“The pregnant young woman looked into the doctor’s kind eyes. He reminded her vaguely of her father - someone who knew how to take charge. “I’d rather not be there when it happens,” she stated flatly. He smiled knowingly behind his wire-rimmed glasses. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Giving birth years ago
This was the scene occurring 30 to 40 years ago, and as recently as 25 years ago, all across the country. The rule, not the exception, was to totally medicate the laboring mother, many times with amnesia-producing drugs such as scopolamine, a drug commonly associated with “twilight sleep” and hallucinations. The mother not only had to cope with unfamiliar surroundings and her body behaving as if it had a mind of its own; she was also forced to deal with mind-boggling images and the lack of control over her thought processes. Because she was so heavily medicated, the mother had no urge to push, and even when she was conscious enough to attempt a normal delivery, her muscles were now so relaxed that the doctor often found forceps necessary to encourage the baby to descend down the birth canal and into his new world. After the delivery, the newborn was whisked away to the hospital’s “concentration camp” (nursery), not even realizing that his loving parents were anxiously awaiting his arrival, rather than being just another set of screaming lungs. A rude awakening - to be delivered out of a warm, cozy, living environment he had grown accustomed to into a crisp, white, sterilized holding area.
When his mother had finally slept off all the medication, approximately 12 to 24 hours later, she was handed a baby whom she did not emotionally recognize. Her maternal instincts had been greatly confused, and, indeed, she did not even remember giving birth. In fact, the nurse must tell her to feel her empty abdomen as proof of the arrival of her child...this child.
And where was the father during all this time? He had been herded down the corridor to a waiting room designed especially for nervous fathers-to-be to pace the floor, chain smoke, and choke down pots of coffee. Allowing the father to peek into the sacred labor room was unthinkable. Fathers, siblings and all others were forbidden in this isolated environment of sterility and regulations.
This incredulous, though accurate, account of a labor and delivery is a far cry from what the childbearing generation now relates to as a birthing experience. For the new parents of today, it is difficult for them to realize just how many changes have developed during the past few years. But a talk with yesterday’s mothers will confirm the details of this brutal encounter with birth. They remember, or perhaps should we say, they remember not remembering.
We’d love to hear from you…whether you have already delivered your baby, or you are still pregnant and waiting for that special little bundle to arrive.
What is important to you regarding your labor and birth? What special choices do you want to have when you deliver?
Or, if you have already delivered, what was so special to you that you revisit it in your mind over and over again?
What was simply the best? What would you change the next time you have a baby? I encourage you to take part in this blog and share your thoughts and feelings. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!
Pam Hood, RN, is the perinatal education coordinator and lactation nurse specialist. She can be reached at 217 258-2229, or reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org