Well I am going to reminisce, sort of. In March it will be 35 years since I had my one and only delightful daughter. Oh boy, was it all different way back when! Hearing about scans and all sorts of amazing things, especially those 3 and 4D scans, made me think back to 1977, and realise how primitive we had it - even then!
The first trip was to the doctor, for a urine test to see if "the frog died" (I have NO idea, don't ask!). Yes, I was told a couple of days later - you are pregnant. Obviously, we were supposed to always keep track of our menstruation - which I faithfully did. Mainly because I was fortunate if I actually did menstruate! My cycle was 40 to 45 days, if it stayed as a cycle. Which it didn't always. So we were able to pinpoint conception. Rolling around laughing here, because there was only the one night it could have been anyway!
Onwards. I had to see my doctor once a month to get weighed, for him to check the baby, listen to the heartbeat (with a stethoscope) and have a chat. Then at three months I was sent to "Clinic" at the hospital, to have a check-up, get weighed (hahaha), have a blood test and a chat. The first blood test I have ever had, and it was horrendous. The nurse tried to take blood from halfway down my arm, unsuccessfully. She eventually worked out how to do it, but left me bruised from elbow to wrist, and it hurt for ages.
Repeat this visit for 6 months (yep, we counted months). Then towards the end we attended 'classes', which were actually amazingly good. We were taught relaxation, some exercises, diet (bit late mate), how the birth process went, how to bath, feed, put nappies on etc. The disposable nappies were quite new at that time, and were horrible things. Guaranteed to give baby nappy rash in the space of five minutes. The last class we were to have a visit to the "Labour Ward". I kind of missed that one, being in there panting away at the time, trying to have my baby!
The big day dawned, a week overdue by my calculations, spot on by the doctor's calculations (he was wrong ha ha!). I was pretty scared, as we all are I guess. So with contractions all over the show, stopping and starting, going to 2 minutes apart and then quitting, I called the hospital. They said they felt I would be more comfy with them, and to come in. We arrived at around midday. I had eaten a very small breakfast, as advised, but had nothing after that.
First thing? Oh, we will have to break your waters for you. That was an experience not to be repeated, even the midwife wanted to know if the membrane was made from Dunlop rubber! Then the indignities began. First off was shave - not the nicest experience, someone shaving your private parts. Thank heaven she used a new blade! Next indignity was an enema - I kid you not, an enema. It is just that - grossly undignified. Then "into the bath with you" - " but I just had a shower as instructed". Doesn't matter, into the bath kiddo.
Into the damned bath, lukewarm water 3" deep. Out of the bath onto the toilet. Into the bath. Straight out onto the toilet. After the fifth attempt I splashed water over myself hurriedly (to get rid of any lurking hairy bits) and dried off.
Right. Action stations. Into the "labour room". There was someone along the hall screaming and screaming, and I tell you, it made me feel ill. What next? Onto the bed. IV attached because "you haven't eaten and we want to keep you hydrated also". Great. Just what we needed. A little shot of pethidine - they may as well have given me water for all the good it did.
So for the next 6 hours I went in and out of labour, most of it paralysed, where my baby was pressing on a nerve in my spine - backache like you wouldn't believe. Gas and air - god bless whoever invented that stuff, because without it I think I would have probably gone home. Actually, at one stage I asked them if I could - they said "you had your fun, now you pay the piper!" and laughed? They laughed? Aaagh. Rotten lot.
It was around 6.30 that I was told that they were changing my IV to an induction drip, as "you aren't getting anywhere, and the baby is distressed". How did they tell the baby was distressed? Listening with one of those 'funnel' things, and a stethoscope! Out went my nice little friendly saline drip, in came the torture fluid. From then on, it was 'increase the flow rate' and 'increase the flow rate'.
At one point my midwife said no pushing until we say, you aren't fully dilated yet, but will feel you need to push. This was what we were told was the THIRD stage of labour. When you need to push. Oh boy, did I need to. Lots of huffing and puffing and gas going on in that room. A midwife (now I am there with no lenses in my eyes so I am blind as a damned bat) put her head around the door and asked was everything ok? I said "Oh, I need to push". She said go ahead honey.
Next thing, hell broke loose, as she wasn't my midwife and I was pushing too early. Eek, I apparently tore my cervix quite badly, I found out long long years later. Finally, finally I was given the go ahead, and the room seemed to suddenly get light and warmer and fill with all sorts of people. I still have no idea who they were, which is kind of hilarious!
At approximately 8.50pm my tiny tiny girl was born, and was whipped away to be weighed and have a wrap put around her, eyes and mouth cleared etc. She was then given back to me for a while. Now they tell you babies can't see for the first six weeks or something.
My tiny miracle lay and gazed and gazed into my eyes. I was overwhelmed, just totally awed. And then I was brought a cup of tea (I hate the stuff!) and was promptly sick. Too much gas and air, she laughed. My tiny girl was taken away to the nursery, and I was rolled in a wheelchair to the ward.
I believe there were about 20 of us in the ward, if not more. It was quite a lovely long bright airy room, but oh dear, the snores and farts etc were a little too much! I didn't see my baby until the small hours, when a nurse woke me - apologising! They gave the newborns dextrose water the first night, to let the mothers rest. My stubborn little scrap absolutely refused! So I had to try to learn how to put her to the breast at about 2.30a.m. Such fun!
We were forbidden to shower or bath, in case we 'started bleeding'. I was going mad, needing a shower or bath so much - so I sneaked one! Bliss. Most of the new mums had had external stitches, and although they wanted to stitch me I refused. So we all did what the nurses called the "wet knicker waddle". Our babies were wheeled in to us each morning, and we were shown how to deal with nappies etc., (but only after the first day, nurses dealt with meconium nappies!). A physiotherapist came to the ward and we all lined up to do pelvic floor exercises (oh the joys!) etc.
I won't talk about how dismal it was trying to feed my kid, that is for another time, another place. It was a nightmare. On around the third day of the hospital stay there was a Thanksgiving Service in the hospital Chapel. I am sure the Reverend or whoever was used to 40 or so snivelling mothers each time he held the service, but it was a little blush-making just the same! Talk about drowning in tears!
Plodding on, we also had a visit from the District Registrar, and those who wished to could register their baby's birth then and there. Of course I did!
Day six arrived, and (a day early!) I was allowed to go home, feeling totally unreal, waiting for the baby's mother to come and get her, wondering how on earth I was going to do whatever it was I had to do....
I had 3 or 4 visits from the midwife, who checked me, then checked baby and cleaned around the cord (we weren't supposed to touch it!). I have a vague thought that there was one visit from a Health Visitor, who was so jolly and cheerful that I felt there was no way on earth I could talk to her - and that will be a lead-in to my next blog, which is about my own experience with post-natal depression, or "baby blues" as the illness was so lightly termed in those days.
No prizes for spotting the difference from then to now, as far as pregnancy, care, health and labour are concerned! You know though, I would have done it again in a heartbeat.