Early Marriage | Part 23

by Elouise


Elouise, Student Nurse, Son and Volunteer

The birth of our son marked a sudden break with the relatively carefree life we’d had up until now. Nonetheless, I would do it all over again.

The moment we arrived at the hospital, they plopped me into a wheelchair and whisked me off to the large, communal labor room. Goodbye D! See you later! For an account of this experience, see The Dean and I, Part 13.

Even though it had drawbacks, I’m grateful our son was born there. Why?

First, I had two wonderful student nurses who were with me from the time I began at the Clinic right up through childbirth. They were young, bright, eager to be of assistance, and knowledgeable. Without them, I would have been relatively alone in the labor room–checked on by a nurse, but not personally supported by anyone who knew me.

The student nurses didn’t cost extra money. They came with the package deal. All I had to do was say Yes, I’d love to have them walk with us through this pregnancy. And they did. That’s a photo of one of them at the top, the day we took our son home.

Second, the financial cost of having our first child was relatively small. A total of no more than $400. That included maternity clinic, labor room and delivery, post-delivery hospital care, and post-pregnancy checkups and support.

Part of this was due to my employment at Harvard Law School, and part due to D being a graduate student at the University. By contrast, the financial cost of having children today in the USA is astronomical, even when families have health insurance.

Third, after giving birth I was in the hospital for three days. I returned home on the fourth day. During that time I received help with baby care, breast-feeding, and self-care.

I also slept–except the first night, just after I gave birth. I was exhausted, and had stitches that needed daily attention. I never felt talked down to, or that I was a nuisance or a drag on the system. I was, in fact, treated with kindness, courtesy and Mother’s Day pampering. I loved it!

Finally, I got to see our son and D frequently. Yes, there was a feeding schedule, but it was flexible. That’s not to say visits with our son or D were ever long enough. I especially missed seeing D.

Here’s the irony. During pregnancy, D and I attended classes that helped prepare us for the realities of labor and delivery. Films and discussion, breathing exercises, ways to keep muscles as flexible as possible, how to get up and down from the floor, how to know when labor is beginning, etc.

So why include D? Because he was my coach at home, and needed to be as calm as possible to help me stay calm. Never mind that when the time came, D would be excluded from the labor room and wouldn’t get to see Baby until Baby was safely bundled up and in the nursery behind glass.

D’s main obligations were to coach me on breathing exercises, time my early contractions, be a cheerleader, and make sure we made it to the hospital on time—which he did. Beyond that, he was expendable. Or in the way. Or likely to faint.

One more observation. Nobody prepared me for what would happen to my body during and after delivery. Not once did anyone suggest that I might like to bid my lovely pregnant  or pre-pregnant body Goodbye. Farewell. You were lovely while you lasted.

I was shocked when I woke up the day after delivery and discovered I was in bed with a stranger! No, make that an alien. I won’t get graphic. It isn’t necessary. But I will never agree with the idea that everything will, with time, effort, discipline and determination, “Get Back to Normal.”

It will not. Case closed. Unless I choose to reopen it. But not today.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 July 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, August 1968
Boston Lying In Hospital, 1968