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Friday, 07 December 2007

Donal's Cot

By Grannymar of Grannymar blog

Donal weighed in at two pounds which is just short of a kilo. He was a very premature baby that his mother carried for less than six months. He had no hair, eyelashes, eyebrows or nails and his skin was porous. He was not expected to survive for very long so the paediatrician suggested taking him home. His actual words were, "He might as well die at home as in here."

Donal's homecoming was not as easy as it sounds. His father was sent to find a “small” cot/crib which he did, and it was ready and waiting for the new occupant when he arrived with his ill mother and a nurse. The nurse lived with and became part of the family over the next six months, she was called “No-No” by Donal's two year-old brother, and the name stuck. To this day if you say the name “No-No” to any of the family they know exactly who you mean.

The paediatrician soon arrived and set to work.

He gave precise instructions about feeding and cleaning the baby. Donal was not to be washed or bathed in water. His skin was to be cleaned with olive oil and cotton wool. Food was to be administered by medicine dropper, every hour on the hour. He rigged up a large light bulb over the cot to provide extra heat for the premature baby and it was to remain on night and day. Being wintertime the temperature was quite low. A fire was lit in the bedroom and kept going day and night.

Each day was a milestone, but there were many when they fought to keep the baby alive. The paediatrician was a regular caller and was delighted with any little improvement. The danger stage eventually passed and Donal was introduced to bottle feeding and began to put on a little weight. The first size baby clothes fitted and slowly the pleasure of washing and bath time became part of the daily routine. The light was removed from over the cot, but Donal slept in it for a full year.

With Donal's move to a normal sized baby cot, the little one was cleaned, covered and stored in the loft. It was used again with pride for the arrival of his four younger siblings.

The little cot appeared for the first time 62 years ago. There were no incubators, or “Baby Units” in hospitals like we have today, the only clothes for premature babies were doll clothes. Houses had no central heating and washing was all done by hand. Nappies were rinsed, then boiled and when washing was complete they were line dried. The feeding bottles were sterilised by boiling. A baby was hard work back then!

The little cot moved through the family for the arrival of each new baby. Cousins, nieces and nephews all started their lives in it. I spent my early months in it as did my Elly. For Donal the most precious moment was the day he placed his own daughter in the little cot.

Now once again the cot is stored away and who knows, someday Donal might be blessed with a grandchild to sleep in that very special cot.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 03:04 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love stories like this--bare bones stories that by their very sparseness engage your imagination. Thanks.

I enjoyed this....reminds me taking care of my little brother some 56 years ago. Thank God he was so healthy or he probably would not have survived in a 12 yr olds care. My mother was ill and had to stay in hospital. But you did what you were told and all came our well. Thanks for the memory!!!

Thank you Mary.

Claudean we all carry memories, they just need to be jogged now and then


Yes, we have a little white crib in our family, too. It was bought in 1928 for my husband and is passed through the family every time a new baby is born.We now have lost count of the number of babies who started out their lives in that sweet crib.

I loved your story of Donal and his cot and especially love that he could place his own little girl in it to feel loved and protected as he was.

Precious. Absolutely lovely. Thank you for writing a story about the celebration of life. A friend of mine was born in similar circumstances, though not so severe.

Years ago, I was working in a prenatal intensive care ward '(with medical equipment technicians) and I was just numbed by these little beings. I called this friend of mine, and she sensed my anguish at seeing young children small enough to fit into the palm of my hand. She told me to sit for a while and just talk to the babies. With time, my fear vanished and I began to see the marvels of modern medicine and miracles of these babies will to live.

Your stories brought back happy memories.

I'd love to see a picture of that cot!

I've had two sets of twin grand babies born prematurely (not as early or tiny as Donal, however.)
Even with the miracles of medicine now, it's disconcerting to see infants who are not quite ready for the world yet, fighting to stay in it. Happily mine are chubby 3 year old boys, and healthy 6 month old girls now. I loved the tenderness of your story.

I am delighted to see Donal's story up again today.

I think it would be easier for Ronni to leave the same story up for a couple of days and more readers can enjoy it and more comments can be made.

Thank you, Ronni, for this site. We love to tell our stories and you are our best outlet for them......

We are so happy you are back!

Nancy - you so right! It is wonderful that Ronni has decided to keep going.

Travelinoma - Two sets of twins all under four years of age! How do you find time to read never mind keep a blog going? Keep going and I wish you joy with your children.

Kenju - alas I do not have a picture of the cot.

Lilalia - what a wonderful job you have. Talking to all babies is so important.

Such a sweet story. That is my life work. I have been a neonatal nurse for 40 years. In that time I have seen many advancements in our care of these tiny babies. The one thing that has not changed is the spirit of these babes. They are fragile, yet their will to survive is strong. They respond to our voice, and love their mama's voice.

Such a sweet story. That is my life work. I have been a neonatal nurse for 40 years. In that time I have seen many advancements in our care of these tiny babies. The one thing that has not changed is the spirit of these babes. They are fragile, yet their will to survive is strong. They respond to our voice, and love their mama's voice.

A family story is of my great-aunt Mary who weighed two pounds at birth. Her mother literally wore Aunt Mary next to her skin under her own clothes and became a human incubator. She wore doll dresses also. She lived to be 87 years old so a shaky beginning is not a sign of future trouble. Bless those who never give up.

Thanks so much for sharing this struggle with us. Leaves us smiling, it does.

Beverly ~ keep up the wonderful work.

Darlene ~ I love the idea of a human incubator. The baby had the heat and the sounds of the body for comfort.

Mage ~ Glad you liked this life story.

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