MotherGather

Real Baby and Birth Stories from Real Women

The Birth of Jenny Rebecca, February 14th, 1972

In the summer of 1971 I was 21. I discovered that I was pregnant.  I was single and had just finished my second year of teaching.  I was visiting my step-brother and his wife in Niagara Falls when I found out.

I knew right away how I was going to handle the situation.  I knew that I wasn’t ready to raise a child. In 1971, being a single mother wasn’t as accepted as it is now, and I didn’t ever want to put a child through the embarrassment or ridicule that I feared were inevitable. I also didn’t ever want to resent my child for the difficulties that were bound to happen.

My parents wanted me to have an abortion, get it over with and go back to my life as if nothing had happened.  I knew I couldn’t do that either.   Since then, I have held the hand of friends who went through an abortion, but I knew it was something I personally couldn’t do.

So, I settled in, living with my step brother’s family and waiting until the baby was born.  I went to the Children’s Aid (now Family and Children’s Services).  I was assigned a counsellor whom I visited regularly through the pregnancy and she handled the legalities. We talked through my emotional and psychological issues.  I was able to make conditions about the family who would adopt my baby.  I said I wanted her to have a sibling.  A lot of adopted children are only children since there are not enough babies to go around, but I thought it was important to have siblings. I also said I wanted her to be in a family with some faith, whatever that was.

I went to a single mothers birthing class organized through the Aid. Most of the participants were 15 to 17 and then there was me.  This isn’t as much fun when you don’t have a partner there helping you focus and breathe.

I had one real concern during my pregnancy.  I had been in a car accident in June.  I injured my hip and they had given me an X-ray to check it out.  Although my doctor checked with a radiologist and assured me there would be no problems, I did worry through the pregnancy about problems this might have caused.

My due date was actually February 29th, which would have given the baby only one birthday every four years.  But she decided to come early.

I went into labour on February 13. I woke up to pains early in the morning. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for two weeks or so and these felt much the same, but when two hours later they were still coming, I figured this was the real thing.  By mid-afternoon they were coming five minutes apart so my sister-in-law drove me to the hospital.

When the doctor checked me, he thought I might be experiencing false labour since I hadn’t really started dilating.  I have since learned, after three babies, that I just have very long, very slow labours.  The doctor decided to keep me there.  He gave me something to help me sleep and said he’d check me in the morning and if there was still no progress, he’d send me home.

I drifted in and out of sleep through the night. Contractions would wake me up and I’d do my Lamaze breathing and then drift off again. I had no sense of time.

Sometime in the middle of the night, an Italian woman came in. She was in hard labour and thrashing around and yelling. The nurses kept trying to calm her down, telling her to breathe through contractions, but she was having none of it.  Her husband was there too and he was as loud and upset as his wife.  After a while she was wheeled away. I’m assuming they were off to the delivery room. And I just kept quietly breathing through the contractions alone.

Later in the night, I buzzed for a nurse.  She came in, annoyed: “What do you want?” she barked at me.  I got the feeling I’d pulled her away from an interesting article in the magazine at the nurses’ station, but maybe she was worn out dealing with the other delivery.  I told her that I thought my water had broken.  She checked me out – yes it was true. She said I’d probably leak a little with each contraction from now on and put on a pad and left.

I remember lying there, tears rolling down my face and feeling so completely alone as I breathed through another contraction.

It was early morning when I buzzed the nurse again. This one didn’t seem too upset to hear from me. I told her that I was feeling the need to push.  She went for the doctor, I was checked out again and off we went to the delivery room.

There was only me, my gentleman doctor and one nurse in the delivery room.  After two more babies, I know that is very sparse. Thinking back, I wonder if they were trying to protect me from prying eyes since I was “that” kind of case, or if they were very busy just then.

I suppose it was because it was 1972, at least I hope that was the only reason, but my wrists were strapped to the sides of the bed as well as my feet strapped into stirrups.  I never had the wrists strapped in my other deliveries. I didn’t know enough to question it all.

This was natural childbirth.  I did have some freezing for an episiotomy but the rest was natural.  At one point as I pushed, I remember saying, “Jesus, this hurts.”  The doctor told the nurse to give me some gas. She came over with a canister with a face mask attached and told me I should put it on my face and breathe in. She laid it on the bed beside my head and went off to do whatever else nurses do in the delivery room.  However, since my hands were strapped down, I couldn’t hold it to my face and never did get to use it.  This was another reason to feel sorry for myself.

And then she was born.  Just over 8 pounds, APGAR score of 9/10 because her hands and feet had a slight mauve tint until she started crying and breathing deeply.  All of my children had the same mauve hands and feet and the same score. Do they still give APGAR scores at delivery?

