My Birth Story

I was born in 1961 at Fort Bragg, NC. My father was stationed there and my parents lived in a house on base. My mother saw a GP for prenatal care, once a month until closer to term when she went to see him once a week. She took no birthing classes, had no experience and did not know what to expect regarding labor or delivery. I was a planned pregnancy, at that moment in time my parents had a good relationship, although living on the base was stressful. My father was never called away to duty but my mother has no memory of him being around that day, either during labor, or immediately after my birth. My birth father passed away while I was only 2-3 years old, so we will have to accept my mom’s version of events.

She remembers that her water broke during the day in the bathroom. She was surprised  she went into labor as it was about 10 days early. Her mother, my grandmother was on her way but did not make it in time for my birth. My mother has no memory of how she got to the army hospital but she does say that they pulled no punches once she got there. She was given an enema and then placed in a labor hall. This was a massive room with a lot of women all in various stages of labor, she had a bed and everyone was separated by curtains, but it was very loud and not very private. A nurse would come by every once in awhile to check on her progress, but other than that she was left alone, the staff didn’t do anything for the mothers. There was no coaching and no one to explain anything that was happening.

About the delivery she remembers only this: there was a nurse in the room who tried to place a mask over her face. The nurse would not take no for an answer and so my mom bit her, quite hard I guess since the nurse came by the next morning to show her the bite marks. I was born vaginally, but she doesn’t remember much about it except that she had no idea what they meant when they kept yelling at her to bear down. Given her fogginess over the details I wonder if there was Scopolamine (twilight sleep) in that mask and not oxygen like she believed.

After I was born she was left alone and was responsible for her own care, although she also said they had her up and walking around a couple of hours after she gave birth. She had to go to the nursery to feed me, had to use a shield because she had inverted nipples, and the nurses did give her advice about breastfeeding. She left the hospital the next morning with my grandmother and they had me out shopping within two days after I was born. She breastfed me for a few months which is why she thinks I was healthier than my brothers. Formula at that time was a mixture of canned Carnation Milk, water, and Karo Syrup.

My mom was pregnant three times, all of us born vaginally, even though my middle brother was in an odd position. She never did figure out what pushing meant, until she was talking to an in-law, Susan Harless, about the troubles she had in labor with my two brothers. Susan said and I quote my mom, “I don’t understand whats so difficult you just go to hospital and shit them out.” Only then did it click with my mom what the nurses and doctors meant by pushing and bearing down. She then realized that since she was confused and scared she fought against pushing which made the labors/birth very long and very painful and very difficult. She realized that knowing how to push correctly would have made it so much easier but it was not enough to convince her to have a fourth child.

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