Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

H is for Harry


I don’t usually go for  alternate realities in my own reading, but my imagination has been captured over the years by the triumverate of The Lord of the Rings, Mervyn Peake’s superb Gormenghast trilogy and the Harry Potter books. I so much loved the latter that I was quite keen to call my third child Harry, but my husband pointed out that Harry Otter is a rough name to live with. So he now has another, rather lovely, name which suits him perfectly, but there is a small part of me that mourns Harry.

I think part of Harry Potter’s universal appeal is that he is an orphan going it alone. Children respond to his ability to cope in an adult world and defeat a great evil. Personally, I just want to mother Harry. I really want to get him home, cook him a nice meal and talk about his day. I’d like to remind him to stop ignoring Ginny Weasley since she clearly is the girl for him and encourage him to listen to that nice Hermione and get on with his homework. I want him to open his eyes and see the good in Snape.

But I think it is more than that with Harry and me. You see, Harry Potter was my birth partner. Long-term blog readers may remember this, but for those who are new here, I’ll retell the story. One of my presents for my 32nd birthday, which is a week before Christmas, was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I wasn’t overly interested in the book, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Two days later, when I woke with birth pains and was directed by my doula to get straight into the bath and wait for her to arrive, I started to read it. Several cups of tea and some acute contractions later, I was hooked on Harry. The doula and my husband would pop their heads around the door now and then to check on me or bring me tea, and I’d wave them away, saying I was fine. I dived into Rowling’s world, subsumed myself in her detail, and came up occasionally to do some shallow panting. While I was going it alone in the bath with Harry, the doula gave everyone in the house foot massages.

When the pains finally grew more demanding than Hogwarts, I climbed out of the bath. By then – though we didn’t know it yet – it was far late to leave for hospital. My doula gave me a back massage, and I went to the loo. While I was there, baby coming down the birth canal, though I didn’t know that either, she sent my husband downstairs to put the suitcases in the boot and de-ice the windscreen. She knocked on the bathroom door and told me it was time to leave, and summoning the strength of Harry, I got off the loo, staggered to the door and croaked, “I can’t make it to the bloody DOOR, let alone the hospital!”

Reading my face for the first time, she said, “Put your hand in your pants and tell me what you feel.”

I followed instructions and replied, “I. can. feel. a. HEAD.”

Her surprise was not unlike that of Harry’s when Quirrell unwrapped his turban to reveal he was sharing head-space with Lord Voldemort. “Get on the bed!” she shrieked. Within seconds, my child was born. A few minutes later, my husband reappeared, ready to transport his pregnant wife to hospital, to be met with the news that he had a daughter.

Tucked up in bed with my gorgeous little baby, I finished Harry Potter and started the next one. My newborn’s nickname was Hufflepuff for her badger-like snuffling when she fed. After reading the series myself, I read it aloud to Hufflepuff’s big sister, and now that she is bigger I am reading it to her. Last night, we finished The Order of the Phoenix. Hufflepuff’s little brother sometimes listens in and he recently insulted his grandmother by telling her she was “as old as Neville Longbottom.” It wonderful to me that my kids love Harry as much as I do, since he is their literary uncle.

Maybe if we get a dog, we’ll call it Harry. As homage to our hero.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

19 thoughts on “H is for Harry

  1. Lovely story, Charlotte! Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m impressed that you could read anything while in labour. I’m impressed that HP could transport you so!

  3. You started the next book or the next baby?!

  4. I so love this post. You are hardcore: reading Harry Potter while in labor?!

  5. We loved the name Harry before Harry Potter made it famous – from Harry Talvace in the Heaven Tree series , Harry Smith in Georgette Heyer’s Spanish Bride and, though she’s a girl, Harry in The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. Our son has to live with being called Harry Potter all the time at school, poor boy. He loves the books though, so I hope he’s not suffering too much.
    Have you started on Artemis Fowl yet? We got completly absorbed in the series – just as well we’re not having any more kids – Artemis might be a hard name to live down.

    Love the birth story – a great way to see a child into the world!

  6. I envy you Harry Potter. I too read during labour but my choices were extremely poor. First I read the Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. It was not a high point crouching on the floor between contractions reading about Precious’s baby dying at 4 days old. The I switched to history- AN Wilson’s “the Victorians” and as I developed a high fever I read all about childhood mortality rates and the treatment of children in Victorian orphanages. Everything I read, and my feelings as I read, are all quite indelibly etched in my memory as an intense and rather awful experience. I really should have asked someone to bring me a magazine instead

  7. Wow – nothing on earth could have distracted me in labour. This was not how my child entered the world bt good on you, Charlotte, for taking it in your stride!

  8. great story. i love Harry too… but for very differnt reasons! 😉

  9. Hi Charlotte, what great memories!

    The best I can say is that upon its long awaited release in 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows distracted me in Disneyland in Paris, but I wouldn’t have been interested in the rides anyway.

  10. Harry the hound… that is sooo much better than Harry Otter… that would be bound to go into beaver jokes… enjoyed your story tremendously.

  11. I have always loved the story that Harry Potter so distracted you from the birth of your middle child that you missed getting to the hospital on time. I have often been able to ignore horrible menstrual cramps with fantastic books, but I am pretty sure that had I ever experienced labor, nothing the publishing industry could produce would have distracted me. Oh, and Harry is the perfect name for a dog, because long before there was Harry Potter, I was “I-Can-Reading-It” with Harry the Dog (I particularly remember _No Roses for Harry_) and all his adventures. I’m pretty sure your kids would love that Harry, too.

  12. This is such a great story. I just loved it, and it is a testament to the power of fiction that you were able to “breeze” through your labor while ensconced deeply into the world of Hogwarts. I suspect you could trade stories with my mother — I was born in the back seat of the 1949 Studebaker sedan on the way to the hospital. No doula — just Daddy.

  13. Awesome story, I love it! You know, I only read the first two books and then got a bit sick of all the hype so didn’t bother reading the rest. But I just might add them to my list of books to read in the not-too-distant future.

  14. I can’t wait to read Harry to my Eldest, but he is still a little young, so for now he will have to listen to the Faraway Tree and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  15. Lovely story, Charlotte! Wow, I am still trying to imagine you in the bath transported to the world of Harry and Hogwarts while your own little Harry Otter was coming down the birth canal. Fantastic. Hope the birth of the novel is this exciting too 😉

  16. This made me laugh, Charlotte, but probably only because I’ve never endured labour pains! Should that day ever arrive, I now know PRECISELY what I’ll need on hand – it sure worked for you!

  17. What an amazing story! Way to go Harry P!

  18. Don’t you love it when a book acquires a whole new set of meanings? I encountered The Philosopher’s Stone under its American guise of The Sorcerer’s Stone (sigh) when I bought it at JFK airport in 1999 as a present for my partner who works in children’s media. I thought she might like to see what all the fuss was about. I finished my own book, the plane was delayed, my laptop ran out of batteries and I was finally reduced to reading Harry Potter. I was hooked, of course. And as an adoptee, orphan stories have always had a special resonance for me.

  19. I loved loved loved this post. I resisted reading Harry Potter because I thought it was a kid’s book, until my secretary told me she read it outloud to her boyfriend as they traveled from the west coast to the east coast, and raved about it. Since, I have become a fan, eagerly awaiting each new volume, and so sad when the last one finally hit the shelves. I am also quite proud of myself. For some reason, I knew in the beginning that Snape was going to be a hero. He is, in fact, my favorite charater, and never let me down.

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