I also dedicate today’s seasonal song to another birthday celebrant, Elaine England, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California, U.S.A. Have a most enjoyable birthday, Elaine.
Finally, I dedicate today’s song to all those women who experienced the miscarriage of a much-wanted pregnancy or had a stillborn birth in previous years. The degree of pain a mother-to-be feels in these circumstances is never erased, and the mother's heart never stops aching by what might have been.
My seasonal song today is ‘When A Child is Born’. This is a popular Christmas song. Fred Jay's lyrics have been sung by many artists, most successfully by Johnny Mathis in 1976, whose version was the Christmas Number 1 in the UK.
There is no greater experience of happiness in the making than witnessing the birth of a child, especially the first child of any mother. Of all the things their hands and hearts will hold and cling to, the best by far will be their new-born child. The birth of a woman’s first child brings an entirely new meaning to the saying that ‘It’s the little things in life that matter most, and giving birth to a firstborn is the closest any mother will come to magic.
My mother (who gave birth to seven children) often repeated that well worn phrase “If men gave birth, they’d be no more babies born!” I must confess, I have never been able to get my head around the fact of how a woman’s body allows the delivery of a child to be physically possible. I once recall asking my mother how a baby gets out of a woman, and in her Irish-spun wisdom she replied, “It comes out the same way it got in, Billy!” Then, seeing my look of puzzlement (I was aged around 8 years at the time), she added words to the effect, “ You need not bother your head about that for a few years yet, lad. All you need to know was that your first day was my best day. I love you, Billy Forde.”
I never wanted to get married until I had experienced the opportunity of travelling abroad, and I was 26 years old before I was first married. Having been born Irish and Roman Catholic (and the firstborn of my parent’s seven children), I had happily grown up in a large family and I wanted a large family of my own; not particularly because of any religious reason relating to procreation, but because I believed that the happiest experiences any child could have was brothers and sisters from the cradle to the grave. Like all responsible individuals entering the lifelong commitment of marriage, we naturally spoke in advance about the number of children we ideally wanted as parents and how quickly. We agreed upon five children being a number that we both desired and that we would start a family as soon as possible.
The upshot was that no sooner than we had married and returned from our honeymoon in Stratford-upon-Avon, my wife had changed her mind. She informed me that she did not want any children until we had both experienced five or six years of enjoying ourselves. We both had a good financial start to our marriage, and each had enough earnings from our employment not to want in the least. Naturally, I was bitterly disappointed with this sudden change of heart but could do nothing about it. It would be six years later before our first child was born, our son James.
At the time, I was not able to witness the birth, but his presence in my life gave me so much joy. That pleasure was soon tarnished somewhat after his mother developed ‘post-natal depression’ and basically found herself unable to perform any of the motherly functions with our new-born child, feeding, bathing, dressing, nursing, and caring for. 18 months later, we had a second child, and the very same thing happened again! For the first four years of my children’s lives, I carried out the mother and father roles with the two children to the marriage. Don’t get me wrong, although I did not understand why my wife was behaving thus (post-natal depression was not known to exist then and the response by the children’s mother would have been called having the ‘baby blues’), I was happy being both mum and dad, as well as holding down my work as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield. I eventually had to concede after my wife wanted us to separate and pressed for a divorce, that she did not desire to be married to any man, and that while I was content to be married to her and would have done anything to try to make our marriage work, I needed to be a father more than a husband.
While such experiences soured my marriage, they strengthened my determination to remain a good father to my children. Like all fathers, I will have made many mistakes, but I have always tried my best to provide all my children with love, honest communication, reassurance and helpful advice. I know that of all the roles in life I have performed and all of my most satisfying experiences, being a father and being in the presence of children always made me the happiest. It is no coincidence that I became a children’s author in my late 40s and that I held over two thousand (2000) storytelling school assemblies between 1989-2003 in Yorkshire schools.
I have always understood parenthood to be a fundamentally spiritual, as well as a physical purpose and achievement in life I have always viewed the birth of a child as being the ultimate perfection of human love. Birth means much more than making babies. Birth is about making men and women, husbands and wives into fathers and mothers. I remain forever amazed at how so small a pair of human feet can make so huge an imprint on our hearts and lives. One day there is nought but the thought, the next day the action and nine months later, the miracle that changes nothing into everything!
One of my strangest revelations and discoveries in life is to be married today to the love of my life, my wife Sheila, who never gave birth to a child nor ever felt the desire to be a mother. Sheila will openly admit that she has a love for animals that exceeds that she has for people. It may be fate, but in marrying me, (the oldest of seven children), Sheila has inherited more family members than even all her marvellous cooking can provide for. All my siblings have parented three children each, and their children have also parented three children in turn. When Sheila agreed to take me on, she unknowingly agreed to take on more brothers, sisters, grandchildren, and future great-grandchildren than she could ever imagine; every one of them who loves her to bits and will pester her to death when I am no longer around. She is gradually coming to terms with the total number of Fordes in our family as she prepares her Christmas jams. This year Sheila made and presented over two hundred jars of different jam variety to every Forde sibling, Forde grandchild, Forde nephew and Forde niece. All the jam is our own allotment-grown produce which Sheila started cooking around June and was still wrapping up for delivery until one week ago. Sheila may never have made any babies, but bejesus, she knows how to make sumptuous jam! Sheila and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love and peace Bill and Sheila xxx