Discover the Incredible Story of the Woman who Gave Birth in Boswells Department Store

Discover the Incredible Story of the Woman who Gave Birth in Boswells Department Store

 

When a store is around for quite as long as Boswells has been, it starts to collect stories and memories of unexpected things that have happened through the centuries. If you like, Boswells’ history is a sort of tapestry of people and their stories. As our 280th year draws to a close, we thought we’d share one of our favourite of these stories with you, which took place 21 years ago this month.

 

The Birth

Toy Department Image

In December 1997 a baby girl, Malaika, was unexpectedly born here in store in what was, at the time, our ladies changing room. Her mother, Viviane, had been in labour earlier that day, but was sent home from the hospital as she was only 2 cm dilated. Viviane already had 3 boys and so was sceptical about being sent home so she stayed with a friend, Valerie, who needed to pop into Boswells to pick up some bits from our Haberdashery. Of course, it was at that point that things started to happen…

Viviane suddenly felt a strong urge to push, and her waters finally broke. This was in the days when Boswells had a Ladies Fashion Department and so she dashed into a nearby changing room. These used to stand where we now keep our Keel soft toys, just along the wall, next to the ramp between the 2 parts of our Toy Department. Luckily, Viviane was still wearing a nightie, bed socks and a jumper, as she’d been expecting to stay in hospital, so thankfully she was conveniently dressed to give birth.

 

The birth happened very quickly, with baby Malaika being born straight into the arms of Valerie. By this time, as you would hope, our staff had rather noticed that there was a woman screaming in labour in the changing rooms, and so they sprang into action. A first aider attended from our Pharmacy, and one of our current Buyers, Marie, remembers closing off the area to other customers and sending colleagues to quickly get towels. As Valerie caught Malaika, Marie told them the time of the birth.

Eeyore Toy Image

Our staff stayed with both mother and baby until the ambulance arrived to take them to the hospital, and Viviane tells us that the changing rooms were a good spot to wait, as it had a calming low-light. She fed her daughter for the first time while she waited.

By the time the ambulance had arrived the news had spread and Viviane remembers a crowd of well wishers from the staff and customers shouting congratulations and best wishes, which is rather a nice memory to have don't you think?

A few weeks later Viviane visited the store with baby Malaika and we gave them a stuffed Eeyore toy and a large teddy bear to mark the momentous occasion. Eeyore is still sround today and they kindly brought him in for a photo.

 

Catching Up with Viviane and Malaika in 2018

We recently sat down to a cup of tea and a scone with Viviane and Malaika in our 1738 Tea Room to get their thoughts on the whole experience, and life since then.

Viviane and Malika 2018

 

For Viviane, we discovered, the birth was rather dreamlike; a true WOW moment in her life. She told us that she enjoys talking about it and visiting the store as it makes it all feel more real—although Malaika is also good proof of the event. In fact, Malaika’s birth certificate actually has 1-4 Broad Street listed as her birthplace, giving her a permanent connection to Boswells, and us to her as well.

Malaika uses the fact that she was born in a shop as a conversational icebreaker and when she was little she used to tell all of her friends about it. She’s currently studying for a Geography degree at UCL and is thinking of doing a Masters, possibly on Climate Change or other Global impacts.

Viviane went on to get a BA in Contemporary Art & Music. She is now a professional artist and has since done a picture of the outside of Boswells. She has worked with international fashion designers and her postcards of drawings of Oxford Town Hall are sold in the Town Hall shop. She goes to art fairs and sells online. Both Viviane and Malaika have continued to shop at Boswells over the years. They both like living in Oxford and Viviane thinks she will always live here.

 

To mark Malaika’s 21st birthday this month, we gave her a special gift of a birthday afternoon tea in our Tea Room and a Boswells gift card worth £210 (see what we did there), which she plans to put towards items for a semester studying abroad this year, possibly a suitcase. Happy birthday, Malaika! We’re very proud to be a part of your story, and to have you as a part of ours!

27th December 2018

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