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Twelve

My first born was a son.  He was conceived before we were married, which was part of the difficulty of the time.  And I learned much, much later, in fact only in that last twenty years, that I had been sexually abused as a child.  So the whole time I was pregnant, I had a lot of fear I wasn't going to survive birth, even though I knew birth was an ordinary thing that everybody does.  I went to talk with women who had given birth just to see what they were like, literally, which I didn't understand at the time why I was doing it.  Then I thought I was just a chicken.  He was due January first or second, and he came on December 31, the first year we were married so we got to have our deduction.  In those days, there was no preparation of any kind what so ever; no teaching, no nothing.  So all I knew was that it was going to hurt.  He was 21 inches long.  He was only six pounds and he had a head that was about a half inch larger than normal, and long from front to back. So not only did I have an episiotomy, but I tore.  They all had huge heads; there's no hats that fit on us.  Labor was not, for none of my children, very long.  I pretty much hatched them.  I think it started, oh maybe something like, one in the morning and he was born around 9:45 or 10:45, something like that.  The doctor was concerned for a long time because his head was so big.  He measured him to see if he was hydrocephalic, which he wasn't.  He's just brainy (laughing).  He's big and has a big head, and a lot of bone I think.  The labor itself was very, very painful.  They didn't know to tell me not to lie on my back or anything, they didn't do anything that helped in any way.  This was 1956. When he was about to come, then they gave me a saddle block.  They didn't use a spinal then, so they just numbed ya from all the way down.  And a couple of pushes later, he was born.  He did alright, although, he had a hard time keeping warm because he was so thin.  He hadn't any flesh on him, so being inside in nightgowns he would be cold.  So holding him helped.  My recovery was difficult because of the tear, and I now have major incontinence problems because of that.  You know, I did all that hard work, now why do I have to do this?  So it took quite a while before natural elimination could occur without quite a bit of discomfort.  And in those days, you were in the hospital for four days until the milk came in.  I had this little bity frail looking boy and I had milk that came in that could have filled ten (laughing).  I had these big square things that went from one side of me to the other.  The doctor pulled back the cover and got this funny look on his face.  And he said, "Well, it's good to see you have enough milk," (laughing).  But the sad thing was that he was so tiny, he couldn't suck very well.  Although he did, but nowadays there would have been a way to continue to help him nurse.  He'd lost the usual half pound or so after birth, but when he wasn't gaining it back right a way they took him off nursing him in two weeks.  Yeah, it broke my heart.  He was too tiny to suck.  He wasn't a preemie, he was only a day or two early; he was just a tiny guy.  He never did have a very big appetite.  He was a slim guy and he just didn't eat a lot of food.  He was very particular, he had colic and a lot of hard stuff.  Well very shortly later, I was pregnant again.  He was born on December 31, and I believe I conceived on Valentine's Day (laughing).  Because I had quit nursing, but I hadn't had a period yet.  So as a matter of fact, I didn't have a period until we were married almost two years (laughing), and I was embarrassed cuz I hadn't had to adjust that with my husband.  So here we are, we live together and have two children, and I'm embarrassed to have my period.  Anyway, she was born a few days early too.  She was due around Thanksgiving, and she was born the Friday before.  Because I had had only two or three pushes to put him (first baby) out once they had given me the block, then I chose not to have that.  Instead, they gave me something and I don't know what it was.  So when I was in labor for the second one, my daughter, when I was in the delivery room, they had a mask for me to inhale from as much as I wanted to.  I could put it on and take it off.  Now, I didn't want to be knocked out.  Having children and being a mother was my primary mission, so I didn't want to be knocked out for it.  She came in three and a half or four hours and was seven, almost eight, pounds.  But a round head and a different shape, shorter and rounder, which is not as hard to deliver as this big boned thing  And with neither one of them did I have morning sickness to speak of and I didn't gain all that much.  Of course, I was ashamed to be pregnant with the first one, so I almost dieted which wasn't any good.  So at full term, I had gained something like four and a half pounds and he weighed six, but see I was overweight and I didn't have any counseling on that either.  So with my daughter, I gained twenty, twenty-five, pounds and that pregnancy started fluid retention which I have had ever since.  