Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Family Birth Stories: My Husband

My husband was born in the late sixties. I have heard his mom, my mother-in-law (MIL), tell various parts of her pregnancy/birth story, and it is very interesting in that it reflects how much the birth scene has both improved and worsened in the past forty-odd years.

When my MIL was pregnant (she had only one pregnancy), she became more and more convinced that she was carrying more than one baby. Her doctor (I don't know if he was a family doc or an OB) was equally sure that there was only one baby. My MIL eventually insisted on an x-ray (this makes me shudder, but hey, this was the '60's), and sure enough, there were two little ones inside. What a surprise! But my MIL's own mother had had either one or two sets of twins herself, so it wasn't a world-shaking surprise.

My MIL carried the twins full-term, to 40 weeks. I don't know much about her labor, though it was a traditional hospital birth. She says that she doesn't remember being given any drugs, but I can tell that she was probably given some big-time drugs. How do I know? Clue #1: She recalls at one point turning to her husband, during her labor, and telling him that she thought their doctor looked like Mickey Mouse. Classic for someone who's a bit loopy! Though I am impressed that her husband was there at all (if it really was her husband, and not a nurse - not 100% sure on that one). I don't believe he was there for the births. Clue #2: She doesn't remember her babies' births. Mmm hmm. Ask any woman in the WORLD who has consciously had a baby, and there is not one whose birth just "slipped her mind." Whatever they gave her, it must have been powerful stuff. Presumably, I'm guessing, the babies were probably forceps-assisted, as is usual with the "knock 'em out, drag 'em out" method prevalent at that time.

Both babies were born vaginally. My husband's sister, baby A, was born first, and was breech. My husband followed several minutes later, vertex. Both babies were fine, healthy, and enormous for twins - they were both well over seven pounds.

After the birth, my MIL was firmly told that it was impossible to nurse twins, and was promptly given drugs to dry up her milk supply. Thus, both babies were formula-fed from day 1. (When I later read a study linking breastfeeding to a 50% reduction in rates of rheumatoid arthritis development, I wondered if formula feeding had contributed to her nearly dying from the RA that she developed when her babies were two years old.)

In reflecting on this birth, I find several interesting points:

(1) Improved since that time: Mothers are no longer knocked out for their births. Thank heaven! Mothers should be able to experience and remember their births.

(2) Worsened since that time: It is now rare for twins to be born vaginally, or for breeches to be born vaginally. A twin breech is almost unheard of! Especially for a primip. I hope that this situation improves at some point in the future, but it will take some major change, as most docs are no longer trained in vaginal twin or vaginal breech birth - and midwives who learn it often have to learn it out of the country.

(3) The breastfeeding scene, though breastfeeding is no longer considered impossible or inferior to formula, is still not that great in America. Both our rates of initiation and continuation are abysmal. So that's in the "still needs improvement" area, though medical perception of breastfeeding has definitely improved since that time.

My MIL is an amazing, wonderful woman - a spiritual giant, a domestic goddess, and one of the kindest, most gracious and loving women I've ever met. I'll never live up to her, but I am so thankful to have her in my life.

Sometime I shall share my mother's birth story.

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