At the time of my birth my mother was called Patricia Helen Clinton and her mother was called Edna Clinton. 18-years before my birth Edna was pregnant herself, with what would be the first of six children. At twenty weeks gestation her fetus – little Patsy – already had me tucked away in her tiny ovaries. I was one of those 7 million eggs. The egg is the largest cell in the human body, and by the time she was 18 over 6.5 million of those little babies would have died. I guess I was a very good egg but then again maybe surviving the death of 6.5 million of my brothers and sisters contributed to the over confident air that I sprayed around throughout my life?
In order for little Lee to come into the world I needed to meet some sperm. The wonderful tadpole like little creatures that live life in the human testes. My mother’s donator was a guy called Jimmy Yiu. A boyfriend of Chinese descent who spent his time working in Chinese restaurants and teaching karate. In fact, I was actually named after the world’s greatest martial arts figure Bruce Lee. If I am grateful for anything, it is that my Mum did not decide to call me Bruce.
So Chinese sperm met the egg of the English rose and CRACK! Well you don’t get to eat a Gordon Ramsay soufflé without breaking an egg or two. Back to the birth and that hint of melancholy. My mother – an 18-year old child – was in labour for over 20-hours as yours truly was squeezed down the most ridiculously designed canal in human evolution. I mean come on? When the Severn Tunnel was built, the engineers made pretty damn sure that a locomotive could fit through it.
According to the fantastic book Love & Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health by Dean Ornish M.D. there is evidence to suggest social support can improve the outcome of pregnancy and childbirth. In Guatemala City, it was routine for woman to go through the process of childbirth alone. No hospital, no friends, no family and no spouse. In a study, 40-women were separated into two groups. One group was left alone whilst another was given help and support in the form of a friendly companion known as a Doula. The duration of labour for the women who were left alone was 19.3 hours, compared with only 8.7 hours for the women supported by the Doula. My mother had no Doula. For over 20-hours she was Doula-less. She was very much alone. An 18-year old kid going through the most terrifying ordeal of her young life, and she was on her own.
So out I came screaming, kicking and covered in blood, mucus and god knows what else. I imagine the doctor cut my umbilical chord and doubt very much that anyone ate the placenta. I was cold, terrified, covered in blood and all alone; and after they cleaned me up they dumped me onto the breast of someone else that was terrified, covered in blood and all alone – my Mum.
I haven’t given my birth much of a thought until just now. I stopped typing and gave myself a few moments to think about it. My mother must have been scared shitless. Here I was useless and hopeless. Human children cannot take care of themselves. I am no horse. She must have looked at me and thought, “What the hell am I going to do now?” Without a memory of the moment children forget the journey of birth. If they owe anything to their mothers it is their birth. Without the nerve to go through with the 20-hours of hell we would not exist. I apologise profusely for not thanking you enough for bringing me into this world. I love you Mum.
It is safe to say that my Mum did not have the most wonderful, caring and loving relationship with her own parents. They are both dead now and I hate to talk ill of the dead. They were wonderful, caring and loving Grandparents, but I guess that’s what happens in life. They were actually displaying a quality you find in someone leading a Lean Life. They had screwed up royally, learned from their mistake and were now introducing a change to improve. So I got great Grandparents, but lest not forget their inability to be loving parents. I don’t need to know any more details other than my Mum was left in labour for 20-hours on her own. That will do for me.
That relationship between my Mum and her parents was a critical step for the bloody baby suckling on her sore nipple. After 20-hours I slid down that ridiculous shaped tube, next came the placenta and then…nothing…nadda….zilch. I often have this hilarious vision of the father waiting at the bottom of that mess hoping that a book is going to pop out. My instruction manual. But we all know there are no instruction manuals on how to raise your child. So what does an 18-year old kid do next? They turn to their parents of course. They parent in the style that their parent raised them. Only this time they do it with a twist. There are aspects of their upbringing that they didn’t like. They will never raise their child like that. If I had a penny for every time I said, “I am not going to end up like my father?” Unfortunately, with all the best will in the world we are just plastic bottles floating downstream. In the beginning we don’t have much of a choice where we end up.
So there you have it. My birth. A lonely experience for my Mum and a lonely experience for me. Being lonely would be a feeling that would follow me for long periods of my childhood, without me even realising it. I guess it all started here. The lonely maternity ward of St Mary’s Hospital on the night of the 29th January 1975.