I hadn't had it before that, but I had it terribly with her.  My legs were just so swollen.  Here I already had a baby, and I was pregnant, and living away from home.  We moved to away from home a month before my first was born. We moved 400 miles away, December first, so we were not at home for that Christmas, or my brother's wedding, or other stuff.  Anyway, when she was born, the folks came.  Well, mother came to help both times, well all the times with my kids after they were born.  She was born Friday morning, and I came home on Sunday, which was earlier than usual but at that point.  With the first one, we had no insurance to cover and we were makin', I think, 350 a month.  His whole delivery hospital bill, nursery and all that, was 125 dollars, but it had to come out of pocket.  So with her (second baby) I wanted to have less anesthesia to save us some money.  And here it was again, so soon again, the expense of the baby.  So when she was born, I started in nursing again.  I could have nursed her for quite a long time, but I was worn to the nub.  He (first baby) was not yet eleven months; he was ten months three weeks old when she was born.  I had none one Christmas and two the next, in separate births; if that's not folly, I don't know what.  At six weeks we realized that my husband could be giving her the night feeding.  And again, instead of getting any counseling, or any help with that, we just quit cold turkey.  Of course, I went through the full breast thing both times, which was very painful.  They didn't have the medications, and stuff, they have now to help that.  So she was born November 21 of '57.  And when we put her on a bottle, they put her on canned milk and Karro syrup.  That was the formula, no other formula of any kind.  Now I had used one for my son to help him gain.  I can almost remember the name; it's a brand that's still around. I'm sure it helped him gain strength.  His little head was so heavy that when he lay on the bed it took him until he was four months old to be able to lift his head.  Plus, he was a small body, he didn't have a lot of muscle development.  Well, she was all together different, big boned like me and did much better, ate well, and was a happier person.  And just a year after she was born, I had a miscarriage, very early miscarriage.  I had just missed my period by a week.  Oh I left out the fact that following her birth, which really wasn't all that hard again it was just two or three pushes, when I got home I had developed an infection.  A uterine infection which was very painful, doubled up in pain.  And they put me on some medication, some new antibiotic, that was just cut out for that, and it did kick it, but then I was already wiped out from the baby and being pregnant.  So it took me a while to get back on my feet after that.  But I think the reason I miscarried was because I had finally had to have my cervix cauterized, because it just didn't heal and didn't heal and didn't heal after this infection.  They cauterized some three or four or five months down the road after she was born.  Then that miscarriage was in the fall; which was just fine, I didn't need another baby so soon.  I mean, I don't know what I would have done with three and the oldest being two.  Well, that would be ridiculous.  Anyway, so that was just a minor miscarriage; I think I just had a huge clot essentially.  We moved to another house, and we were getting into a different place financially, and my husband was threatening to have a vasectomy.   I had always wanted a bunch of children, so I behaved poorly and took it on me to get pregnant.  And the interesting thing is that I had to try for a month, where every other time it was by accident.  It was like, "Wait a minute, why is this different now?"  But with him I also had morning sickness.  I never threw up; I don't.  My stomach won't toss what it needs to toss, even when I need to.  So I just didn't, and I had a little bit again with the next two, but nothing serious.  Oh, I'm going to go back again to the first one; there were two little hospitals in the town we lived, in San Louis Obispo.  The anesthesiologist was at the other (hospital) which was like two blocks away when my son started to birth, started to present.  It came so fast that they had to call the guy, and he ran from the one place to the other.  Then, we were charged a whole bunch, and you know, I had like two pushes and he was out.  So I that's why I made up my mind that I wasn't going to do that (again). Well, then I went further with that and I decided to read about Lamaze with my third.  The initial labor with the first one was really tough, but I don't think any tougher than any other woman has, and much shorter than many of them.  So I read about it, and I practiced relaxing every afternoon, and probably fell asleep even though you're not supposed to.  So I had learned how to do that; it's a sort of self hypnosis.  I became extremely constipated, super duperly constipated; like in fact, it hurt to sit.  I was just plugged up everywhere inside and nothing worked.  