley is a narrator for the RNIB.