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A 1970s Birth Story: Times Have Changed

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A 1970s Birth Story: Times Have ChangedMany women have shared their birth stories with us and I have enjoyed hearing each one of them. As my birthday approached, I thought it would be fun to talk to my mom about my own birth. Of course I had heard bits and pieces of it in the past, but I wanted to hear her recollect the entire story, from start to finish. I knew of the twists and turns that would come, but as I listened to her tell it, I listened as a mother and I felt it in a new way. I felt the fear she encountered when things weren’t okay. Of course, I knew the ending. I knew it all worked out, which is perhaps why in the past I never stopped to consider what she must’ve felt in those moments of uncertainty before the end was known. And, as I listened, it was fascinating to hear the differences between birth now and birth then. It was interesting to hear her perspective on how birth has changed. We’ve come a long ways and it gives me hope that birth will continue to improve.

Your brother was born five days late, but when it came time for you, you decided to arrive five days early. It had been a pretty smooth pregnancy overall. I had morning sickness that lasted pretty much all day for six months. But at that time, they gave us pills to help us through it. I did have some trouble walking towards the end because of the way the you were positioned. I couldn’t walk very far without having to take a rest, but there weren’t any complications or health issues at all.

I was certain that you were also going to be a boy. But, I also thought your brother was going to be a girl. Back then they didn’t do ultrasounds, so I had asked the doctor what he thought you would be. He said he guessed you’d be a boy because usually the first two babies were the same gender and the third was different. It’s funny how ridiculous that sounds now.

Your brother had been breech, which I delivered naturally because that’s what we used to do at that time. I was knocked out during the actual delivery, but I had been awake for the very long labor up until the delivery point. I had gone to the hospital too early with him and I knew I wasn’t going to do that again with you.

Contractions started at 5:00 a.m. on a Friday. They were pretty mild, but kind of steady all through the day. I didn’t eat at all during the day because back then they didn’t think you should eat. Even still, I got dinner for your dad and it was around that time that I had to start concentrating more during each contraction.

We didn’t want to tell anyone I was in labor, but my parents showed up on our doorstep that evening. We were sitting around talking and around 7:00 p.m., they said I should go to hospital. We still waited until about 8:00 p.m. before taking off.

When I got there, I saw a friend of mine, Bev, who was also there. She was walking the halls to get her labor going. I told her I’d get my gown on and walk the halls with her. But I never got that far.

Back then, we were immediately checked and put into a room where we’d labor. Then we’d be taken to a delivery room later. As soon as they checked me, they knew I was ready and progressing quickly. At that time, they had just started putting IVs in as routine practice, just in case they needed it later. They hadn’t done that with your brother fours years earlier. Honestly, that hurt worse than contractions because my veins are hard to find. They finally put it in the back of my hand, which was not pleasant. Turns out they never had to use it.

At that hospital, there were only two labor rooms and two delivery rooms. When I got to the delivery room, I could hear Bev hollering next door. I kept asking if she was okay. I was concerned for her. I didn’t scream or holler during any of my labor, so I was worried about her. Of course she was fine.

Your dad was with me in the delivery room. He and the doctor stood around discussing the football game. The doctor had even joked with me to hold off until after the game was over, so he could watch it all. The labor wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t concentrate on their conversation. In fact, your dad couldn’t remember the score of the game later, but I was able to tell him what it was.

I remember the second delivery was so much easier, of course after having a breech birth with my first, anything would seem easier. But, no one had told me that I wouldn’t have to go through all the pushing like with my first. I pushed hard for six hours straight with him. With you, it seemed like it was a cinch. I don’t remember having to concentrate that much. It was just a natural thing and it went smoothly. I had no pain pills or anything. By the time I got to the point of wanting some, things were moving so quickly that there was no time for it.

You were born at 10:50 p.m. on Friday (the exact same time Bev’s baby girl was born). They took you and told me you were a girl. I said, “Are you sure?” I think they showed you to me, but that was it. They took you away to be cleaned up.  I don’t remember how long it was before I was able to hold you. I think I was out of the delivery room before that happened. If I held you right after birth, it was quickly. We didn’t do skin-to-skin and things like that at the time. And, I wasn’t nursing you. I tried with your brother, but had mastitis. It was so bad that I stopped nursing him at that time and didn’t try with you.

We thought everything was fine until Saturday morning. They brought Bev’s daughter in to be feed, but the nurses didn’t bring you. They said they’d bring you in later because something was going on. They told me you had a problem and the doctor was checking on you. So, your dad comes in and I’m a blubbering idiot. I was upset and didn’t know what was going on. It was awful. Here was Bev with a healthy baby and I wanted my baby.

They finally took me to see you shortly after dinner. My parents had come up and we were all taken to a special room where we could hold you, while they waited for the ambulance to take you to a special hospital that was about 40 minutes away. They put an IV in your head. That was just awful. It tore my heart.

I wanted to leave the hospital, but I had to stay another night. On Sunday morning, they let me go home, but I still wasn’t physically up to traveling to the hospital to visit you. Your dad and grandparents went to see you though. I did get to see you the next day. We went every other day. We had to wear a gown and scrub up, but we could hold you. You were so big and healthy compared to the other babies. Seeing those other babies was something else. They were so sick.

Finally on Friday, we were able to bring you home.  What was happening is that you had projectile vomiting. They thought you had a milk allergy, but they never really confirmed it. Some of the problem is that a part of the plug the baby is born with didn’t pass when you were born. Once that came out, you were fine. You were on soymilk for a while, but we switched you to regular formula around three months old and you never had another issue. You did spit up a lot at times, so after you fed, we would sit you in a seat to elevate you for a while.A 1970s Birth Story: Times Have Changed

Being in the delivery room with you shortly after your births, I have seen how different things are now. For one thing, they let you eat right away. After your second baby was born at midnight, I remember they brought food to you right away. You were born at 11:00 p.m. and my first meal was breakfast.

I don’t know that other family members ever went in to the delivery room. They were just beginning to let fathers in the delivery room when you were born. It was good for him to be there and be a support, but when I was in labor with your brother, he was sitting on the bed eating Burger King. I wanted to knock him out the window! But having him there made me feel like I wasn’t alone

It was also more of a medical atmosphere when you were born. Now it is more of a family atmosphere. They give families time to be together, bond and spend time with the baby without rushing off. Plus, your husband stayed overnight at the hospital with you. Back then, they weren’t allowed to be there the whole time. There is just much more family and bonding time now. We didn’t have that back then.

Tell us, have you ever heard your own birth story? Did it in any way affect your own approach to birth?

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