9 years ago today, I was in labor with my first baby. I asked my Mom if she would be willing to write up the story of my own birth for me, and what I found mighty interesting is her comment: “I think the conclusion I’ve come to is that it is so important to assert yourself and do what you think is best for you instead of knuckling under to a doctor’s or society’s pressure.” I sure wish I had asked her about this before I gave birth to my first child. I haven’t shared my daughter’s birth story but to sum it up, I bought the hospital ticket and I got the hospital ride. Her birth was followed up by a med-free hospital birth in 2009, and my third child’s unassisted home birth in 2011.
I was born in 1981, where Dad in the delivery room was still a fairly new thing. The morning of February 5th, 2005, my Dad was supposed to come pick me up so he & I could go get the glider we had ordered (my husband was at work.) While I was waiting for him to get here, my water broke! It was really funny to see how concerned he was about me, and he didn’t want to leave until my husband got home from work. 🙂
It’s clear how much my Dad loves my Mom when reading this. My Mom sent me the following email:
“I’m going to attach something I found in your baby book — a little log Dad kept of the time of our (yours and mine!) labor and delivery. I didn’t remember that he had done that. It was a sweet surprise when I pulled your book out to try to refresh my memory of your birth.
Dad said that he remembers being so tired and sleep-deprived. He wonders if that’s why he doesn’t have a lot of the details in his memory.”
Another note from my mom: “I love that he did that for us. I think it’s so very special of him to have done that. He just commented that his handwriting was so sloppy! I told him he must have been exhausted by then, so his handwriting was hardly something to be scrutinized!”
Here is the story of my own birth, July 27, 1981, and written by my mom.
Maria’s birth story — as recollected and gleaned from notes in her baby book
January 20-21, 2014
Your birth was not too long after the time when fathers were allowed to be in the delivery room and were active participants in the labor as coaches. You can see from the scan I included that your dad kept a diary or log of sorts during your birth.
When I had you, it wasn’t accepted very well by ob-gyns for a mother-to-be to have a say in how her labor and delivery were handled. I was young and determined to do everything right, from a drug-free labor and delivery, to breast feeding, to putting you in a car seat from day one, but some of the doctors had that superior attitude and were very unkind and somewhat cruel to a young mother like me when I expressed my wishes. I received very little support from anyone and was criticized at every turn for trying to do what I thought was right to ensure my child’s well-being.
I was pretty sick with nausea for the first few months of my pregnancy with you. It continued through February but I started to feel a little better toward the end of January. I had a heck of a time eating. I’d just rest on the couch and hope Cara would entertain herself. I was so sick to my stomach. I couldn’t bear to eat but knew I needed to in order to keep you healthy and growing. I made sure to take my pre-natal vitamins, which probably contributed to my not feeling well, come to think of it.
The ob-gyn practice I went to had three doctors who could possibly be the ones to deliver you at the Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown. One of them, Dr. Gist, was a former military doctor. Sound the alarm!
Your estimated due date was July 15, 1981. We told Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Val, and Granny by giving them a money gift envelope at Christmas. It told them that their gift would be delivered in July. It was such fun. They were so surprised and excited to hear the news of your arrival!
Grandma and Aunt Val drove me crazy with phone calls about whether you were on your way into the world yet. I had a non-stress test done by Dr. Asmar, who was a kind and caring ob-gyn. He was concerned about you being a bit overdue. I also had some trouble with varicose veins in my right leg that if I had just taken it easy wouldn’t have been such worry to Dr. Asmar. He was worried about blood clots. I’d kneel to bathe Cara and I’d kneel to clean the oven…I just couldn’t seem to just avoid things like that which would cause a lot of trouble with the veins.
At one of my checkups, Dr. Gist told me that you were lying on your left side. You used to turn your head against my cervix late in my pregnancy. None of the doctors understood what I meant about this when I mentioned it to them. It was a very odd sensation. They dismissed it, but several years ago, I did read about this happening. I felt affirmed when I read that.
