Letter to the Editor
Child and Family Digest
“Born in the Bathtub” was especially interesting and entertaining to me. I remember my mother and her sister reminiscing about a certain great-aunt (or cousin, I forget which – not in out direct family line anyway) “Belle.” A proper and dignified person, I gather, who had quite a family, and whenever her time was upon her, she would shut herself in her bedroom where the baby would be born neatly – and no mess to clean up – as she sat on the jar that went with every washstand set.
When it was all over and herself and her baby in order and in bed, she would then call in her family to rejoice with her. But she would not have anyone fussing around her at such a time when she knew just what to do and how to do it!
When my first was on the way, my doctor husband gave me some of his obstetrics library to study. I remember in one tome was a chapter on early methods of delivery, and drawings of old delivery stools. Did you ever see any? Something like a child’s nursery chair, but adult size with its front side open. Most of them were slightly tilted back, and the legs were short. I believe they were used on a table, to make things easier for the midwife or whatever (great aunt Belle had the right idea!). Anyway, gravity was allowed to help.
My baby was in the correct position, but towards the end, every time I had to lie on my back to be examined, I blacked out. There was the wrong pressure somewhere. I never sleep on my back anyway. When the time came I had a terrific desire to be delivered in an upright position – which of course wasn’t allowed. I know perfectly well that it would have shortened the ordeal very much, and still think so.
I noticed in reading Kristine Lavensdatter that the old custom in Norway was for the woman to be supported on her knees. I wish they would revive those old delivery stools. Probably why my daughter produced her son in two pains was because she was standing up. She must have had preliminary pains, of course, but she is stoic by nature, and didn’t pay any attention to the “vague backache” of that afternoon. There was nothing which she could time, so of course it couldn’t mean anything.
I notice that Anonymous in her bathtub claimed that she felt “wonderful” immediately afterwards, which is just what my daughter wrote me. At first she noticed how flat she was – who had been anything but flat for so long – and then said she never felt so utterly superb in her life. And it was at that point that two nurses entered, horrified, and whirled her off to the delivery room in that mad race, and collided with a bed that was in the corridor, and a stack of screens that fell over on her, and she helped lift them off. “So help me, I enjoyed every minute of it” – she wrote me. The staff was completely disrupted.
Well, here’s to the good old customs!
-M. O’B., New York