birthing in the 80s, a personal story

There was a post on ivillage today about childbirth in the 80s and asking for comments from anyone who had birthed in that decade.  I wrote a quick response but I thought I would elaborate here.

My children may like to not read any further as it involves graphic details of their births.  Then again, maybe they should know.

I gave birth in 80 (really 79 but it was Dec 30, so for the the purpose of the article I made it 80) 81 and 83. First child was an undiagnosed breech. You didn’t get an ultrasound unless you were over 30 years old and considered an ‘older’ mother.  So you relied on the palpations of the obstetrician and your sister (who had a qualification in midwifery but wasn’t actually practising that field).  They both categorically announced head down.

This pregnancy was a hard one.  It was my first, and first grandchild, we were renovating an old house, it was summer and Christmas and HOT.  I survived through Christmas and just wanted the baby out.  We were watching the tennis, the Australian Open was played at that time then.  I had been in labour for most of the day but as we were very close to the hospital, I just hung around at home.  Eventually I felt the need to go to the hospital.  So off we went.

I liked the fact that you were shaved, showered and had an enema. Whilst the PUPIL midwife was palping me she said she didn’t believe the baby was head down, she thought it was a breech.  No-one took any notice of her, including me.  Holy hell, was she right.

I had never experienced labour so had no idea what to expect.  I can say that subsequent labours were nothing like this. Lying on your back was the most uncomfortable position. I was on hands and knees clutching my stomach and wanting to go home with the breech. The midwife was trying to see how dilated I was but there was no way I was lying on my back. They took the end of the bed off and put me in stirrups to deliver her, no emergency caesar here!. Thank God she was 6 and 1/2 pounds and perfect.

It’s true you forget immediately the awfulness of labour as soon as you get the baby in your arms.

And you forget all about it until the next time and then you remember but it’s too late.  And then if you are really forgetful, you go again!

When I came to have the second a mere 18 months later, I kept waiting for the stirrups etc and was most surprised when he just slipped out. I think it made my labour a bit easier (plus he wasn’t a breech, BIG PLUS) because I thought I can’t be having the baby, they haven’t taken the end off the bed. The midwives assumed that because it was my second I knew the ropes.

With my third child I didn’t have time to have the shower, shave and enema and I KNOW I pooped a bit on him, even though my doctor said I didn’t.  (Sorry, baby).

My husband, at the time, did not attend the first two births. I think he could have, it was just coming in that you could have a ‘birth partner’ but only one. I was only in the hospital 15 minutes with the third so he didn’t have time to leave! I was more concerned about him than me.

And I had the pethidine, even with the third although it was too late but it kicked in nicely after the birth.

It’s funny how it changed in 3 years. The first baby was removed at night so you could sleep and only brought in for feeds if you asked, otherwise they were given formula. But 18 months later the baby was with you all the time, even during visiting hours, when my whole family smoked in the room he was in!! It was winter and the windows were shut.

By the time the third arrived I was over the whole hospital bit and went home early. My mum had the others so it was lovely to just have the baby at home. I think he was at the shops about 3 days old. This is in the days when you stayed at least 10 days in hospital after giving birth.

The good thing about the 80s and giving birth was no-one was judged as far as I know.  Women had caesars, drugs, no drugs, breast fed or bottle fed, worked or stayed at home and I really can’t remember anyone telling me to do it differently or that I was doing it wrong.  From what I read now, mother against mother is a national sport.

How we would be judged today! The smoking, the drinking, the no car seats, just a moses basket flung on the seat, usually the front so you could keep your eye on the baby.

And they survived.

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