One day very late in my pregnancy with you, I was walking in the neighborhood with Mrs. Matt and just as we were rounding the corner where the Arthur’s yard curves toward the Andrew’s, my hip just locked. I couldn’t move! I laughed and told Mrs. Matt she might have to go get your Dad to bring the wheelbarrow to get me home! I had a time with my hip after having Cara that just continued into my pregnancy with you. It still goes wacky on me once in a while.
I felt your first movement on February 4, 1981. I referred to your baby book for some of these facts. Your birth occurred around the time that American Optical was closing and it was a very, very tough time for us.
I drank a quart of milk each day. I was following all instructions given to me to have a healthy pregnancy and to prepare for breastfeeding you. I often wonder if that’s what caused you to experience lactose intolerance as an adult. Grandma wondered in later years if you had trouble digesting my milk as a baby. You just cried so much but no one ever said anything about colic.
Dad recalls that we attended a neighborhood picnic at the Reed’s house the day before I went into labor with you. It was a Saturday. He says it had been very hot outside. I just don’t recall that event.
The next day, Sunday, July 26: Labor began at 8:50 p.m. I had a pink show. By 10:15 p.m. contractions were 5 minutes apart. Mrs. Matt and Granny were on standby as Grandma and Grandpa were making their way here from Shrewsbury to stay with Cara. When they arrived here, we took off for the hospital. It was 11:10 p.m. I don’t recall and don’t have noted anywhere when my water broke, but Dad’s log clearly states that they broke the membranes just before you were delivered. Dad is musing right now about how he must have been jotting those notes as the hospital staff spoke.
I remember so clearly that we parked in the lower lot and had to walk up the hill to the hospital but had to stop at the corner while I had a contraction. They were processing me for observation but when Dr. Gist appeared, he was outraged that I hadn’t been admitted since I was “in active labor.” I was so hoping that Dr. Asmar would be the one to deliver you and not Dr. Gist. If I remember correctly, Dr. Asmar did come in to see me but was going off duty. I was crushed. He was still concerned about the varicose veins in my leg and told me his wife had trouble with them, too. He said that it was so hard to be objective when it was his own wife who was pregnant and needing care. I think she was having a baby right around the same time that you were due.
Dr. Gist ended up being the doctor on duty during my labor and delivery. He told the nurse to let him sleep until 6:00 a.m. That’s when the alarms really went off for me. He ordered Vistaril (a sedative/muscle relaxer) and Stadol (an analgesic/tranquilizer) which they gave to me at 4:05 a.m. I honestly believe you should have been born soon after I arrived at the hospital. Instead, they doped you and me up to slow things down. Grrrr.
I remember just going to la la land after they gave me that junk. I was so mad about that. When I went to his office for a post-partum checkup, I demanded that he tell me what he had them give me. I have it written by him on a little piece of paper in your baby book. I tried researching it years later to see what it might have done to you.
You were born at 6:13 a.m. I remember having this intense thirst right after you were born, which I find awfully strange. They gave me a can of ginger ale, maybe? Dad just said that he remembers this well, too, that I had this extreme thirst and was on a gurney in a hallway and someone asked if I wanted something to drink. I wonder now if it was the drugs they had given me that caused it.
I remember Dad saying that I screamed when I delivered your head. He doesn’t remember that now. He does remember that he was torn about whether to stay by my side or hover over you, which he did and really wanted to do! I have a note in your baby book that says that Dad kept touching and admiring you when you were in the warming “tray” (makes you sound like something yummy from the oven!) in the delivery room. He remembers that very well.
The nurse said you were jumping rope – the umbilical cord was very long. According to what I wrote in your baby book, you cried lustily at birth, but afterwards, your cry was more like a little screech.
I was going to have you in the room with me…the same exact room and bed that I’d had when Cara was born! Room 1401. For some reason, you were not in the room with me. I was so afraid they would give you formula in the nursery but they did keep bringing you to me.
