Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time Machine (of Birthing Experiences, that is)

I arrived at my mom's house the other day to return some things I had borrowed and was happy to see my grandma there shooting the breeze. She had just found out about baby #3 (don't ask why you, the readers of this blog, knew before my maternal grandma, but you did) so as often happens to me as of late, all conversation quickly turned towards the bump. I related to them that one of my main worries about birthing this baby was the fact that I would be across the country (we're moving in my 33rd week) in another state, and that I would possibly have to share a recovery room/mother-baby room with a total stranger. This statement uncovered a whole new world to me:

The Wild World of the MATERNITY WARD

I know I've heard the term "Maternity Ward" before. I just had no idea about the concept.

Let me take you back, my friends. The year is 1976 and my mom is about to give birth to her first child. She heads to the hospital, is wheeled into a room with four hospital beds where she labors for hours with three other ladies (also possibly in labor) with no epidural, is finally wheeled into a delivery room where with the help of forceps, my brother is born. They then take my mom and her new child back to the room with four beds where she stays for a few days before being released to come home for good.

Me: So now wait...the days following your delivery were spent with four total strangers, some of whom are in drug-free labor all through the night?
Mom: Yes.
Me: How did you sleep?
Mom: You didn't sleep much with all the screaming (women in labor and newborns).
Me: Did you talk to the other people in the room?
Mom: Oh yeah. Well, sometimes I talked to them, and sometimes I kept my curtain closed. It depended on who it was.
Me: Like one big slumber party?
Mom: Well, not exactly.

So let's take this conversation one level deeper. The year is 1947 and my grandma is giving birth to her first child. The story isn't much different than my mom's only that no men were allowed and they made you stay in bed at the hospital for TEN DAYS with strangers. You didn't get up to shower, go to the bathroom, or even take a walk around the hospital.

Grandma: The first time I stood up to head home, my legs completely gave out from under me and I tumbled to the ground. They just hadn't been used for so long!

All this talk of labor experiences made me take it back about three generations further. The year is 1847 and pregnant pioneer women are heading west. They deliver in the wilderness among conditions that are brutal. Some die in labor, some bury their newborns along the way, and some with newborns (the lucky ones) head to the unknown with no home and little but faith to share with their new child.

I'm a firm believer in the fact that you are born when you need to be born, and consequently, you give birth in the era you were meant to give birth in. So, does all this talk of birthing experiences make me want to head to the wilderness, epidural free, go it alone, and spend my recovery days with total strangers? No. I'll most likely be in the hospital, with my epidural, my husband and modern medical care and conveniences. I just feel really thankful and blessed.

So pregnant stranger across the country, whoever you are, I'm coming for you with a smile on my face, renewed gratitude, and a sincere hope that I don't have to close my curtain.

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