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question for mothers from the 60s, 70s and 80s

(33 Posts)
kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 14:34:37

(leading on from the retro pregnancy advice thread in pregnancy...)

Those of you who had children in the 60s, 70s or 80s - all my life I've been trying to work out how typical my mother's experiences of pregnancy and birth were, in 1973 and 1976. I've never really been able to talk to her about anything like this, so details are more or less what I've pieced together from other people.

Paternalistic "silly woman should shut up and follow advice" treatment from the doctor seems to be fairly normal in the 1970s.

Things seem to have been fairly normal and OK in 1973, with my sister, who was born normally with an epidural in a very short labour, and then was allowed to be seen, held and breastfed - every 4 hours - and seen and held by both parents. This was in a teaching hospital. Mum stayed in for a week or two, and had lots of visits from HVs. It all seems to have been an idyll of crotcheted matinee jackets and little smocked dresses with embroidered roses...

With me, she had placenta praevia, went into (the same) hospital on complete bed rest at about 18 weeks (I'm amazed they didn't just tell her to let it go), had me by crash CS at 28 weeks. She was in hospital for 3 months after the birth, which seems long - I don't really know why, and have never been able to ask. She didn't see me until about a week after the birth, and didn't touch or hold me until I was out of the incubator at 6 months post birth (i.e. 3 months old). No breastfeeding was allowed, and she was just told to "shut up and get on with it, you wanted babies didn't you" - no help at home, my sister had been with (aged and ill) grandparents all this time so was playing up because she was probably feeling very insecure, very few HV visits, and no support, just get back into it all and get your husband's dinner on the table and do the tons of washing of towelling nappies. She had chronic dermatitis from all the hand-washing, and I think there may have been issues with her vertical CS scar. She has complained about lack of stomach muscle tone ever since.

Unsurprisingly she got PND which became chronic, she didn't bond with me at all, and has hated/scapegoated me ever since because that was when everything started going wrong - two screaming little children to look after, aged and ill parents, demanding husband, etc. She still blames me for her "fat stomach", i.e. the CS scar, at every opportunity. It's kind of the metaphor for the whole 38+ years of wishing I hadn't been conceived.

Was this more or less typical, or is this a horror story by the standards of the 70s?

firesidechat Wed 27-Aug-14 15:41:32

I would say that more than a week in hospital for a normal delivery was pretty unusual even then. I had mine in the 80's and it was 5 days for the first and 12 hours for the second. 5 days was far too long in my opinion. No visits from the HV and total lack of sympathy for my perfectly normal baby blues on day 3. It still annoys me to this day.

Why on earth was she in hospital for 3 months after your birth? That also seems very unusual to me.

I had normal deliveries and baby stomach ever since. It never occurred to me to blame my children for this and take it out on them. To be frank I think this may be a problem with your mum rather than a problem with childbirth in the 70's.

firesidechat Wed 27-Aug-14 15:42:44

(I'm amazed they didn't just tell her to let it go)

Let what go?

TinyTear Wed 27-Aug-14 15:45:47

Another EU country, but in 69 my mum stayed 2 weeks in Hospital and then in 73 stayed 4 or 5 days

ProfYaffle Wed 27-Aug-14 15:48:58

Hmmm. I was born in 1972 and my Mum didn't have a CS but had a very traumatic vb with minimal pain relief. Dad wasn't allowed to be with her, bf wasn't really considered, she was patronised and dictated to by hospital staff and had next to no support post natally. She ended up with severe PND and took valium for a large chunk of my childhood.

However, she's never held me responsible and has always been a loving and supportive Mum.

fluffyfanjo Wed 27-Aug-14 15:53:30

I had my first DS in 1986 and DS3 in 2010 so I can compare how things changed in those 23 years.

At the anti natel clinic when pregnant with DS1 they insisted on calling me MRS (I was unmarried)

An internal appeared to be performed at every antenatal appointment - I didn't have any with DS3.

A 3 day stay in hospital was standard for a vaginal birth - 4 hours was more the norm after DS3.

Nobody ever asked me if it was ok to touch or examine me whilst in labor - When I had DS 3 I was amazed when the midwifes actually knocked on the door before entering !! and examinations were kept to a minimum.

Demand feeding was a new thing - and was encouraged to stretch out feeds to 4 hourly.

Weaning was at (around) 6 weeks !!

Babies were put to sleep on their side's ( supposedly to prevent choking)

It was usual for babies to go straight into their own rooms after 6 weeks.

Disposable nappies were designed either for boys or girls.

Mat leave was 6 weeks - 12months now.

Oh and as for "centiles" and "red books" they didn't exist - Baby weight was simply recorded on a card.

I'm sure there was more......................

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 15:54:09

firesidechat - "it" being me. My grandmother used to tell everyone it would have been better for everyone if I'd been miscarried, and my mother used to agree with her. Though actually I have no idea whether the placenta praevia would have progressed to late miscarriage, had she not been on bed rest.

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 15:59:10

re the length in after my sister's birth - I'm not sure how long it was - it may have been closer to a week than two weeks. Photos of my sister recently arrived home have always been "at two weeks old" but I've no idea if that was a few days after she'd got home.

re length in after my birth, I agree. It seems very long. If the CS scar got badly infected or something that could explain why it's been such an issue all these years.