You took very well to nursing. I have noted in your baby book that my milk came in around the third day. You nursed constantly when we got home. I was your pacifier. You would NOT take a pacifier.
I made sure I had prune juice and didn’t allow them to give me something like they did when I had Cara. I’d learned my lesson. I didn’t want to have to hand you to my roommate to run to the restroom like I did with her. The hospital made such a big deal about making sure new mothers were able to use the bathroom before going home. Another reason to try to birth your babies at home!
The nurses made a point to knead my uterus…yikes. I vaguely recall that as being a bit unpleasant. For the post-partum exam, Dr. Gist made me walk down the hall to what I picture in my memory as a kind of locker room. Isn’t that odd? I remember it being very clinical and cold.
I had three roommates! The first was Vicki. I remember when they brought me to the room, she was sitting in the corner waiting to leave with her baby and she told me that she hoped my baby wouldn’t become jaundiced like hers did. Sound another alarm! That sent shivers through me. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to you.
The next roommate I had was Jennifer Spong – I will never forget her name! – she left almost immediately after having her baby. She was a very outgoing sort of person, very upbeat and friendly. She had given me a pack of Oreo-type cookies that she wasn’t allowed to have due to religious beliefs. Since the cookies contained lard, I asked her if she was Jewish but she said she wasn’t. She told me she was Seventh Day Adventist.
My next roommate was Beverly Trice. She’d had a huge baby boy – ten pounds! She was just the sweetest, kindest person. When the nurse brought you in to me at one point, I noticed you looked a bit orange. I asked the nurse if you looked like you might have a touch of jaundice, which was confirmed a while later. I just fell apart. Between the stress of Dad losing his job your being jaundiced, I was just in tears. Beverly came over to me from her bed and just offered the tenderest comfort I could ever have imagined being given by a complete stranger. I will never forget her for that act of kindness. I felt ashamed because she talked so much and it was just so stressful for me to have to listen to her go on and on. I was humbled by her compassion toward me.
Granny and Buck came to the hospital to see you. A nurse was taking you back to the nursery when they were coming into my room so they were able to get a close look at you. I think Granny may have gotten to hold you, too. She said she was “sorta glad” you were a girl. I don’t remember Buck saying anything.
Grandma and Grandpa brought Cara to see you. Auntie Barbara and Cousin Mary Ellen somehow ended up at the hospital to see you, too. I think they got to peek at you in the nursery. I was so set on following the rules that I said they weren’t allowed to actually see you in my room. Sheesh. I so wish I could go back and do it all over again. It wouldn’t change the closing of AO, but maybe knowing what I know now, my handling of everything would be different and BETTER!
Sally Chakola ended up being one of the nurses on duty toward the end of our stay in the hospital. She was so kind toward me in regard to your being jaundiced.
We were told when we were taking you home from the hospital that we would have to take you back there to have your bilirubin levels tested. They pricked your heel and you just cried – it tore me apart. Dad was just as devastated by the whole ordeal. Your little heel had a scar for years. I wonder if it’s still there.
I insisted on your seeing Dr. Farah as our pediatrician for your initial follow-ups. He was a highly respected pediatrician at the time. We ended up going to the Pediatric Center eventually after waiting for too long to see him at that first appointment. I was really inhibited about breastfeeding in public and should have just nursed you there in the doctors’ office while we waited.
You were also on the Cradle Roll at the Brownsville Church of the Brethren! I found the little tag in your baby book that had been displayed at the church.
If home births had been an option to me when I was pregnant with you, knowing what I know now, I would have jumped at the chance to go that route. As it was, I was doing everything that most forward-thinking women were doing at the time. I laud all mothers today who do what they think is right for them and their children no matter what society says.
I am so proud of the way you took control. You’ve set a good example for your own children and for other women.
Is someone chopping onions in here? *sniffle*
Have you heard the story of your own birth?