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Tristan's Birth - 1982

In all the talk about birth today and its challenges, I thought a reminder of the past in hospital birth was in order. It doesn't mean there still isn't much further to go, but I know, from being there, that we have, indeed, come pretty darn far.

Below, this first picture demonstrates the normal birth position in 1982 - lithotomy. While it is hard to see me in the blue drapes, my head is at 4:00 from the light in the mirror. You can see my legs spread on either side of a bunch of cloth (that I don't know what it is!). You can barely see the stirrup my right leg is resting on at 5:00 from the light. You can also see the oxygen mask on my face.

My former partner is taking the picture from beside my head. You can kind of see him to the left of my head, leaning in with the camera in his hand.

To see the birth, I had to lift my head and look in the mirror. Even without an epidural (which wasn't even an option at the time), it was like watching a movie, seeing Tristan born. I was given a mediolateral episiotomy (an epis that went sideways into my thigh muscle) and couldn't really feel him coming out at all.

I had been shaved and given an enema in the labor room. Back then, there was a labor room, the delivery room, the recovery room and the postpartum room... being moved each time a new part of the birth occurred. I was in a progressive hospital that gave each woman her own labor room; the other hospitals in the area and around the country had between 2 and 4 women in each labor room. Once I went to Germany, they had 2 women per labor room in those military hospitals.

I had demerol at 3 centimeters and 4 centimeters, but had no other pain medication after that. Epidurals were unheard of for several more years (in my birth and doula experiences), that wasn't even an option. I was pre-eclamptic and had magnesium sulphate for the duration of my pitocin induced labor (because I had rupture of membranes and no contractions for TWO HOURS!).
This next picture is what the doctors looked like at the time. In fact, everyone had masks on in the room except me, but I did have that O2 mask. There weren't Universal Precautions at the time - HIV/AIDS was barely known then - so there isn't the plastic that we know now. Those are cloth gowns - unheard of now! And the metal you see in the bottom right of the picture is the thingie that keeps the drapes from getting in the way of my vagina and in the "sterile field."

I wasn't tied down, but was told to keep my hands in the straps or they would have to use them to keep my hands away from the sterile field.

It's a boy!

Babies were born, the cord cut and immediately taken to the warmer where the nurse did the Apgars, wiped the baby off and swaddled them. The delivery room was flippin' freezing!

See all the blood on the doctor's right hand? That was from my episiotomy bleeding.

Also, note the warmer. It is a stand-alone warmer with a "bassinet" tucked inside the legs with the heaters up at the top. I don't see these anymore, but loved them when I had a client who wanted to "bond" with her baby. The warmer could hover over the client's recovery bed, keeping both mom and baby warm so the baby didn't have to go to the nursery. Moms also shivered a lot less, which, we know now, can increase bleeding. When I had Aimee, I had one of these warmers over us and it was great. We needed the signed permission of the Neonatologist and Head Nurse of the Newborn Nursery in order to keep Aimee with me immediately postpartum. (This was in 1986.) The order of the day for births a little longer than that was taking the baby to the nursery right away for 2 to 4 hours, depending on protocol.

The nurse spending the first few minutes with my son. She has a mask on, but no gloves (!!). He was observed for a few minutes under the warmer while I was sutured and right before leaving the Delivery Room, I got to hold Tristan for about 30 seconds.

Read part 2 here.

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Reader Comments (7)

That is just amazing! Thank you for sharing those pictures.

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

My brother was born in 1984 (in Kitchener, Ontario), and I remember seeing the video footage of him being born when I was a kid and thinking that he had been born in the backyard of the hospital, because of all the surgical drapes being so green and so prevalent, even for a non-surgical birth. I think the doctors wore gloves, but everything was definitely cloth then.

It is amazing how far we've come in 25 years, but there is still so far to go. Thank you for keeping us reminded of this!

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKristyn

"Those are cloth gowns - unheard of now!" - we still have them in theatre - & we wear our scrubs for births in regualr labour rooms. What do you guys use?

April 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAgatha

"Those are cloth gowns - unheard of now!" - we still have them in theatre - & we wear our scrubs for births in regualr labour rooms. What do you guys use?

April 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAgatha

Those photos are so weird. Everything covered up...and your legs covered like that. I guess there was a little bit of modesty?


April 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks for sharing your story...now I would like to hear about your other birth :) I know my mom went through something like this but I was pulled out with forceps and her labor lasted over 2 days with lots of Demerol and I guess at some point gas (because she doesn't remember much of it).

April 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCiarin

I recently moved to central Louisiana, and the big hospital in the area that does most births still keeps the babies in the nursery for FOUR HOURS after birth. I'm talking about normal healthy babies. If you want to breastfeed you can request to go down to the nursery and bf the baby in there after you are stable, but the baby can't leave the nursery for four hours (at least). But I have been told that if the nursery is full, or busy, or if there is a baby in there that is sick, they can make the mother leave her own baby and refuse to let you bf as long as it is in the nursery.

I had no idea that conditions like this still existed anywhere in the country! I wonder why Louisiana has the lowest bf rate in the country?

April 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

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