Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pregnancy—It Ain’t What it Used to Be

 (These are "Mod Mom" paper goods from Hallmark for a Mocktail/Cocktail party tonight in NYC honoring Eleni and her friend Neela, who both managed to be pregnant at approximately the same time.)

Women have been getting pregnant and birthing babies ever since Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel, and you’d think every woman’s experience of pregnancy was fairly similar, but I’ve recently learned that there are lots of new-fangled aspects to being pregnant that I never heard of back in the 1970’s when I gave birth to three children spaced three years apart.

I’ve been hinting and nagging and moaning about my desire for grandchildren for many years now, so when daughter Eleni announced, on the day before Christmas, that she and her husband Emiliio were expecting our first grandchild next August, it was the best Christmas present ever.

Since then, I have been following her pregnancy week by week – it’s a lot more fun being the future Grandma, because you don’t have to  suffer the morning sickness and the stretch marks and all the other bad stuff.  But as someone who hasn’t even thought about  pregnancy for over thirty years, I was astonished to learn how being pregnant has changed—partly due to all the technology, which  brings us so much more information about what’s going on in the womb. (I frequently call it “Too Much Information” – as when my daughter cheerfully announced “This week the baby lost its tail”).

I’m passing on what I’ve learned for the edification and amusement of fellow crones – those of you under fifty  probably know this stuff already.

Here are some things that I never heard of during my pregnancies:

A babymoon—a romantic trip you’re supposed to take as a couple in the second trimester (when you have more energy than in the first and third)  because this is the last chance you’ll get for a romantic getaway – ever.

A push present—sort of self-explanatory – a lavish gift for producing  a baby. I figure I still have three coming even though my kids are approaching middle age.

A birth plan—something you write out and print in multiples so,  when you go into labor,   you hand it out to your doctor and other health practitioners so they know how you want to go about this.  Nowadays the majority of couples seem to prefer a home delivery with a midwife—maybe under water  in a birthing tub. Eleni says she’s the only person in her prenatal pilates class who plans to go to a hospital. (This subject can lead to very animated arguments, I’ve learned.)

in my day, it was the doctor, not the  pregnant couple, who made out the birth plan—he just did what he wanted.  I had three deliveries by Caesarean—because the first baby was still breech after 14 hours of labor. Each time I got pregnant,  I begged the doctor to let me stay awake to see the baby born.  He would mumble “We’ll see which anesthesiologist is on duty” but in the end, I have never seen a baby born—not mine or anyone else’s. (Of course I could watch a video on You Tube -- illustrating all the new-fangled ways of giving birth.  People keep sending them to me.)

A music mix –this is something the pregnant parents prepare ahead of time so they can have their favorite music playing during labor and delivery.  This is also a refinement on the birthing process that I had never heard of till now.

A doula—that is a person (usually female) who  has been trained to help the midwife or doctor , mainly, I gather, by encouraging the laboring mother-to-be and helping her.  Luckily, our second daughter, Marina, has already trained as a doula, so she will be in the delivery room to help her sister.  The baby daddy (another new term) is also expected to be in the delivery room, helping, producing ice chips and encouragement (and DJing the appropriate music mix)  for the baby mommy. He is also expected to tug on one leg, I have heard, and to cut the umbilical cord at the proper moment.

During the one delivery when I actually was in labor (for 14 hours before the doctor decided I was getting nowhere and it was time for a Caesarian), my husband stayed by my side from about 8 p.m. to midnight, when he and the doctor both decided it was time to go home and get a good sleep.  I must say that my labor pains decreased dramatically when my husband left. (He was making me nervous).  He loves to tell the story of how he got home to discover no supper waiting for him and so he whipped up a five-star meal for himself out of frozen shrimp, heavy cream, and wine that he found in the refrigerator.

A final new-age improvement to pregnancy is all the web sites (the Bump, Fit Pregnancy etc.) that, after you sign up, happily e-mail you every week news of exactly what your baby looks like (they always compare it to a fruit or vegetable – this week it’s an eggplant) , its stage of development, possible problems that you may be  experiencing, and  they put you into chat rooms with other mothers who are exactly at your stage of pregnancy. 

I realize that these web sites exist to sell you things you don’t really need – like a baby monitor system that costs hundreds of dollars, and equally expensive  breast pumps. Breast pumps?  I never saw one back in the day—but now they really are a boon because they  free the breast-feeding mom from the occasional night-time feeding, which can be a real life-saver.)

All the refinements on pregnancy and delivery mentioned above are undoubtedly  improvements on old-fashioned pregnancies, but there are a lot of disadvantages to pregnancy in the 21st century.  There all sorts of things that you MUST NEVER do—all of which we crones did  and still the babies came out okay.  Nowadays the baby daddies seem to act as the pregnancy police to make sure the baby mommies never indulge in:

Drinking  alcoholic drinks. (Well, I knew that back in the seventies—I also knew, unlike Jackie Kennedy, that smoking during pregnancy was verboten.)

Caffeine—no coffee, not even tea during the first trimester.

Smoked meats, raw fish, unpastureized cheeses

Hair dye , even  manicure chemicals during  the first trimester.  (Eleni wouldn’t even get a pedicure until the second trimester.)

No airline travel during the third trimester.

This is just the first look  from “A  Rolling Crone” at the new-fashioned , modern-day pregnancy my daughter is so conscientiously participating in these days and that I’m watching in awe.  She has all kinds of milestones ahead, as she’s only in week 26, and I clearly have lots to learn.  One thing that I know already is that I’m not permitted anywhere near the delivery room.  That will already be  crowded with the  doula/sister,  baby daddy and  various health practitioners, all working to the background music of the birth mix.

I will keep you posted on what I’ve learned as things progress, but in the  meantime, check out the essay below, which Eleni wrote for a contest asking for articles about life in southern Florida.  I think it’s funny.  It’s called, “I’m Having a Bebé – Maternity in Miami.” 


lactmama said...

I am so glad Marina is a doula and will be there for the birth. You really need to see one in the flesh, a real miracle.I cry every time.
Birth plans are great tho people have to realize they do not always turn out the way one wants. All of the ideas of music and quiet are wonderful. We are learning more and more about what baby feels and NOISE, LIGHTS and YELLING are not it.
Calm, silent and understanding what is going on is a wonderful way to do it and a great way to tell baby that she is coming into a good place.

Am saving my comments re your observations re breast pump and human physiology for another time.

Eva said...

I have had 2 C sections and was awake to see both births. These days they numb you from the waist down. You hear everything but there is a sheet that keeps you from seeing the 'gory' part. As soon as the baby is born, you hear him and then he is shown to you over the sheet.

Trust don't want to see what's behind the sheet. I have been told by a male friend of mine that peered over it.