This was just the week that my son was due.  I think he was due on Friday, and I had seen the doctor on the previous Friday.  He said, "Here, take castor oil".  Uhuh, oh yuck.....he said, "One way, or another, it will take care of your problems.  Take it with some root beer," (laughing).  Well, I have to tell you that that was the hardest thing to keep down.  I don't get nauseated easily, but man, I had to work to keep that down.  I was supposed to call the doctor when I was going to do it.  So this was gonna be a Sunday evening, and the doctor's wife chewed me out.  She said, "Can't you just wait until we have dinner?!"  So I waited ‘til later, then I drank the stuff about nine o'clock, maybe, and I was in labor by ten.  We went to the hospital and he was born at one a.m.  I had been practicing my relaxation ‘til the point when I knew the push time was coming.  There's a searing feeling when the head is really moving through the birth canal.  And I was trying to say, "Nurse," ha!  And I was so relaxed I couldn't raise my voice, "Nurse," and I said, "I have to push".  "No, no," and I said, "I have to push, he's coming!" "Yeah, no".  I said, "He's coming!"  And just then, my water broke and my colon emptied all over the bed, and that poor nurse.  So then, you don't get moved to a gurney, the bed just goes down the hall into the delivery.  And so my son was born into a pile of shit (laughing).  So it was three hours, and my daughter had been four.  I always claim that it was because of the way he was born that he always had such a dirty face as a little kid (laughing).  He went out the door and the dirt leapt up and stuck to him.  He was filthy the minute he got out of the bed in the morning, he always was.  I definitely had a lot of relief after that!  And I had such fluid retention that my bladder is put to heavy duty work immediately following birth, filling bed pan or whatever, having to go like crazy, and of course, I had the trots then for a while.  So I would be nursing him, have to set him on the bed while I run to the bathroom, and come back again.  I nursed him for seven, no, four months.  I don't know whether it was stress in our lives or what.  There had been plenty of stress, very tight budgets and not much to spare.  One car, and it was my husband's; he was in sales.  So I didn't have a car.  We weren't in poverty, but we were just in the next line above it.  So there was a lot of stress, and marital stuff too.  Anyway by accident we named them all with ks that wasn't the plan either.  Keith was the third one and he was born November second, almost two years after his sister.  He weighed seven and a half pounds and he was colicky.  This time, the doctor prescribed phenobarb.  So I was to give him phenobarb before he ate, and it actually settled his stomach more.  His colic was more predictable, there was a routine quality to it, but can you imagine drugging your child?  Yeah, we've learned a bit since then I'm glad to say.  And then, son of a gun, I was pregnant again.  Keith was born November '59, and the next son was born February '61.  They were fifteen months apart, and he was the longest labor, the fourth one.  He, too, had a big head like his oldest brother and long from front to back.  But he was only six and a half pounds; he wasn't tall.  He had more flesh on him than his big brother.  So what they gave me to get me through labor with him was scopolamine and demerol, and they don't even use scopolamine anymore.  It makes you go, "Yah da, yah da, yah da!"  It was hard work, but I had learned this relaxation stuff with the guy before, and I had learned by my own experimentation that lying on my side was much more comfortable.  Though it was hard work, it didn't distress me in any way.  He wouldn't drop.  He's been kind of a mommy's boy ever since, I think he just didn't want to leave; he had a good thing there.  Because I had all these babies, we thought that maybe I should feed him with a bottle instead of nursing him which I regret to this day. It was just as much work to sterilize and do the same (formula) that his older brother had.  But my husband could help, so I didn't have to be up for every feeding.  And that was a helpful thing at that time.  When he was born I had one who was four, and one who was three, and one who was one fifteen months.  The oldest one was not in diapers at night, but Kathleen still was and Keith still was.  Well, Keith was only fifteen months.  Kent was a happy baby, easy to birth.  Easy, easy, easy in every way.  With Kent, I did natural delivery and he's the one who came before the doctor could get there.   The nurse is standing at the other end of me going, "No! No, no, no!  And I said to her, "What do you mean no?  I don't have any options here, he comes".  When he started to come, it was like bing.  And he came at shift change, so he was born at 7:05 in the morning.  That's when the nurse who was trying to get off duty was going, "No, no, no!"  And the doctor comes in, and I see the doctor back there going, "I got here as quick as I could".  When they get into the canal I just go bang, bang, bang; it doesn't take any time at all.  