Sign 0 Points 1 Point 2 Points
A Activity (Muscle Tone) Absent Arms and Legs Flexed Active Movement
P Pulse Absent Below 100 bpm Above 100 bpm
G Grimace (Reflex Irritability) No Response Grimace Sneeze, cough, pulls away
A Appearance (Skin Color) Blue-gray, pale all over Normal, except for extremities Normal over entire body
R Respiration Absent Slow, irregular Good, crying

The baby was whisked away to the nursery and I was cleaned up and taken to the ward.

Back in those pre-historic times, women were kept in hospital for five days following delivery.  That first day, my sister-in-law visited me with Valentine cards made for me by my niece and nephew.  I asked her if she would walk with me down to the nursery to see the baby.  When we got there I asked the nurse to bring the baby to the window so I could see her.  The nurse said she couldn’t. The baby was at the back, turned away from the window with a note: do not view.

I walked back to my room, so sad. How could I go through nine months of work to make a baby and not get a chance to see her, to make sure I’d done a good job?

The second day, my social worker visited. She had brought the papers for me to sign but first she wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing and hadn’t changed my mind. I told her before I signed the papers I wanted to see the baby once, that I needed that closure. She told me I could go down to the nursery and hold her, rock her, feed her. I could do whatever I wanted since she was still my baby. I knew that if I held her I wouldn’t be able to let her go, but I did need to see her.

That afternoon my gentleman doctor came in on his rounds. I told him I wanted to see my baby.  I asked why he had put the “do not view” notice on her.  He said he thought it would be too hard on me to see her, that I might change my mind if I saw her.  I told him that it was my decision, that if I changed my mind, that was also my decision and that he was to go remove the notice now. That was the second time in my pregnancy that I’d stood up to an authority figure and for the me of 22, it was a big deal. The first confrontation had been with my dad.

Later, I walked down to the nursery on my own and asked to see her again. I stood outside the big window; the nurse went and got her. I asked her to unwrap the baby so I could count her toes and fingers.  It’s one of the first things any mom does when presented with her newborn I think. She had my red hair. She’s the only one of my three kids who had my red hair, although I didn’t know this at the time.

And I knew I’d done a good job. She was a beautiful and healthy baby and I knew I was giving a wonderful gift to someone who could give her the kind of life she deserved with two parents in a stable home.

The following day, the social worker came back. I made out the birth certificate. I named her Jennifer Rebecca after a song I heard while pregnant:

Jenny Rebecca, four days old
How do you like the world so far?
Jenny Rebecca, four days old
What a lucky, lucky, lucky
Lucky girl you are
For you have swings to be swung on
Trees to be climbed up
Days to be young on
Toys you can wind up
Grass to be lying on
Sun up above
Pillows for crying on
When you’re in love
Ponies for riding
Wind in your hair
Slides to be sliding on
Leaves in the air
Dogs to be caring for
Love to be giving
Dreams to be daring for
Long as you’re living
Yes, you have
Dreams to be daring for
Long as you’re living
Jenny Rebecca, four days old
What a lucky, lucky, lucky
Lucky girl you are…

And then I signed the papers.  I later received a booklet from the Aid with non-identifying information about the family who had adopted her. Because, as a teacher, I was considered to be a professional, they placed her in a home with two professionals.  Her dad was a university professor.  And she had an older brother.

I never forgot Jenny Rebecca.  My daughters always knew they had an older sister out there somewhere. Every Valentine’s day I would keep track of her age, wonder if she was happy, wonder if I’d made the right decision.

Thirty years later, I got a phone call from my daughter Arwen. She’d been searching the web and had found Jennifer on a web site of adopted children looking for birth parents. On April Fool’s Day I finally contacted her. We exchanged a flurry of emails. I wrote all about her birth, she told me about her childhood. I found out what I’d wanted to know.  Her parents were great, she had a wonderful childhood full of love and privilege and she was happy.

She had a chance to meet her sisters and they finally met her. We keep in touch now through Facebook. Our lives are separate and that’s fine.

A few years after I gave up Jennifer, I was married and had a baby girl. A friend from my teaching days visited me with her daughter, a baby she had on her own and decided to keep.  I got a chill when she told me, “I kept Christine because now I have someone who will always love me.” I remember thinking that was one hell of a big burden to put on a baby.

I believe parents need to think about what they can give their children, not what their children should give them.  I know I made my decision on what was best for my daughter and I’ve never regretted my choice.

– Shared by Beth from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, now in B. C.


 


About The Author

Comments

Leave a Reply