At 10:00 a.m. the morning of Easter Sunday, I began to have pains. Around 7:00 p.m. my mother and I went to the hospital. In those days the fathers weren’t allowed at the hospital. I was settled into my room to wait for my baby to be born.
At about 11:00 p.m. my contractions were severe and coming regularly. My mother went down to the nurses’ station to tell them that the baby was ready to come. They said no, the doctor said that I wouldn’t be delivering until the next morning. So then at 12:30 a.m., my mother went down and said, “I’m giving you warning, I’m delivering the baby.” Well, that got the nurses moving; they rushed around and called the doctor (who showed up in his pajamas.) The baby’s head was almost out by the time the doctor got there. With the next contraction, the doctor said to give me gas. I didn’t like it and pushed it away. He said if I didn’t want it, I didn’t have to have it.
My daughter was born at 1:02 a.m. and weighed 7lbs, 12oz. I had gas when they put in the stitches, but otherwise it was an un-medicated birth. I got a little loopy with the gas and started to tell the hospital staff dirty stories. They got a kick out of that! At that time they also had me fill out her birth certificate. I misspelled her middle name. It was supposed to have been “Bea” but I wrote down “Bee”. After three days, I was sent home. It was 1938 when my daughter was born and I was told to spend the next ten days in bed. My mother took care of the baby while I recuperated.
Please take a minute and re-read that last paragraph. After three days I was sent home. Can you imagine being able to stay in the hospital three days?! I know that most of us would consider that perhaps too much time in the hospital, with their regime of regular vitals, interruptions, etc. But, just having the option would be nice. Then, the next sentence, I was told to spend the next ten days in bed. This is where I almost weep with jealousy. I can picture the new mama all tucked up in bed with the new grandmother bringing the baby for nursing then taking the baby to walk the halls if s/he gets fussy; while new mama gets the good healing rest she needs. That is a much better picture than the reality that was mine.
I was completely alone, not knowing a damn thing about what to do with myself. or a new baby. I had NEVER even been around a newborn. I didn’t sleep, I wasn’t sure I was doing anything right. I felt frightened, isolated, fat, and soggy. I was miserable. What I needed was historical wisdom provided by the previous generations of women in my family. I needed my mom and my sisters to come and show me what to do. I needed my friends to celebrate the new birth and NOT ALLOW me to be frightened or isolated. Not much they could do about my feeling fat or soggy but they may have been able to come up with some lies about my figure and recommendations for good breast and post-baby maxi pads (no mesh please -stitches).
What this story reminds me of, is being surrounded by loving women. Something we don’t have today- new baby or not. It challenges me to try to figure out how to make that better. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. It is after all, reinventing the wheel. But at the very least I think I can bring over a meal for a friend who has just had a baby. I certainly can take her other kids on an outting. I definitely can try to work in a visit or two; and with that really attend to her (leave my smart phone in the car). These things at least, I can do. So with that, I challenge myself to be a better supporter of my friends that are new mothers. And perhaps start, or restart, the tradition of surrounding new mothers with wisdom, help, love, and support.
BIO: Kelli Stapleton sends us ‘Theta’s Birth Of Joanne’ from Birth Stories On Demand, an active resource and archive for women’s shared stories of birth and more. Kelli is the founder of BSOD and podcast host each week. She’s also an author and public speaker. M.O.M. is proud to partner with Kelli to bring you some of these birth perspectives bi-monthly and also to feature Kelli as a special guest on MingleMediaTV‘s Mamapalooza show, with Joy Rose, Media Mom™. Watch her tonight at 7PM along with Jodi Nelson – 21st Century Feminist and Aqua Cherry playing LIVE in the studio.