My milk came in full bore, and I almost gave in and nursed him anyway.  I always regretted that I didn't, but he was a happy little guy and things went well.  Then we finally moved into our own purchased home in the fall of '61, and promptly I was pregnant again.  She was born June fifth and she was a couple of days late.  I had had, with each child, an increasing amount of preliminary contractions, Braxton-Hicks.  I mean, my stomach barely had time to recover before it had to do it again.  So Braxton-Hicks with her was lengthy.  Interestingly, it began about when ever John Glen did his up and down in space.  On the same night, our youngest son had severe bronchitis, almost to pneumonia, so I was up steaming him and holding him.  We wanted to watch a little bit of the orbit, and from then on I had Braxton-Hicks.  She was born in June, so I had it for three months.  The interesting thing is that then she was late.  You would have thought that my cervix would have accomplished something, but they don't accomplish anything.  They are just painful, tired cramps.  It's like having PMS cramps.  Let's see, so my daughter started out at eleven and she was born around three in the morning.  The second son was ten until one in the morning, and Kent must have been my nine p.m. the night before until seven a.m.  I think he was ten hours; he was an hour longer than his oldest brother.  For Kendra, we had moved then to Washington by then and had a different doctor.  All he did was tell me that since I already had four, the odds that something might go wrong were greater now.  Isn't that lovely?  Actually, I had had him for the birth of Kent, and I had told him that I had already done all this stuff about natural childbirth.  And I think that he didn't like not having control, because he didn't have anything to say about anything with that. He didn't like that, but his thing was, "Well you know, something could go wrong".  So here I am scared; when I had gotten so I was doing it on my own, and had control of it, and knew how I could do it, even though each one was different.  So I was in tears and I was scared.  So what did I do, but have a saddle block again when I had not had any since the first one.  She was overdue and mother had already arrived from California.  They were leaving on a trip to Europe, and I had to hurry up and have my kid so that she could get going on her trip; that was a little bit about my mother.  And incidentally, she grew up in a time when they were knocked out with the anesthesia, and nursing was icky.  She never wanted to see me nurse, I always had to go in a separate room.  It was something that she just didn't get at all, which was very sad.   She came to help us with four of them and my husband's mother helped us with the third one in the middle.  They had just retired to where we were living, and I thought that she (mother-in-law) would like to be there. Mother got in a fit because I didn't ask her, and I said, "Well, for Pete's sake, you got the other two!"  Of course, we didn't know then that we were having any more at that point.  So that was part of the stress.  It was one or two days after she was due, and I had decided to work myself into labor.  So I was walking up and down stairs, changing beds, doing laundry.  I went outside, I was weeding and gardening.  All this stuff with this big tummy and tired, exhausted, with all these babies.  They said, "Why don't you go to bed?"  Ron, my husband, took mother and the kids for a ride.  Well then, it started.  And they weren't home, and I'm going, "Come home!"  Because I was beginning to feel the searing pain and I thought, "Oh no, it's happening fast".  Well, she must have backed off, or maybe I panicked.  She was the only one born in the evening.  She started at about six p.m., and she was born around nine, nine-thirty.  And I had prayed for another little girl. She was a pretty baby girl, and is a beautiful woman.  She's really neat.  But there I was numb, and of course when I have anything that numbs me I get carried away with it.  It didn't just numb from there (breasts) down; it also numbed my fingers, my nose, up to my armpits, you know everything.  I'm telling the nurse, "I am pretty sure that I've got a full bladder".  And I said, "Please, please do a catheter.  I really am sure that I need it".  "Oh no".  "Please do it".  So she did, and it filled two bed pans.  She said, "You were right!" And I said, "Well yeah.  Guess what, I'm in here.  Don't I know something about what I'm doing?" (laughing).  So the labors themselves were good, except the first one being harder.  I am pretty much able to hatch kids.  I never did gain huge amounts; in fact, I could control my weight then better than I ever have since.  But the fluid retention problem has never gone away.  I used to eat salt, but not now.  That's one way the kids left their mark.  The first two were born in this just little dinky hospital in San Louis Obispo, and you know, you're in a room with someone who's having gall bladder surgery. And you all use the same restroom down the hall that the men used also.  