pregnancy

Birth Stories…Becoming Mom. Meet Jen

Cambodia
Cambodia

Jen is one of my oldest friends.  We have known each other since the 6th grade.  Together we went through puberty, braces, bad hair styles, boyfriends, summer concerts, Middle School, High School, two Spring Breaks.  We went to college together, ended up sharing an apartment, even worked at the same job during college.   Together, we traveled in an RV across Australia, backpacked throughout South East Asia, drove across the country listening to Elvis on repeat.  With just one look, I always knew what she was thinking and she I. She was the one who got me settled in LA and after a lot more traveling, she landed home in Boston.  While the miles are great between us, the history is very deep and full of love, secrets, tears and laughter.  I don’t have too many other people in my life with whom I have experienced so much of life with.  She is strong, smart, independent, adventurous, courageous and funny, and in my opinion has carried those characteristics into motherhood.  I knew she would be my first friend I would ask to share her story.

How many children do you have?  
3 (ages 7, 5, 3)
 
How old were you when you had your first child?
 33
 
What was pregnancy like for you?
Pregnancy was okay. I was anemic for all 3 pregnancies but the third was the worst. Nothing seemed to improve my blood counts until I had a few blood transfusions. It was also hard because it was the third child so I had to care for my older children despite being beyond exhausted
 
Who educated you on being pregnant or what to expect during your pregnancy?
I read every book and website possible for my first pregnancy but never cracked a page for the next two. I also have sisters and friends I could turn to for any questions.
 
Did you take a birthing class?
I took a hypno-birthing class but I am pretty sure I did not use a single technique I learned during any of my deliveries. I went straight into survival mode and pure instincts…..all book learning went straight out the window.
 

BIRTH STORY

What was your labor like?
 They tried to induce me first, a few days before my due date because my platelet counts were dropping, but the baby had other intentions. I was in the hospital for four days being induced and nothing took. Finally the doctors gave up and discharged me. You have no idea how disappointing it is to be sent home from the hospital still pregnant. That night, my water broke at home and 46 hours after that I gave birth to my first baby boy.
 
Where did you give birth?
 I had an incredible team of midwives and I tried to give birth at a Birth Center but every pregnancy I fell short of their guidelines and delivered in the hospital. I labored until 10 centimeters dilated at the lovely birth center with my second child, but when my water finally broke, there was meconium in my water and they rushed me across the street in a wheelchair to the hospital minutes before my son arrived.
 
Tell me about your delivery:  
Each delivery got a little easier. I had bronchitis during my third delivery and I think I coughed my daughter out
 
Was your husband in the delivery room?  
Yes. He was very involved and his adrenalin was raging. He was literally screaming in my face like a trainer in my corner the night of a prize-fight. I kept yelling at him to quiet down because I couldn’t hear my midwife or nurses.
 
How long did you stay in the hospital? 
I hate hospitals! I pressured them to let me leave the second I was allowed. I was discharged 12 hours after the baby was born for 2 out of 3 babies.
 
At the time, were you happy with your birth?
Labor and delivery is never what you expect no matter how many children you have. At the end of the day, I was handed a gorgeous baby and could not have been happier no matter how it all unfolded.

FIRST FEW WEEKS HOME

Who was on hand to help you?  
My husband helped as much as he could and we had lots of helpful visitors whenever they could. I had a doula who I found invaluable after the babies were born
 
Did your husband take time off?  
He is self-employed so there is never really time off but he was around as much as he could.
 
How did you feel postpartum?
 I felt great postpartum. I think I was so happy to not be pregnant anymore that anything was easy after that, especially since my anemia went away after giving birth.
 
Did your doctor give you support regarding breast-feeding and postpartum? 
My midwife, the hospital staff, my doula and the hospital’s breastfeeding groups were amazing.
 
What was your biggest challenge as a new mom? 
None of my babies took a bottle easily and I never forced it because I wasn’t working and breastfeeding on demand was easier. It felt like forever before I was able to spend a few hours away from my baby and it was exhausting!
 
What was your partners role?
 He was especially helpful with the older children taking them to work or out for fun while I was able to care for the newborn. He always said he felt useless because they all nursed so much in the first few months.
 Birth Story..becoming mom
 

PERSPECTIVE

What do you see the biggest difference between raising children today vs. when your mother raised you? What is better today, what was better then?  
 There is much more accessible information out there about parenting, from pregnancy to adulthood. In some instances having access to information is incredibly helpful, such as smoking during pregnancy. But other times, it can be too overwhelming and is creating mothers who are constantly second guessing themselves, judging others and overall probably trying a little too hard. I am pretty sure that my mother considered my childhood a success because I had food in my stomach, a roof over my head and hand me down clothes on my back. On the other hand, I am losing sleep at night because it is March and I haven’t signed my kids up for swim classes yet this spring. Personally I am trying to balance all the information out there about how to be the perfect parent and tap into some of my childhood memories of my mother giving me the space to entertain myself, make mistakes and solve my own problems.
 
Within the realms of society what is your biggest concern regarding your children (environment, race, education, etc)?
 I love their innocence so much and it disturbs me too much to think of anything other than a perfect world for them to live in. I just hope to give them the tools they need to survive this imperfect world because what may concern me today, will change one hundred times by the time they reach adulthood. I honestly can’t imagine what they will need to face at that point.
 
Best advice given to you?
 I can’t remember. I think I was too stubborn to listen to any advice.
 
Your best advice to a new mom?  
There is NO right answer, every baby and child is different even in your own family. As long as the child isn’t in any danger, do whatever works for you and your family who cares what the other people in your lives have to say. Co‐sleep, Cry It Out,Breastfeed or bottles, or whatever you need to do to get some sleep and not feel like a crazy person.
 
What is the greatest joy in being a mother? 
It is a relationship like no other. They can be so crazy and horrible that I want to pull my hair out and five minutes later a smile melts me heart and all negative feeling are completely erased. Every little thing they do, that millions of people have done in the past is somehow fascinating and marvelous when my own child does it, from smiling, to walking, naming stuffed animals, hitting a baseball and learning to read. There is never a dull moment and I love watching their individual personalities emerge and seeing the world through their own individual eyes.
 
Any personal thoughts?
 Haven’t I said enough already!

Birth Story…Becoming Mom

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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.

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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

BIRTH STORY      

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.  

 

 

 

 

 

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