Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms

When my friend Dick’s wife went into labor, Dick rushed her to the hospital, then paced in a room just outside the delivery ward. After hours of waiting Dick confronted a nurse, convinced that the birth had happened but they forgot to tell him. No, the nurse said, just be patient. She said the same thing two hours later, and again hours later. The waiting room had nothing to read, and Dick nearly went crazy. After the longest night of his life, Dick finally got word he was a father.

Dick was no dummy, so he was ready for the birth of his next child. He staggered into the waiting room with a stack of books several feet high. Dick plopped into a chair and opened the top book. Suddenly a nurse was in front of him saying, “Mr. McCabe? You have a healthy baby girl!” Dick was outraged. “You can’t be serious! Look at all these books! I just got here! Surely the baby needs a few more hours!”

When my erstwife and I prepared for the arrival of our first child, we attended birthing classes. A couple we met there had one bit of advice: “Bring FOOD!” They hadn’t been able to eat during a very long labor, and by the time the baby finally came they were hungry enough to eat the hospital drapes.

Based on those stories and others, I became convinced every childbirth is unique.

My only personal experience with childbirth was typical enough for people like us in the late 1970s. I was eager to experience the whole event, staying with my wife in the delivery amphitheater. We hoped to avoid drugs, and we wanted this birth to be supervised by a nurse-midwife. Our midwife, Anne, was friendly and reassuring.

The only unusual element of our plan was that we would have a witness. Ellen was a dear friend and fellow grad student. Ellen had recently decided she was gay. She asked to share the birth of our baby because, “As a lesbian, I’m not likely to experience childbirth myself.” We agreed, and Anne was happy to include Ellen.

Things began well for us, and then not so well. Our baby girl got hung up halfway into this world. We understood the birth would be tricky when we learned the umbilical cord was wrapped around our baby’s throat. Anne told us the delivery was going to be done in the delivery room, and she could not perform it. Hospital rules dictated that a doctor would now supervise the birth. Because the hospital had a rule against extra people in the birthing room, Ellen wasn’t welcome.

And that is how the birth of my only child morphed into a feminist drama. We had suddenly lost control of the birth, and the doctor in command was a stranger. Because he was a man, we feared he would be unsympathetic. Anne stuck a scrub suit on Ellen and gave her a surgical mask. “You are now an intern nurse,” she said. “Keep your mouth shut. If the doctor throws you out, well . . . that’s that. But if we pretend you are an intern maybe he won’t make an issue of it.”

Then we rolled down the hallway to the delivery room. The young doctor looked hard at Ellen. But he said nothing, and we all got busy with the birth.

Having Ellen present was a joy with unanticipated benefits. My wife was totally occupied with the pain and effort of birth, so she saw nothing. I couldn’t see a thing because I was crying uncontrollably. But Ellen saw everything with clear eyes. She wrote up the experience with affection and specificity and later gave us a copy of it.

I think childbirths are like snowflakes. No two are alike.

Do you have any childbirth stories?

41 thoughts on “Snowflakes”

