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3 Baby Births Whether it happens at home, in a neighbor’s house, or in a hospital —which were constructed somewhat late in certain parts of Kentucky —the arrival of a precious infant is typically a joyful event. Every now and then mothers-to-be prefer not to talk to nurses, doctors, and even family members, due perhaps to the pain they anticipate having during the birth process. Some mothers resist support from nurses or doctors. Nonetheless, the birth of a baby is often very much a family affair, with family members and friends present to celebrate the baby’s arrival. Not often does the first sight of a new baby cause the father to faint, as recounted in the first story. Today most childbirths occur in hospitals, but numerous grandparents and great-grandparents across the Commonwealth have wonderful memories of the times when babies were born at home or in a neighbor ’s house, with the assistance of midwives or other women. Many of the stories in this chapter describe the work of midwives, who help the mother both before and after the birth. Although nurses encountered certain dangerous events, such as a mother unknowingly smothering a new infant while the two were sleeping together, most found that mothers and fathers typically did all they could do to help the growth of their precious infant. Viewing New Baby This is an incident that occurred while I was working in the OB [Obstetrics ] Department at Hopkins County Hospital in Madisonville, Kentucky. Some of my fellow nurses and I were sitting at the nurses’ station doing our charting after a busy evening at work. Suddenly we heard a loud noise from down the hall and also a big commotion. As we looked down the hall we discovered that a new father who had been looking at his new baby through the nursery window had passed out cold and fallen onto the floor. He’d made it through labor 52 Tales from Kentucky Nurses and delivery, and I suppose by this time the reality of it all had sunk in and it was just too much for him. Charlene Vaught, Portland, TN, August 2, 2011 Still Wondering After forty-three years I still wonder about this pregnant woman whose circumstances haunt me and I yearn for answers that I know I will never get. Who was she? Where did she live? What circumstances led her to hide her pregnancy? What events led her to face alone the birth of her baby in a strange town and then to give her baby to a local adoption agency? How lonely did she feel? What burden of guilt did she carry through life, or did she? She was a well-groomed, well-spoken, brown-haired white female in her mid- to late twenties and was from an unknown place just “out of town.” She moved to Henderson two weeks prior to the birth, and from all accounts, according to local persons, she lived alone in an apartment and spoke to no one, not even via telephone, except during her appointments with the gynecologist. We, the nurses on the obstetrics ward, intuitively participated in the silence so as to validate the unspoken acknowledgment of her shame. We dared not to ask her any questions. We told each other that her choice spared her harsh labels that would be a lifelong burden never forgotten, not only for her but also for her child. In local Kentucky culture, the child as well as the mother bore the shame [of an unwed pregnancy] throughout life. Her eyes were sad, she never talked so as to express her feelings, and we did not and could not ask. We assumed this was not something she wanted to do but something she had to do. Any debate was long past and she was yielding to her task. Each of us asked if we would and could serve as counselor. During her birth labor she moved cooperatively but silently. She showed very little emotion during the birth, not even expressions of pain. After the birth there were a few hours when she was considering seeing and holding her baby, but those handling the adoption counseled [her] not to do so. It would only make matters worse, so she didn’t see her baby. The mother signed the papers and left, as she had come to us, alone. The task was done, or was it? All of us nurses felt empty. We had denied...


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