Were you born in the ’70s?

My first homebirth was in l976.
Thought you might like to know how it was to be pregnant in the 70’s.
You know you were pregnant in the 70’s if:

1. You had to battle to keep caustic silver nitrate drops out of your baby’s eyes to prevent gonnorheal infections that you didn’t have.

2. Every maternity top had puff sleeves and frills. All the pants were Fortrel.$(KGrHqF,!lkE65oCemeyBOuz+Soffg~~60_57

3. No one would ever wear a bikini if pregnant. Nothing form-fitting either.

4. Your favourite books were “Birth Without Violence” by Frederic Leboyer and “Spiritual Midwifery” by Ina Mae.

5. Even though you weren’t a hippy, you had to make friends with some hippies to lead you to a midwife.

6. Your midwife was a follower of Baba Hari Dass or Rajhneesh. You never knew her last name and you paid her cash ($75 per birth. . . or $50, if you couldn’t afford it).

7. The idea of waterbirth, Dad’s catching or birth on all 4’s had never occurred to anyone yet.  I gave birth at home in the “stranded beatle” position.

8. there was mandatory separation of Mother and baby in hospital births for 24 hrs after birth for “observation” in the newborn nursery.

9. Episiotomy was standard practice for all hospital births unless you could find a British-trained doctor. Then, you’d get one anyway but at least he’d tell you in the office he wouldn’t do one.

l0. The cesarean epidemic had started.

11. Women were told to toughen their nipples with toothbrushes and rough face cloths to prepare for breastfeeding (no one did it). No one knew about positioning for breastfeeding so we held our babies at the breast like we were feeding them a bottle (face up to the ceiling). Sore, cracked bleeding nipples were part of life.  Lactation consultants hadn’t been invented.

12. Millions of women had already given one child up for adoption.

13. The high dose birth control pill was tested on us and that could be why a lot of your Moms have breast cancer now.

14. As children, we had played on X ray machines in the shoe stores. Xrays were still used to determine if some women had an “adequate” pelvis.

15. We loved our babies and created a grassroots movement of birth that the most powerful medico-legal-pharmaceutical groups in the world have not been able to quash.  We are proud of the young women rising up to carry the torch for us.
Gloria Lemay

(after this was published in Compleat Mother Magazine, I received this note from a young friend)

I tried to explain to my mother the other day about why she was such a birth revolutionary, why I admire her so much,
why the way she has lived is inspiring to me.   She doesn’t see it that way at all.  She says, she was afraid of needles,
and of being out of control and remembering nothing (on scopolamine) and of not having the money to pay the only doc in town who would do a Le Boyer style birth up front ($1800) and these, she said, were the basis for her choices in childbirth that gave both me and my brother gentle births.  I was trying to thank her…lol.   Ahh well, perhaps another day.

9 thoughts on “Were you born in the ’70s?

  1. I was born in 1968, but I do remember these types of stories from my mom 😉

    A few more to add:

    Every maternity top had the big “peter pan” style collar.

    Standard practice in hospital births to routinely give enemas and shave all pubic hair before births.

    Pampers were a fairly new thing.

    Not only was there no help for breastfeeding, but it was fairly common to offer the shots to help the milk dry up right away.

    As children, we played with liquid Mercury in science class – ooohing and aahhing as it rolled around on our desks.

    And now I’m planning a midwife homebirth for dc#2, and (as with dc#1) will use cloth dipes (when I’m not EC’g) and breastfeed on demand. Just like my great-grandma. 😉

  2. I was lucky enough to be born at home in Wales in 1966. My brother born 4 years later at 36 weeks had a major operation 2 days after birth. My mother often told us(and my sister) our birth stories, my sister and me thought my brothers story was way more exciting than ours. I often asked my mother why we weren’t born at the hospital and her answer was the same every time, well it’s normal to be born at home. Every day I thank my mother for that simple statement of fact.

  3. I was born in 1974 – my mom had four more babies after me, between ’76 and ’85. She tells me that each birth got better; mine was the only one she was strapped down arms AND legs for the birth (!!). She labored like most in the hospital with IV, Pit, episiotomy, on her back etc. & etc. And she did it all, all five times (including a stuck-baby forceps birth; 3 +8.5lb babies), without pain medication because she believed that it was important to avoid the drugs if possible. Her mother had all three of her girls without drugs in the 1950’s – she describes herself at the time as a “poor country mouse” (who was also 19 or 20 years old when she had her first baby) and she handed her young doctor a copy of Dick Grantley-Read’s book & said, I want to have my baby like THAT. And she did (!!) – three times. I can’t tell you how much I admire my mother & grandmother, and I really went into birth with an attitude that if THEY did it, under those crazy-horrible circumstances, *I* can do it with my birth ball, water tub, etc. And I did, twice. And my sister has, twice. Anyway, all that is to say I am so thankful for the women who have gone before me to make changes so I could birth my way, and for my mother/grandmother sharing their encouraging stories.

  4. Oh, and they both breastfed all the babies too – some longer/less long, but me & my sibs all at least a year – neither says they got ANY support, rather a lot of the opposite. No surprise that with the support we had, my kids and niece/nephew got the benefits of extended breastfeeding – my niece just weaned at almost three years and my son is weaning now at 3.5, the age his big sis did too.

  5. We have come a long way, eh?

    But in 30 years time I hope we look back and discover that the CS epidemic has passed as a weird nineties/noughties phenomenom. Practices CAN change.

    Actually – I hope we discover that in TEN years time!

  6. It makes me sad that my mother’s main memory of having me (in a US hospital in 1967) was being extremely hungry. They wouldn’t let her eat anything during the 24 hour labor/birth, and then I was born right after a mealtime…so they didn’t bring her any food for several more hours after that. They also tried to starve her during pregnancy…but luckily she didn’t really comply and I was still 8lbs at birth.

  7. I will add a #16 to your list. All babies were given sugar-water before they were given to their mothers. I did this during my nurse’s training in 1978. The few babies who were breastfeeding had to be weighed before and after every feeding. It was a pain in the butt – especially if one of the mothers changed the baby’s diaper because the weight would be different. Bottlefeeding was easier for the nurses.
    There was one crazy lady who kept her baby with her. They didn’t know what to do. How could you measure and document anything on an infant whose mother refused to put him in the nursery?

  8. In 1978 I laboured on a four bed ward. The woman across from me was smoking and because she was there first, she got to smoke the whole time I was there.

  9. I delivered my first child in a hospital in New Mexico in 1977, after months of wearing cotton dresses and shirts from Mexico… All long and, flowing. I was removed from a private swimming area for wearing a sleeveless Danskin leotard in the pool because I refused to buy a maternity bathing suit. My midwifes name was Soleil, no last name. I don’t think we even paid her. Maybe I cooked something for her. I refused to allow the nurse to shave my pubic area and had to fight her off. Seriously, pushing her away while I was in active labor. Jeez… I won. My son was born quickly, no episiotomy, no stitches, no shaved area and I went home within four hours. Breastfeeding came naturally. Sharing this with friends who delivered up in the northeast, I found they had completely different experiences. More like those described above. That’s why I became a postpartum doula. I’ve had four healthy children, all birthed my way.

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