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Entries in history of childbirth (2)

Sunday
Apr132008

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.

Sunday
Apr132008

Tristan's Birth - 1982 (con't)

Read part 1 here.

Look, no gloves! Is that the most amazing thing to imagine?


Me holding my baby boy. Tristan Ian was 9 pounds 4 ounces and 23 inches long. Born October 20, 1982.

Notice my fat nose and puffy eyes. Classic PIH/Pre-eclampsia signs. Can you see my fingernails? Eek! They were at least an inch and a half long!

I had a roomate, only one, which was unusual at the time in that area. I got special treatment because my former husband and his mom worked at the hospital. I was also given loads of peanut butter cookies every day. (When is help not help?)

Tristan, a week old. We were visiting my Nana who was in a nursing home. Nana was my great-grandmother, Tristan's great-great-grandmother.

But, look what I am wearing! And I am breastfeeding. How did I think I was going to nurse in this tight dress? I didn't think about it and ended up nursing him on the toilet with my dress all pulled up and tucked under my neck.

It was also extremely painful to sit or stand because of the episiotomy. I wasn't pain-free until about 7 weeks postpartum and still feel the scar decades later.

Aren't my glasses the best? They are the size of dinner plates! How 1980's! And my "wings." laughing I still wear bangle bracelets. Have always loved them.

Well, there's a quick trip through the History of Childbirth from one woman's experience. Interesting, eh?

If it weren't for Tristan's birth... and then my Unassisted Birth of Meghann 19 months later... I would never have known I was supposed to be a midwife. Still in the dark after Tristan's birth, I thought it was so wonderful I wrote a thank-you letter to the doctor, nurses and president of the hospital! Can you imagine? After a mediolateral episiotomy! shaking head

 

Do you have a story from the early 80's or before? Do you have a blog? Tell your stories!