  1. Morning all. The only childbirth story I have is my mother’s. When I came along, in the heat of summer, the doctor’s gave my mother a drug called “Twilight”. It didn’t actually do anything about the pain but gave her short-term memory suppression, which supposedly made the pain seem less. Unfortunately it made her forget my actual birth. I was not a wrinkled baby (neither were my siblings) so when they brought me to her a couple of hours later, she was sure they were trying to pawn off some other older baby on her! Luckily I look just like my father, so I did get to stay in her arms and eventually go home with them!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. My brother and sister were born at home as most children were in 1938 and 42 in rural areas. I do not know who attended, doctor, Midwife, women of the family? I was born in 44 in the hospital because my mother was having problems. It was a long labor with much pain so they gave her gas. Before my father went off to war, they had decided on a name, not that my father would much care. She had been thinking for awhile about this cute little boy down the street and she liked his name. So after the birth she was still floating on the gas when the nurse asked if she had a name in mind. So she said the name of that cute little boy. If I could find that man now, boy would I make him pay.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. At the birth of my daughter, my father, father-in-law and the doctor were heavily engaged in a three handed pinochle game. The physician played until the last possible moment, got the baby out and came back to finish the game.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Sandy could not get pregnant. So as soon as I graduated, we started the adoption process, which went very easily. We were told to expect a 14-16 month wait. Six months later Sandy discovered she was three months pregnant. Next week they told us to expect an adoptive child in 7-8 months. The doctor was not pleased Sandy was pregnant, doubted she could carry the child full term. Agency said they would keep us on the line to see what happened.
    After another four months Sandy was doing great. Doctor said it was going to be a tricky delivery, that this child was a one-offf. The pregnancy had been a fluke. Agency said we could still adopt no matter what happened. We bumped our place in the line back a few months. On the last day of the school year Sandy’s water broke at 7 a.m. three weeks early. I called for a sub. We called hospital and they said no rush, but to get in soon. We doctored in Duluth because of Sandy’s health. We were there by 9 and they began the induction process. Doctor was on standby ready to rush because of her health. We played cards for five hours as the process crawled along. Suddenly at 2:45 every sped up. They rushed her in. I was not allowed to attend. Doctor rushed over and was barely there to “catch the baby” as they say. Child and Sandy were fine.
    We debated staying in the adoption line, but pushed it back for 20 months. After a year we finalized our place and waited. Will, you can guess. Sandy got pregnant again, to the doctor’s astonishment and dis-ease. All went fine, but doctor again was sure it was going to be a tricky delivery. He was going to do a cesarean at the slightest hint of trouble. One morning three weeks early at 7 a.m. her water broke. They told us to rush right in, by the doctor’s orders. We got there at 9. They started induction. We played cards and decided to accept the adopted child, although we worried a bit about being selfish because right at that point the adoption wait started to get longer. Suddenly at 2:45 the process got very fast. They rushed her in. I was not allowed to attend. The doctor did not make it in time. The nurse caught the baby. Both were fine.
    Five days later they came home. The middle of that night Sandy had a huge problem. I got a neighbor to take the two children. I rushed her to local hospital. Doctor on call would not come in because her doctor was I n Duluth. I took her out to car. She lay in the back of the station wagon wrapped in towels. We made it fine. They told us it was not as scary as it looked. She stayed for 5 days very upset she did not have her new child. The day I went to pick her up, they would not let me into Duluth because of flooding, no less, for real. Sandy was weak, but fine. We decided to give up on the adoption. The doctor said she could never have another child. A year later Sandy had the operation to insure she did not get pregnant.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I have 5 childbirth stories 6 actually
    my wife had this plan about how to do the childbirth and we went in with a CD player and michael jones piano music(windam hill nice mellow stuff) we played it for 20 hours and she wouldn’t let go of my hands for those 20 hours.
    Next kid born in March during a blizzard. Nice birth trying to wait for mil to get in from Milwaukee.
    Third kid I wasn’t invited. My relationship wasn’t firm and it stayed that way. Good kid I’ve seen videos
    4th kid I had to be in Germany on about the due date so we induced labor and all the kids were there to see. It was a cool delivery.
    Last one was induced because doctor was going on vacation and nurses strike was in force so only hospital with good nurses was used. Delivery was made in time to get to my sons baseball game at 6

    My 6th story was about my birth. My mom ran into one of the nuns who delivered me in fargo in the 50’s. The nun said she had to ask for a transfer to get away from the awful doctors who snowed their patients. Snowed meant they just loaded them up on drugs so they were unconscious for the whole affair. My mom said the nurses all laughed at the funny things she said as she came out of her fog,
    I accredit this for my fondness for self medication.

    Daughter is due in april
    I guess I’ll get to see what’s changed. Youngest is 16 oldest is 30
    It stayed pretty much the same during my 15years
    We will see what’s happened since

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Following from tim’s comment on doctors who “snowed” their patients, it is important to note good changes in childbirth practices. In the 1940s and 1950s it was state-of-the-art medicine to knock the woman out with drugs and then the doctor would deliver the child with forceps. Doctors used to brag about how many kids “they” had brought into this world, as if the women involved had no role in it. There was SO much wrong about all of that. And of course, dads were relegated to smoking in the waiting room.

