Giving birth for the first time is life-changing. I was reminded of this, a few years ago while reading through my maternal grandmother Doris’s life history. When I came upon the section where she describes her feelings after giving birth for the first time, I was overjoyed. It is wonderful to me that I have a record of her feelings about that pivotal birth, the birth of my own mother. She says:
[T]here is absolutely nothing like that first-born baby. For me, that first birth, of our daughter Judy, represented a sort of “rebirth” for me, not withstanding my having assisted at a number of births in my nursing profession. I had this peculiar “psyche” that I couldn’t really actually give birth to a baby–I felt that I was a sort of unreal bystander or spectator in this big game of life, so when I did really actually give birth to a baby, I was brought to realize that I was first as real and able a player in this game of life as anyone else. When her daddy came into the room following her birth, I exclaimed “We did it!” (We have a baby).
I do not know the details of her birth experience. My mother was born in 1947, so it was during the horrific “twilight sleep” era, but I get the sense that my grandmother was aware during the birth process because of the way it changed her from feeling like a spectator to feeling like a “real and able player.” I wish she were still alive so I could ask her. And I wish every woman’s first time could be a beautiful, joyful memory and (re)birth just as my grandmother’s was.
Doris was a registered nurse, an avid hiker, and a lover of animals and nature. Though I never knew her very well, I feel she passed many of her best traits down to me. Sending you love, Grandma Doris.