Life

Baby packs are nothing new – do you remember the good old days of Bounty?

It's been 20 years since we had baby packs but my friend remembers too. I wonder shall they put in the cabbage leaves? That's what you really need. Ask anyone who has ever breast fed – a few big old leaves are better than a month in the Canaries

A 'maternity package' offered under the Finnish social security system

THEY are making new baby packs to offer free to new mothers in hospital. It is very exciting and there's a lot of fuss. You can even turn the baby box into a cradle if you're so inclined. You get free clothes and toys as well.

It started off in Finland and now Scotland is taking it up. They shall present to the new mothers all the little things that boost you as the infant squeals and pukes and mews and you hover womanfully on the big rubber ring (you out there, you know who you are).

What you really need is the old gripe water with alcohol in – it would stand to, you that. But they caught on to it – too many happy mothers and babies.

Still, they can talk it up all they like. It's not that new. They had packs, honest they did, long ago when our fella made an entrance. I remember my Bounty pack and indeed, therein was bounty.

When you're shipwrecked on Planet New Parents, anything that washes up is a boon. You find yourself cooing over disposable nappies and a magical dummy.

The pack was probably a mix of nappies and bibs and free shampoo and baby wipes and all sorts of pads for the kind of rivers flowing out of every orifice... too much information, it really is.

Those were the good old days before they knocked the maternity hospital down. They gave me a room of my own and, no, I wasn't private.

It was also a time when the nurses took pity plus the baby away for that first night so that you got a little rest after they cut you open – it was a sunroof job – and before the long round of sleeping and waking and feeding and changing began.

“We had baby packs back then,” I tell my friend.

It's been 20 years but she remembers too. I wonder shall they put in the cabbage leaves? That's what you really need.

Ask anyone who has ever breast fed – a few big old leaves are better than a month in the Canaries... well maybe not.

It's never the Savoy, it has to be the white cabbage variety and I'd be inclined to wash it. You don't want your offspring to discover the Big Hungry Caterpillar too early.

The leaves have to be ice cold from the fridge and that's sheer heaven, bliss. Who cares that you look like you're starting your own allotment in your barrack buster of a bra? All dignity is lost.

Now in my mother's day, there may not have been any free packs but a baby was a ticket to two weeks in paradise. The local cottage hospital had its own cook and she did silver service. She not only made three wonderful meals a day but baked in her spare moments – to give you scones and buns with your afternoon tea.

No wonder women had such large families. Children were not allowed to visit – or at least we never got past the door – and even fathers were kept at a distance.

I have vague memories of my mother waving out from the window in her fluffy negligee while my sister and I sat in the car dressed and washed by Daddy – that meant an Aran jumper, a pair of woolly tights and a smile.

And almost 21 years ago, I remember driving up to see my friend where she was sitting with her first newborn, a little girl. I went to the fancy sandwich shop on the way and bought two luxurious jobs – we're talking the days when avocado was not to be seen in your local greengrocer. I bought her all the works – for our lunch.

When I got there, she had moved on from the trauma of birth and latching on and all that jazz... she was a hungry harridan of a woman. She would have eaten me with a sprinkle of salt.

She started into those sandwiches like her stomach thought her throat was cut. I didn't stand a chance. I watched as she ploughed through both sets and I said nothing, kept mum. It was a far, far better thing... her need was greater than mine.

That was nearly 21 years ago. What happened to the time? Where did it go?

Her baby will soon get the key of the door. Maybe we'll celebrate with a couple of avocado-and-bacon delights and sit down and reminisce about the good old days of the Bounty pack.

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