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Out of the past: Childbirth, then and now

HAMBURG — Guest "Out of the Past" column written by Ruth Cullen of Hamburg.

My first child was born in 1956 and my first great-grandchild was born June 5 of this year. I could not help but compare the two occasions.

I was taken into the maternity ward through a set of doors that kept me from my husband until after my baby was born. The nurses and maybe the doctor kept the father updated on my progress – or, perhaps, lack of progress. The ward contained two or three beds with women waiting to deliver.

I remember talking about how long we had been in the room, whether we were expecting our first children and other incidentals, to pass the time. It brings to mind a friend’s experience. She got very upset, when a woman who had arrived after she did was taken to delivery first. She called the nurse and told her, “I think you made a mistake. I was here before her.” The nurse told her that she was not at the supermarket, where you simply take a number.

I remember being woken up at 5 a.m., when a nurse or aide tossed a wet washcloth at me and announced, “Wash your hands. The babies are coming up to be fed.” I could not wait to go home and interact with my child any time I wanted, without orders.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was to unwrap my son, to check all of his toes and fingers. He had been swaddled very tightly and I suffered the wrath of a very verbal nurse, who let the whole floor know what she thought of my actions.

The nursing decision had to be made right after delivery. I chose not to and the next procedure I had to endure made me think I was Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” The nurse came in and bound me so tightly that I felt like I was being laced into a corset.

Another difference was the process of bringing the baby home. Forget the special car seat; I had the baby in my arms in the front seat of the car the whole time, and we arrived home, safe and sound!

Fast-forward to today and the miracle I witnessed, when I went to see my first great-grandchild. She was in the room with her parents and showed no signs of wrinkles from birth. A mere 10 hours after delivery, she was very alert.

I marveled at the fact that I could hold my great-granddaughter and not just watch her through a glass, like they used to, many years ago. I was amazed to see all of the new gadgets and items for babies and to discover how much the process of childbirth has changed.

The many surprises with the birth of your first child are quickly forgotten, when you finally get to hold your bundle of joy. It really is a miracle.

I still believe in the past practice of not discovering your child’s gender, ahead of time. Nothing can compare to that surprise.

As I think back to my own experience, I would have to say that, if age did not prevent me, I really would not mind going through the process of childbirth again.

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