When you cleansed yourself, you poured green soap on your vagina afterwards, oh sting!  I mean have they ever improved!  There was a fly in the nursery when my son, the oldest, was born, floating around on the baby cribs.  Not that they were destined for anything awful, but it was just disgusting to see.  Then when we came here, we got to use Overlake Hospital when it was brand new.  Kent was born there; I think it had been open only six weeks or something like that.  And then Kendra was born there again the next year.  The nurse came in to care for me and said, "Don't I know you?" (laughing) and I said, "Yeah, I was here last year," and she said, "Oh, I thought so!"  "Only it's a girl this time!"  I regret that we had them so fast.  She was born June fifth, and I didn't become 27 until June 16.  I had three in diapers during the day and four at night.  Then the middle son noticed how the baby was messing in her diapers, and all of a sudden, he was dry.  He'd toilet trained himself, except he didn't know what to do with his BMs.  He understood about peeing and, bless his heart, he went outside one time because he didn't know where he was supposed to do with them.  All by himself he decided that, which was a help because he took care of himself day and night.  Bingo, he was done.  He was two and a half or so, and he didn't need to do what those babies did.  The youngest one, Kendra, was the most colicky of them all.  There were certain symptoms that were with them that I am sure they have better ways to handle them.  By colic, I don't know if it was gas, I think it was undeveloped intestinal systems.  Because they couldn't burp, they sometimes burped projectile, but they always spit up and they had difficulty having BMs.  Then when they did, they went and went and went.  They wouldn't go but every couple or three days, and then it would get up to their neck, uhuh.  And they had to be held, so I always had a crying baby on my lap.  We had three cribs, I can't even imagine, to tell the truth.  I can record it, but I'm not there.  Certainly it is for young people.   I was very committed to being a parent and was very grateful that I could birth, that would have been the saddest of all if I hadn't been able to.   I did hand the job of contraception to my husband and say, "If it's a big deal that we don't have anymore, take care of it".  He never did have a vasectomy, but he saw to it.  And if there was any problem, I would just tell him, "Baby.....(laughing)  Let me remind you, I am extremely fertile".  I'm sad that none of them, well except from the last one, got to be a baby very long before they had to be a big brother or sister.  I think that is hard on kids, I think they need two or three years at least to be their own.   I'm sad that we didn't have better birth control, and that we weren't able to make the choices that would have made a difference.  But hey, taking chances four times in five years isn't a lot (laughing), except I got pregnant every time I did.  Then the one time I wanted to have somebody, I had to try!  Isn't that funny?  Our kids are wonderful kids.  The naming of them:  Kirk with a k, was a name my husband chose, and I chose Kathleen or Kathy.  Then he said, "Well since we're only going to have three, let's have Keith".  I wanted Eric for a boy.  So then, when number four was on the way, I couldn't exactly have Moe, so he's Kent.  And then Kendra, but it wasn't a plan; it just kept happening.  Kathleen I like just because I liked it, not because it was another k, but Kirk and Kathy came out nice too.  It was a privilege to get to be pregnant.  I did value it, even though I was weary.  The special time that women get to have that men don't.  To be acknowledged as something since the world began, primal, and the gifted reality of getting to be a mother.  It's just huge.  For the birthing, I wanted to be awake; I couldn't imagine being out, like my mother.  I mean, why would I go through nine months of hard stuff not to get to be there for the super time?  And it's such an adrenaline booster.  I even said to my husband, "That was even better than what got me there in the first place!" (laughing).  And of course he said, "No!"  He couldn't believe it.  But superb high, absolute superb high.  I don't know if there is anything better than that, which is why I was really angry at my doctor.  When I did the natural childbirth, I felt like I could get up off the table and walk right out of the room.  There is no diminishing of yourself when the birth is fairly rapid and not too hard.   I had to lie still for the vitamin K, so I wouldn't feel it, and I never hemorrhaged more than maybe an ounce. They always said, "You're not going to bleed?!" And of course, I always had episiotomies for the first three, but then, having given myself a little work out, didn't need any help for the last two.  But it's such a high; it is the most beautiful thing.  It is so amazing that your stomach becomes this human that's so creatively different.  Each one of my kids is so different.  There isn't anything about them that you could say, "Oh well, they're peas in a pod," so I'm grateful for that.