    When I was born, my dad looked lovingly at me through the window of the obstetrics ward. The new father next to him dug his elbow in Dad’s side and giggled. “Look at the funny one with horns!” That was me. The doctor had yanked me out of the birth canal with so much force my head was misshapen for days.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had considered a home birth (at age 32) but chickened out, partly because Abbott Northwestern Hospital had nurse-midwife I liked. We took Bradley Childbirth natural classes, where Husband is Coach .
    Was amazed at a 6 hour labor – woke in middle of night, by 5:45 a.m. it was clearly time to go in. (Husband hesitated to call the doc at this early hour.) Really laid back doc who, once we got to the birthing room, pulled up a chair in the corner, leaned back and closed his eyes and said “Let me know when you need me.” We had turned on, what else, GK’s Morning Show – this was January 1981. At 7:38 Joel was born… we called it into the Morning Show, so they could announce that this kid was born during the broadcast, but they didn’t quite get it, treated it like it just a recent birth.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    The most interesting birth story I have heard is that of my mother. The seventh child in her family, she was the first one born in a hospital on Sept 3, 1928 in Pipestone, MN.

    The family had re-located from Central Iowa to the farm outside of Pipestone that spring, just as Grandma found out she was again pregnant. They all had to make the adjustments common to a move. Grandma had always lived within a 1/4 mile of her family and parents, so it was a very difficult and scary time for her. (They moved after Grandpa fell for a land swindle 5 years before that, and he could not recover from the shame of having lost so much money and land).

    Five weeks before her due date, Grandma went outside to garden. Gypsies traveling the gravel road that accessed the farm’s driveway, stopped by the fence and asked her for food and produce. Grandma was terrified by this. The terror threw her into labor and Grandpa took her to the hospital in town. Mom was born early, weighing 3 pounds. Fortunately, Grandma was an experienced hand at child rearing and baby nursing. After two weeks in the hospital mother and baby came home where they kept the tiny baby in a dresser drawer until she was big enough to fit in the battered crib where the other babies slept.

    The few pictures of Mom later that year show a fat, healthy baby that quickly made up for her early birth.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It was also believed that Gypsies could cast evil spells on people. I remember vividly the tinkers (Irish Travellers or Pavees) that used to come to my granny’s house in Drogheda. They’d politely ask for something to mend, but if you declined their services and turned them away, would proceed to cuss you out something fierce. I recall being terrified of them.

        Many years later, while I was a student at SIU, our next door neighbors spent a year in Ireland. He was working on a Ph.D. on something related the lifestyle of the Pavees. When they returned, they’d tell some fascinating and harrowing stories about their encounters with them.

        Paddy Keenen, the Uillean pipe player from Ireland, is of Irish Traveller descent, a heritage he takes great pride in although his family abandoned the lifestyle while he was quite young.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Aren’t the tinkers or travelers descendants of people who had their land stolen the the British during the Plantation era in the 1500’s and 1600’s?


        2. It should come as no surprise that there are several conflicting theories about the origins of the Irish Travellers, but I believe that the theory you’re referring to, Renee, is pretty much rejected these days.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. One of my relatives on my grandmother’s side gave birth prematurely shortly after the end of WW1. The baby was so small she fit in a shoe box. There were no hospital wards to take care of such children. They fed the baby crackers and bourbon from an eyedropper, keeping her in the warming box of the kitchen cook stove. Like Jacque’s mom, the baby thrived. I told this story to my friend who is a doctor, and he said they couldn’t have done better for the baby at that time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My maternal grandmother gave birth to her first child only 7 months after getting married. For her entire life, she told everyone that she’d fallen down some stairs and had the baby early. It was only at her funeral that the actual dates were made public. My mother’s weight was a full 7 pounds – far too heavy to be a preemie! At least the old woman never had to face the truth that she got pregnant before getting married.


      1. My dad was born about 7 mos after his parents married. He was not premature. My grandma got a lot of grief from her parents for being pregnant out of wedlock. My mom just said “Well, that happened then, too.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Large, fully developed babies born too early were once more common than in recent years. The only readily available birth control used to be “the rhythm method.” Although it is hard to judge, I think social attitudes used to be more forgiving, especially if the young folks got married. Scholars think premarital sex rates have been relatively steady across the decades. Puritan teenagers succumbed to temptation long before flappers and hippies and others gave in to the same urges.


