Media Release

Helena: ‘My fond memories from 1973 of having first boy born at QEH’

The mum of the first boy born at QEH’s maternity unit 45 years ago still cherishes fond memories of the experience.

It was back in 1973 – seven years before the rest of the new hospital was completed and opened – that Barry and Helena Anderson had their third child, Mark.

The maternity unit then was situated where The Fermoy Unit is today and it was before the advent of ultrasound scan and a foetus’s gender being established.

Helena (77) said: “I remember Sister Bayfield as being ultra efficient, quite prickly – very firm, but kind. She loved baby boys and told me ‘I’m hoping against hope that you are having a boy’.”

Having attended ante-natal sessions at King’s Lynn Hospital in Hospital Walk, the appearance of the new-build in Gayton Road struck Helena – she fondly recalls the rooms being bright and spacious, with lots of light flooding in through the windows.

“The consultant was a Mr Johnson, who had been in the Army. He was ultra polite and almost clicked his heels when he stood up,” she said. “He came along with Sister Bayfield and started the induction process, which was an injection into my hand.

“It was a short, sharp labour. My husband was allowed to be present for the birth, although Sister Bayfield wasn’t happy. The presence of a partner wasn’t quite so prevalent as it is now.

“I remember laughing out loud when he appeared in a white gown with plastic shoes. I was going through the mill at that time but his appearance lightened things and really helped.”

Photos and momentoes of newborn Mark in our maternity unit in October 1973

Helena added: “They didn’t do what they often do now and deliver the baby on to the mother. Sister Bayfield stood up and said ‘thank goodness it’s a boy’. She wrapped him up and I got a cuddle and Barry got a cuddle.”

With as many as six other mothers in the new maternity unit at the time, Helena was the only one to have a boy. However, she firmly believes it was simply Sister Bayfield’s love of baby boys which prompted her reaction.

Nowadays, it’s common for mothers to leave hospital within hours of giving birth, and receive support from NHS staff in the community. Back in the early 1970s, Helena received all the instruction and advice on nurturing, feeding and bathing Mark during several days in hospital. Plus newborns were taken away and looked after at night so their mothers could get plenty of quality rest and sleep.

“You did feel a bit special!” recalls Helena, who was manager of the busy 54-bedroom Hotel Mildenhall (now Parkview Apartments) in Blackfriars Road, which her father, Jack Spencer, had bought in 1969.

As landlord, Barry went back to work at the hotel on the afternoon of Mark’s birth. Helena’s late husband returned to the ward at 7pm bearing a huge bunch of roses and a bottle of Champagne.

“I thought they were for me but he gave them to Sister Bayfield!” laughed Helena. “I did receive a lot of cards and flowers. They were the days when you were allowed to have flowers by your bed. It was like Covent Garden and it was quite a daily chore to tend to your flowers with water and care!”

birth certificate
Mark’s birth certificate

Some months later Helena, who was at that time a patient of Dr Chamberlain’s at St James’ Medical Practice, had to go back to the Hospital Walk site for a hysterectomy after suffering a prolapse.

Mark’s siblings are Tracey Kerntiff (57) and Richard Anderson (52).

Helena, who runs an art centre in Gaywood, concluded: “I came to Lynn in 1969 not expecting to stay but I fell in love with the area and I have never wanted to leave.

“I’m still with the same doctor’s surgery and the same hospital and I’d just like to say how pleased I’ve been with the very kind treatment for my family and I at both St James’ and QEH.”

As an interesting footnote, the land on which the QEH was built was farmland known as St Helena.