ProfYaffle - sounds like your Mum had a tough time, poor her.

FluffyFanjo - that's quite a change all round. Just re centiles etc - that stuff all existed in my childhood, but maybe it wasn't compulsory?

firesidechat Wed 27-Aug-14 16:00:33

Well I think you have been very unfortunate, to say the least, in your grandmother and mother. They don't appear to have spared you any detail about how much "harm" you caused your mother and it seems that you have been made a scapegoat by your family. This is totally unacceptable and they should be ashamed.

JamForTea Wed 27-Aug-14 16:02:20

I'm sorry that you have grown up being told those things, I think that's really sad. It's sad for your mum too. It makes me wonder about attachment issues with babies who were treated like that. Have you had or would you consider some kind of counselling?

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 16:06:54

JamForTea, haha, I've been keeping the NHS in business for decades grin

Though it's never really occurred to me to think about this stuff before. I always assumed that emotional intelligence was something that was just totally absent from my grandmother's generation, and is a bit absent from my mother.

My mother could definitely do with decades of counselling over all this, but now aged nearly 70, it seems unlikely that she'll change her view from "the rest of the world is horrible to me and has always been horrible to me, it's them that need therapy, not me"

firesidechat Wed 27-Aug-14 16:07:05

fluffyfango, my experience of child birth in the 80's was different again to yours:

Only had internal exam at the end to see if I was at all dilated.

Like I said, 5 days for first, hours for the second child (also in the 80's).

Feeding was as and when. No routines imposed.

Weaning was 4 months.

Babies put to sleep on their fronts.

Mine went into their own rooms at about 2 weeks, but there were no quidelines then.

Had red books and centiles.

cafesociety Wed 27-Aug-14 16:07:05

I had both my sons in the 1970's and was treated ok by all staff. I could tell a story of how I induced too quickly with my 2nd, but we all have such very individual stories and every childbirth is totally different....sometimes misunderstandings etc. occur, it's a very emotional time and immediate decisions have to be made.

My husband was with me throughout both labours, I stayed in hospital for 9 days each time, bf one baby chose not to 2nd time....no problem, no judgments. It was a very happy time, lots of good food and rest and good care.

I have no idea why your mother should hold you responsible for the events around your birth, so it does seem she has some sort of personality problem, and maybe didn't bond with you due to the circumstances regarding all the difficulties she had at the time, which caused her a lot of resentment. The problem I see is that she has never had help to bond with you and overcome the blame she is putting on others.

I don't think it's the 60's, 70's, 80's era which is at fault but the way she chose to deal with what happened, the PND, and events subsequently. No one should blame their child for their own life/difficulties and shortcomings, it's not fair.

BasketzatDawn Wed 27-Aug-14 16:10:25

I think OP is referring to letting the baby 'go', i.e. be born to early to survive. sad

kiri, I think most women who had complicated births in the '70s do NOT blame the children, or anyone for that matter. But it sounds like she lacked support so much too. I think there was a tendency not to talk about difficult issues back then - we are slightly better nowadays, really very much better, I think. Though there is a way to go still, I suspect, to support women with emotional stuff following childbirth.

I wonder if your mum was in for so long because you/the baby was in special care. Also, maybe it was her mental health? Ironical in the circs, as maybe she'd have been better getting out and 'back to normal'.

Reading your post does remind me of how much easier things are now. There are more problems with vertical scars which tend to be weaker and are now rarely used in modern caesareans, so recovery is better now, all that hand washing to do, no nappy laundry services if you CHOOSE not to use disposables, no discussion forum like MN, etc. Also, being told to just 'get on with it' does kind of encourage a person to not ask for help, so it's possible your mother could have something like a herniated area or slack abdominal muscles(that could have benefitted frm surgery or physio)in her scar but has never told a doctor or discussed it with anyone.

That's my tuppence worth anyway.smile

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 16:14:55

cafe - yeah, i think my Mum has been feeling resentment and victimhood since her childhood, and has never really been given the skills to feel anything else. She doesn't understand the concept of "owning" her own life - everything is always about how someone else cut off her choices and paternalistically forced her to do something she didn't want - which extends from the wrong meal in a restaurant to having a second child...

OK - thanks for the perspectives. I wondered if I was being unfair in thinking a lot of the horror was down to my Mum's circumstances and her maladaptive coping style, but I think that's actually probably a reasonable assessment.

ProfYaffle Wed 27-Aug-14 16:18:55

I agree Kiri. Very reasonable.

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 16:20:14

BasketzatDawn, thanks for your perspective, that's a good assessment. And yes, she may well have underlying surgical issues that she's never actually fixed. Again, I hadn't thought about that. sad

Oh dear. I wonder what i could do to explore that, if anything?

