Growing up I had my mother, and I was fortunate enough to have two other women who were major influences in my life, one of them being my Aunt. There is a connection between us with pregnancy and giving birth that runs deeper than genetics. My mom (her sister) took care of her daughters, who took care of my brothers and I, who took care of their children, who are now taking care of our children.
In some ways my Aunt sparked my desire to start this project after she told me how, when in labor with I believe her 2nd baby, she still had dinner ready for her husband when he came home from work. I remember being shocked, but that was the way it was back then, she explained. How different the roles of dad has become. From pregnancy, to labor and delivery to postpartum. It caused me to think about what else has changed? There is a universal connection between women once we become mothers but the journey getting there is not totally the same and I wanted to hear about those differences as well as see what is the same. So when I was thinking of “Birth Stories…Becoming Mom” my Aunt was one of the first people I had hoped would share her birth story. And I am grateful she did.
Anne Hart, 77 Mother to 3 daughters
PREGNANCY How old were you when you had your first child, your last child? 23. 27
What was pregnancy like? Somewhat complicated, my father had just died suddenly which put me in a state of shock and I was pretty sick throughout.
Who educated you on being pregnant? Older sisters, mother
Did you take a birthing class? I don’t think they existed in 1962
What was your labor like? My first-born was complicated. She was a week late, labored for 24 hours. Had complications after delivery, had Placenta Previa. After a long wait, afterbirth started coming but they could not stop the bleeding and I ended up in surgery where I almost had a hysterectomy. My 2nd child was easier, there was a lot of pre-labor but was born quickly after arrived at hospital. My 3rd baby arrived 10 days early and was a long labor. I almost had a caesarean.
Was your husband in the delivery room? Absolutely not. Very few men did in those days, it was just starting to be done.
Were you happy with your birth? With my first I did not really understand all that was going on. With my other two, was very excited and happy, except for people giving me a hard time about having all girls.
FIRST FEW WEEKS
Who helped you? No one. My father had just passed and my mother was out-of-town running the rooming house they owned. It was very lonely. I would call my sisters for questions. No one had an extra car in those days so no one could come and help you. With my 2nd, my mother was out of the country meeting my older sister and I was taking care of my youngest sister. My mom arrived shortly after the birth of my 2nd so I saw her a little then. With my 3rd my mother would come during the day, while her daughter was in school. Then her daughter (my sister) would come to my house after school and my mom would cook supper and my husband would take them home afterwards.
Did you husband take time off work after your deliveries? No
Did your doctor give you support regarding breast-feeding & postpartum? No, never mentioned. Very few women nursed in those days, it wasn’t discussed. Women were somewhat aware postpartum. I did not enjoy being pregnant but was fine postpartum, whereas my sister-in-law loved being pregnant but struggled postpartum. Not sure there was any help for her, doubt it.
Where did you find support as a new mother? I asked my older sisters. From my mom I wanted her support, which she gave willingly, but I didn’t ask many questions. I wanted to prove I could handle my new role.
Biggest Challenge as a new mom? Feeling as if you know nothing. Not realizing that eventually you will get to know your baby’s personality and to try to follow their lead. Always being tired until about 3 months when you were all on a schedule. Being lonely a lot of the time, especially the first time when you have left work to have your family.
What was your partner’s role? Being the financial provider for our family. Men did not play a large role in those times. My husband never had a father growing up so it was a mystery to him, especially having daughters. He was always more comfortable when they could communicate their needs. I would sometimes put music on and give him a baby to dance with, he always looked like he was holding a piece of glass. He would read to them.
What do you see the biggest difference between raising a child today vs. when you had yours. Better/Worse? It is much better today as far as women and the sharing that is done with husbands. Women are not made to feel that it is all their responsibility, even to be done for a few hours food shopping was a big thing. I loved being a mother and spending time with my babies but I think today the young parents go overboard – they have to amuse their babies 24/7. We followed more of a schedule which allowed us to get a little more done; cooking, housework, because women had to do it all with little help even when husband were around.
Best advice for a new mom: Keep working to get on a schedule. Try very hard to make good meals, both husbands and wives. Look for a mother’s group as fast as you can so you don’t feel too isolated or start getting out with the carriage to meet other young mothers. Feeling lonely and isolated is very difficult for new moms.
What do you know about your birth? I was born at my house in 1939, because our house was quarantined due to Scarlet Fever. My father had taken one of my brother’s and sister to the hospital. The doctor had to come to our house to help my mother along with my Aunt who had never given birth herself. To make it more special for my Aunt they buried the after-birth in the backyard in those days, though I don’t know if she had to do that! I was 9lbs – something and my mother always treated like it was no big deal. We also think the same week-end I was born my older brother had a sledding accident and ripped off half his skull.