The Dean and I | Part 9

by Elouise

Boston Lying-in Hospital, wickipedia.orgBoston Lying-In Hospital for Women (center building),
part of Brigham and Women’s Hospital

It’s early Spring 1968. I’m back at work, and my lips are sealed. No talk about being pregnant. No need. Not yet.

But I do need affordable maternity care. The university refers me to a downtown clinic for pregnant women. It’s connected to the Boston Lying-In Hospital for Women. The hospital was established in 1832. Back then it was one of only several maternity hospitals in the USA. Now it’s one of the university’s teaching hospitals.

D and I drive into the city and park in the lot you see above. The clinic is in a side building separate from, but connected to the hospital. The large, first-floor waiting room is full of women in various stages of pregnancy, some with small children. (Think Call the Midwife, set in the 1950s.)

I see information handouts sitting around. They’re about pregnancy, caring for infants, and new mothers’ health needs. When the receptionist calls my name I go into one of several small examining rooms—without D.

First things first. Up on the scale! Every two weeks I’ll be weighed. This first day my weight is excellent, given my height and age. If it goes up at all, I’ll be put on a strict, low-sodium, low-fat diet.

The nurse hands me diet guidelines and goes over them with me, item by item. Even some healthy foods would be off-base for me. Even spinach wouldn’t be allowed! Isn’t every pregnant woman supposed to gain weight? And eat her spinach?

Before I leave the nurse tells me about a special program. Would I like to be part of it? Two student nurses would be assigned to me. They’ll follow my progress, be present at all medical exams when possible, be on call by phone, and be with me during labor and delivery and through post-delivery checkups.

I jump at it! I don’t want to go through this alone. I already know D’s presence isn’t allowed except in the waiting room. Not now; not ever. Except after baby is born.

Two weeks pass. My weight hasn’t changed, and I meet my student nurses. They’re wonderful. Young, intelligent, interested in what I do and what’s happening in my body. They smile a lot. I relax a bit.

Two more weeks pass. I’ve gained half a pound! Hardly anything! Maybe it’s because I’m wearing different clothes? The nurse hands me the diet sheet. I can tell she won’t take no for an answer.

Actually, the diet is important. I haven’t told my co-workers or Mr. Griswold that I’m pregnant. I’m not having morning sickness worth spitting at. Nobody seems to notice my little pudge.

I follow the diet. Amazingly, I gain only 6 pounds during the entire pregnancy! It was super-easy to keep our little secret for a while.

Now it’s mid-Spring 1968. Out of the blue, Mr. Griswold announces he’s retiring at the end of the academic year. He won’t be here after commencement. He isn’t sure what he’ll do next, but he’s in conversation with a law firm in another state, and might go and practice law with them.

I can’t imagine life without this job and Mr. Griswold. No one knows what’s going to happen next with office staff. The mood is somber and a bit teary.

A couple of weeks later, again out of the blue, President Lyndon B. Johnson calls Mr. Griswold. He invites him to become the Solicitor General of the United States. Mr. Griswold accepts. He’ll move to Washington, D.C., shortly after commencement.

Things get worse. An interim dean is named. We don’t know what kind of staff he’ll want. I don’t know whether I’ll have a job after May.

One morning in late April or early May, after Mr. Griswold dictates his letters, he says he has something to ask me. He doesn’t yet know that I’m pregnant. He and his wife, Harriet Ford Griswold, will be moving to Washington, D.C. But they don’t want to sell their house.

Would D and I be interested in house-sitting for up to one year? He doesn’t know exactly how long we would be in the house. It might be shorter than one year. He doesn’t need to know today, but he would like to know by the beginning of next week.

I could have dropped my teeth.

To be continued. . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 April 2015
Photo from (Boston Lying-In Hospital)