  9. I had two high-risk pregnancies. Son was born 10 weeks early, and was 3.5 lbs. Daughter was full term but threatened to come early. I am an obstetrician’s nightmare.


  10. My mom has the best birth story. She had very short labors for all of her children. For the first one, my dad dropped her off and went to park the car. Then he came in and asked to see his wife…and was told he couldn’t see her just then but if he looked in at the nursery, he could see his daughter.

    I don’t know if it was the same time or a different baby, but with one of her births she told the nurse as she arrived that the baby was coming, the nurse told her it couldn’t come so quickly, and that she would come check on her in a few minutes. She did check on her in a few minutes – when she heard the baby crying.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Hi Kids–

    Our son was a pretty typical birth. We took music too, but it was the bugs bunny on Broadway CD and we’ve always said that contributed to his great sense of humor. We also called into the Morning show and Dale and JimEd played a track from there. We weren’t too fond of the anesthesiologist and we were pleased that son pee’d on him.

    Daughter had a few minor issues and she was upside down for a while during the pregnancy. We were scheduling an appointment for the doctor to try a ‘Version’ when he just kinda flipped her around in the office. That was a clue to Kelly that maybe there was something going on.
    Kelly had emergency C-section when the time did come. I think we were preparing to induce labor but daughters heartrate was dropping. I was able to be in the room during that, but had to wait outside while they prepped Kelly. I was so nervous and didn’t want to call anyone yet, so I called our home answering machine and talked to that for 15 minutes.
    I thought I had transcribed it once but haven’t found it lately. Mostly it was me with big heavy sighs.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Our son was born on Psychology Internship Notification Day. Husband had to sit around by the phone all day waiting for phone calls from the internship sites that wanted him. My water broke mysteriously at 28 weeks, and I had to be in the hospital on bed rest to eke out as much time as possible before our son was born. They had induced labor after 10 days because I had developed an infection. They induced in the early afternoon, and husband arrived about a couple of hours before the delivery to tell me that we would be moving to southern Indiana for his internship.

    Daughter tried to be born in December although her due date was in late April. The doctor figured out that I had a condition with the unfortunate name of Incompetent Cervix , and performed cervical cerclage. That solved the problem and she was born on time. I am also RH negative, so that complicated things a little, too.

    They never really tell you the things that can go wrong in pregnancies.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Winnipeg is a world leader in RH research, so it was a good place to be pregnant. I should also add that son didn’t cost us a penny due to the Canadian Health Care System. He was in the NICU for a month, and with my 10 days in the hospital before hand, we would have been financially wiped out if he had been born in the States.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I think I have mentioned this before, but in 1949 when my mother was 7 months pregnant, her appendix ruptured. She had to have emergency surgery, and the baby, a boy, was born prematurely and died after a few days. Mom got peritonitis and nearly died. I think people have wondered a little why I am not talking more and being more excited about our grandson arriving in April. I guess there have been too many problems in our family obstetrical history for me to get overly optimistc until delivery.


    1. I can certainly understand that, Renee, but what a pity. You’re being deprived of the joy of anticipation for fear that something may go wrong. I find that no matter how much I’ve prepared myself for “something going wrong,” I’m still devastated when it does. Accepting gracefully what you cannot change, and making the best of it, is the best that we can do. But I get; it’s tough when you have learned the hard way that things don’t always work out as we wish.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, at this late stage, chances of a successful pregnancy are much improved. Wishing you and your family the very best.


  15. Best part of my labor story was when the anesthetist rolled his cart in to give me a shot of intrathecal morphine (the “walking epidural”). I had brought set of CDs that made me happy for my labor accompaniment – I figured Mozart and such was all well and good, but if I wanted to relax, I wanted happy memories. So I had my mix CDs from an epic party with a bunch of my pals – a lot of it was 70s and 80s music, heavy on New Wave and disco (not exactly “traditional” relaxing music for labor). “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper was on as he rolled in. After a pause he grinned and said, “I’ve given an awful lot of shots to an awful lot of women in labor, and heard all sorts of music, but this is the first time it’s been to Cyndi Lauper.” I think it really made his day…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Cyndi Lauper would set the right tone for that moment. But there might be some unintended irony in delivering a baby to the strains of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Boys just wanna have fun too, but it is girls who deliver the babies that having fun creates.

      Liked by 1 person

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