I remember watching an episode of Dr Finlay (if anyone remembers that ancient TV show) where his mum had a fistula left over from his birth, and urinary incontinence, and he had to get her to deal with it. It was traumatic, but he somehow managed within the space of one episode, to sort it all out and have a happy little old lady. sad Wish life had the magical success rate of that kind of TV show... with the attendant lack of difficulty in convincing people.

mowbraygirl Wed 27-Aug-14 16:22:05

I had DD in 1973 she was born at 40+18 weeks I was induced because of that broke my waters and then put me on a drip this was about 10. 30am gave me pethidine to control pain and DD was born at 7. 30pm. Despite plenty of effort from young 'gorgeous' junior doctors placenta would not come away so ended up having a GA. Didn't see DD after that till next morning breast feeding didn't go well no help from the midwives plus I think they used to give her a bottle she got jaundice as well discharged after 7 days visits from midwife at home for a week then health visitors. I found they didn't give you much information not like these days when you went for check ups can't remember having many internals one on first visit and maybe one at end of pregnancy

DS born 1976 again induced broke waters at 10.30am DS born at 2.05pm no painkillers at all part of placenta retained so another GA recovered much quicker this time DS was a dream to breast feed took to it like a duck to water and weaned him at 9 months. Hospital stay again was 7 days same visits from midwives when home.

Babies were put to sleep on their sides although DS loved sleeping on his tummy terry towelling nappies were the norm and I still have their little green cards recording their weight. Mine went into their own room the day we came home from hospital lot of friends did the same they were great sleepers DD was 6 weeks DS 9 when they slept through the night just didn't know how lucky I was.

thegreylady Wed 27-Aug-14 16:26:08

I had two births in 1970 and 1974. The first wasn't typical as we were living and working in Sierra Leone. We had to pay and I had excellent treatment throughout. I was lucky to have a long but relatively painless labour (as in I've had worse period pains) .
My second, in Whiston near Liverpool, had one moment when the doctor obviously couldn't hear a heartbeat. I asked him what was wrong and he replied,"It's no concern of yours Mother!" I was both horrified and terrified. However as soon as he left the midwife let me hear the baby's heart through a stethoscope. Also, when I was in labour they did keep trying to force gas and air on me even though I was happy controlling the pain with breathing. It really wasn't bad at all.

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 16:28:39

crikey thegreylady! that's pretty good, except the moment of doctor-panic.

You must be sad to see the more recent history of Sierra Leone. Things were looking like they were improving in the last few years, until the last few months :-(

Lilymaid Wed 27-Aug-14 16:29:18

Firesidechat my first DC was born in 1987 and my experience was similar to yours, not fluffyfanjo.

Chottie Wed 27-Aug-14 16:31:28

I had two DC born in 77 and 81. Both were born SVD, with gas and air and pethadine for pain relief. I had stitches for both (non dissolving). I stayed in hospital for 10 days for DC 1 and 5 days for DC 2.

My DH was there at both births, both DC were breast fed for 9 months on demand. Mixed feeding was introduced at 6 months. I did what is now known as baby led weaning. I was very fortunate in that I had a large extended family around me and I never, ever had a babysitter who was not a family member.

I used towelling nappies for both DC and boiled them every other day in a Burco boiler. Both babies slept on their stomachs as was advised then. Both DCs were born in a small maternity unit and you had the same midwives throughout the whole of your pregnancy. Looking back, I feel I had very good ante and post natal care.

BasketzatDawn Wed 27-Aug-14 16:34:14

Your further post, kiri, reminds me of how 'emotional dysfunction' through the generations can affect ,um, generations.

My own mother was a bit 'weird', a bit hot and cold over me, also she and my dad reckoned my arrival stopped them from wanting any more children (they wanted 4, but I was the 2nd), and often told me this. There were various problems with me and my birth and maybe it was as well they had no more, but I do wish they hadn't told me. sadMy mum didn't 'do' emotion except to snipe as above; but I've come to realise she was damaged by her mother's experiences (due to traumas out of my GM's control). Quite a vicious circle really. I like to think awareness has made me a different kind of parent. I hope so anyway, and I do get quite good feedback.grin

cafesociety Wed 27-Aug-14 16:37:44

kiri I sympathise as I have had issues with my own mother resenting the fact that me being born complicated her life a lot later on.

She had problems which should have been sorted out by AD's, counselling, self awareness, support groups, anger management etc.....but didn't. And it caused a great deal of unhappiness and issues for me, still going on today unfortunately.

But in her era to speak of 'mental illness' was 'weakness' and had echoes of 'madness/lunacy/insanity' and going into an asylum...so you fought on regardless and admitted nothing. Blaming others makes a lot of people feel better, sadly.....

I think that your mother and grandmother were of this mindset, unfortunately, and got no help and sought no help. They used to call all the help we have now 'rubbish'.

kiritekanawa Wed 27-Aug-14 16:41:57

Basketz - very glad you're getting good feedback grin - and yes, these things do echo down the generations. It's sad to have people where you know there are problems they just won't fix because they're too scared and unhappy, problems that could very often be helped a lot if they would only go and talk to someone about it all.

I think my grandmother had attachment and resentment issues due to childhood traumas, and passed them on to my mother, partly through possibly the same pattern of not attaching and resenting the second child.

Your point about being different gives me some courage that I might be able to be a different kind of parent, rather than just a damaged kind of aunt...

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