Thursday, November 25, 2010

The bad old days

Until recently, my granddaughter was a cryer. Not a FEED-ME cryer or a CHANGE-ME cryer, but an I-AM-IN-PAIN-DO-SOMETHING cryer. One minute she would be relatively content, and then the next, she would arch her back and kick her feet and thrash her arms and issue a heartbreaking and angry WAAAAAAAH! Sometimes she could be distracted with a pacifier and/or a windchime and/or NFL football on TV, but mostly she was just miserable.

What happened to change this? Baby N visited the doctor for her four-week checkup. After listening to the above symptoms, he prescribed Zantac. A few hours later, my daughter called me and announced, "No crying!" Turns out the kid has a bit of a problem with acid reflux. Besides feeling relief (because as much as I love that baby, the hopeless crying was getting old, especially for the parents), I also wondered how many pre-Zantac babies simply cried and cried until they "outgrew" the problem, while the parents (usually the mother) were blamed for being high-strung and/or making their child high-strung.

My first-born arrived thirty years ago, back when you had to go to the doctor to have a pregnancy confirmed (no pregnancy tests at the drug store). You might or might not get prenatal vitamins, because the link between micro nutrients and birth defects such as spina bifida had not yet been confirmed. The pregnant body was a thing of shame, so you hid your growing belly beneath ugly smock tops that flattered no one.

The safety of sonagrams had not yet been determined, so the baby's gender was a secret until delivered. Epidurals were not routine, either, although you could opt for "natural" childbirth. In more enlightened parts of the country, things may have been different, but for the birth, I was literally strapped down, flat on my back, feet up in the stirrups. And don't forget the episiotomy, anther routine procedure. At least my husband was allowed to be there.

All babies stayed in the nursery. Breastfeeding was not encouraged, so no lactation consultants. High biliruben counts meant time spent by the baby under the "billy" lights, while the nurses claimed your milk was "too rich".

We paid an extra $10 a day so I could have a private room at the hospital, another couple of dollars to "rent" the TV. The meals were the usual hospital fare, although we did get a celebratory bottle of sparkling grape juice. BUT I was allowed to stay as long as I wanted; none of this kick-them-out-after-two-days business back then.

In the end, I came home with a healthy baby and the realization that, while the birth experience could be improved, it was only the beginning, the gateway to parenthood.

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