For my oldest son's birtday--
My oldest was born in the summer of ’65. We were living in a basement apartment in Allston, just outside Boston proper. I had hand-me-down pregnancy clothes from Aunt Judy, the 50’s kind, with floppy tops and belly cut outs. My mother-in-law helped too, whipping up a couple of shifts. I didn’t go to a doctor until 6 months, and what we could afford was the Boston Lying-in clinic. I rode there on the bus every few weeks, answered questions that were part of a long-term survey, and saw a group of young doctors and nurses—a different set every of time.
It was the hottest spring in 90 years, super oppressive for this country girl. It was also the spring of the Boston Strangler, and a pregnant 19 year old alone in a strange city felt pretty anxious sometimes. My husband worked at a bank running an IBM 1401 mini-computer, one of those new gizmos that were being bought by businesses everywhere. We were both hoping to return to college in the fall, but didn’t actually have a clue about how.
For the day I went into labor, we put aside taxi fare and I packed a bag. However, as the due date approached my hands, feet, legs and face swelled, and my B.P. soared. The clinic staff said this was “toxemia,” which I looked up in my bible, Dr. Guttmacher’s "Pregnancy & Childbirth."
Two days later, I collected my suitcase, caught the bus and rode to the hospital. The whole thing seemed, after all those movies with hysteria, hot water and ripping petticoats, an anti-climax.
They never gave me the drug, though, as I obligingly went into labor after the embarrassing prep that was de rigeur for OB in those days. Husbands were not welcome, either, so mine stayed at work. Natural Childbirth (I might have been poor and young, but I was not uneducated) “Only works for European women, who are so much stronger than American women." I quote the supervising Obstetrician, who told me this when I'd asked if I could try it.
Because I was having a first baby, the staff pretty much ignored me until a nurse happened to notice the top of my son’s head. Hospital rules required anesthesia, in this case a saddle block, but it was given so late it didn’t take until well after he was born.
Baby arrived to thrill a room full of neophyte nurses. He was seriously pissed off about the rude ejection. Almost at once though, he stopped crying, and began to gaze around the room wide-eyed with a “Where the HELL Am I NOW?!” look on his tiny face.
A stout, gray nurse approached with a needle, but I had the La Leche League handbook memorized.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Just to dry up your milk, honey.”
“No thank-you. I’m going to nurse my baby.”
“You’ll be sorry!”
Her lips set in a grim line. She checked the chart and even argued a little with the resident before trundling away.
Later, I talked to my husband on a phone at the nurses’ station. Visiting hours were over. He would be allowed to see us tomorrow afternoon.
The family survived all this old time hospital rigamarole. My son grew up, got married, and had a lovely daughter of his own who is now herself in college.
This all happened a very long time ago, but when his birthday rolls around every year, I still remember. I guess it’s a Mom Thing.