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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Childbirth Without Fear

By Brenda Verbeck

My first baby arrived in November 1957. I was 21. As soon as I was aware that I was pregnant, I did what I always did and still do when faced with a new experience. I gathered information.

We lived in a fourth floor walk-up apartment on the east side of Manhattan. It was about 12 blocks from the Empire State building where I worked in an office on the 14th floor.

We were both very excited about the baby despite the timing. My husband was a student at NYU Dental School and our entire income was my $75.00 a week salary as a secretary. But we called just about everyone we could think of in both our families to tell them. I think a few might have been puzzled by why we thought they would want to know.

I felt great. Morning sickness? What’s that? And each day, I traipsed down those four flights of steps and walked off to my job and then traipsed back up. My only problem was feeling very sleepy during the first three months, a problem solved by eating my lunch on my morning break and napping through my lunch hour in the employee lounge of the Empire State Building.

Almost as soon as my pregnancy was confirmed, I had high-tailed it to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and looked for books on pregnancy. (At that time you could actually take books from that library).

After searching through the available literature, I found a book by Grantly Dick-Read, a British physician. It was Childbirth Without Fear. The premise was that if you were happy and relaxed all would go well and labor would be a natural and easy process, virtually pain free. I believed him. And I knew that no one could possibly be more happy and relaxed in her pregnancy than I was.

In keeping with the times, I was asked to leave my job as soon as my pregnancy showed significantly. After all, male buyers (were there any other kind then?) visiting the showroom of the men’s trouser company I worked for might be traumatized by the presence of a pregnant female. I worked for the personnel director and he asked me to interview applicants and hire my replacement. When I asked what he thought was most important he replied, (with a twinkle in his eye but I think he really meant it), "Make sure she’s infertile."

So, salary gone, but we coped. My husband, in his third year of dental school as opposed to the grueling first two years, became a weekend taxi driver.

I became amazingly huge. Being short and short waisted, the baby had nowhere to go but up and out and many people assumed I was having twins. Not so. I continued to feel wonderful and enjoy what felt like being part of a miracle - amazed to feel this life moving inside me. Granted that it sometimes felt like his foot was in my throat, it was all glorious.

My parents lived in Miami and as the delivery date approached, my mom came to be with us to provide support and to help through the early days of the baby’s infancy. To her I confided my worst fear. After all, I was so relaxed and comfortable about this pregnancy that I, believing Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, had a grave concern. What if went into labor in the middle of the night and I was in a deep sleep and didn’t know it.

My mother, without missing a beat, took my hand, smiled reassuringly and uttered what was probably among the most outstanding under-statements in human history: “Don’t worry dear, you’ll wake up.”

Boy was she ever right.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


So, how did the birth go??

My first was in 1968. When I asked about natural childbirth, my OB,said, well you can read Childbirth without Fear (Grantley Dick Reed) but very few women can do that. So with that kind of support, I had spinal anesthesia for the birth. My second was very different--a Lamaze birth--no anesthesia...wonderful!

Some things have changed for the better!

Hi Brenda,

I loved your story. It kept my interest from beginning to end.

I recently wrote a story here about the day I went to the hospital on the trolley car to have my baby.

Isn't it amazing that we all survived those days?

I remember Grantly Dick Read.A real bundle of misinformation. I always thought his middle name said it all.....

Brenda. It was fun to read your great writing again. And oh! the memories! I had 4 deliveries and each one was different from the rest. The last one was natural and far the easiest! Lyn

Nana - how did the birth go? Well how about 8 hours of labor, all of it centered in my back, with contractions 3 minutes apart. But he was gorgeous. Certainly Lamaze would have been much more helpful than Grantly DICK Read -- thank you Nancy.

And Nancy, just to let you know, when I read your story when it was posted, my back hurt just thinking about your ordeal.

I always envied anyone who had easy pregnancies. Mine were nightmares from hell. Nausea the full nine months and exhaustion sum up my days. It's a miracle that I had the courage to do it again.

Fool me once, Mother nature, more fool you. Fool me twice, more fool me.

I had 7 babies naturally, without drugs, because I was afraid of needles. I thought I would avoid having any scary shots and breeze through. I never slept through any labor and deliveries (although my breathing partner husband slept through most of them.)

Wow. Awe and admiration to you. That's quite an achievement. As for your husband, that too is amazing. I hope he woke up from time to time to rub your back and cheer you on.

My first child was born in Jan, 1952. I had already read Dr Reed's book and practiced the exercises. My daughter presented in the posterior position which caused some discomfort (shortlived)just before delivery.
My last three children were delivered after short labors with very little discomfort. I was thankful that I had found that book and had such great deliveries of my children, who all cried lustfully at birth.
My only regret was that my husband who had stayed with me during labors was not allowed in the delivery room. (They instituted that practise approximately three years after my youngest child was born.

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