From a young age, I knew I wanted to have kids. I also knew it would be a good idea to finish my education before I did, so after seven years of higher education and a couple of years working, the time was right. When I found out my first born was on the way, it was welcome news. The due date was December 10th, and I had visions of a cute baby in a Christmas outfit as we had dinner and opened gifts. More on the dismantling of that fantasy later.
Once the excitement wore off, the worry aspect of motherhood began, and it continues unbated to the present day. It started with the realization that I had gone out after work on my birthday and had some margaritas. I had at least two. Or was it three because I wasn’t driving? They were strawberry, so maybe not as full of tequila as the regular ones? And strawberries are fruits, and the salsa had tomatoes, so there was some nutritional value. I was convinced that no matter how many drinks I had, it was probably at the worst possible moment for the infant’s brain development.
The next worry was about when the baby would be born. I had heard my mother frequently tell the tale of her first born, my sister, who was also a December baby. A five pound preemie, who was also breach. Add preemie and breech to the list of concerns. When I was getting close enough to my due date that the preemie concern was going away, I asked my obstetrician how much he thought the baby weighed. After a routine exam, he said “At least eight pounds”. If you ever have an obstetrician say “At least eight pounds”, line up the epidural asap.
Speaking of epidurals, I wasn’t sure if I would ask for one. The prominent birth class in the 1980’s was the Lamaze method. Parents went to classes once a week, and learned breathing techniques for the stages of delivery. We also got a book called Lamaze is for Chickens. That sounded about right to me and all of the other first time moms in the group. The information was valuable, but the week they showed the film of an actual birth, the classroom was silent. The reality of pending parenthood was sinking in.
Throughout your first pregnancy, you also have to be prepared for unsolicited advice, and birth horror stories. The advice is easy enough to ignore, but the horror stories can be graphic- labors that went of for days, asking for pain relief too late in the process, and on and on. In the days before routine ultrasounds and gender reveals, you also had a lot of opinions about the sex of your baby based on the way you “carried” the child. Add in people who would touch your pregnant stomach, and it was quite an adventure.
When my due date approached, the house was decorated, the nursery was ready, and I packed my bag for the hospital. I put in a cute baby outfit, and my favorite jeans and a sweater. On a sunny Saturday, our first born arrived after an average labor, tipping the scales at 9 pounds 8 ounces. No preemie issues there! And I lasted about four hours before ditching the Lamaze breathing, and got an epidural. I remember the Lamaze teacher saying “Don’t you want to feel your baby being born?” Nope. And Dr. Lamaze was a guy, so he never had to push a baby of any size into the world.
In the 80’s, moms stayed in the hospital for a few days, and babies stayed in the nursery. Nurses brought them to your room for feeding and bonding, but when family came to visit you usually went to the nursery. It was quite a site- new moms doing the “episiotomy shuffle” down the hall to admire their baby. The bassinettes were near the window, and had cards attached with the baby’s weight, length and gender. My little cherub looked well nourished next to the little six and seven pounders. The days in the hospital included how to give the baby a bath, and some advice about nursing. Compared to all the pregnancy and delivery info, there wasn’t much considering raising the child would take a lot longer.
Time to go home, and the next surprise settled in. I had no idea I would be wearing my maternity clothes home- the red plaid shirt that was the size of a tent, and expandomatic waste black pants were not what I had planned. The operative words in maternity fashion were large and loose. No clingy clothes or pregnant bellies showing for our generation. I don’t think I ever got back into the jeans I packed, but I kept them in my closet for years. Hope springs eternal! And getting the car seat, baby gifts and other freebies from the hospital in the car was quite a process. But home we went with two weeks until the holiday.
The rest of the month of that first December is a blur. I was lucky to have help with the baby, but when you are someone’s food source there aren’t any subs. And I discovered that it was a major victory if both the baby and I were bathed and dressed before late afternoon. We must have eaten something for Christmas dinner, but I have no memory of what it was or who prepared the meal. I was still in my maternity clothes, but I did find that nursing was sort of like liposuction, so that was one hopeful thing. The baby and I were clothed and present at the festivities, such as they were. Major new mom victory.
Over the years, I have often thought that December babies get short changed in the birthday department, so we made an effort to keep the tree and decorations in storage until after the birthday of our oldest. We also made sure to celebrate her birthday with family and friends no matter what kind of weather we were having. And in family tradition, our first grandbaby was also born in December. She has been a wonderful addition to our December birthday group, and is a very special little girl.
We are just finishing the December birthdays as I write this post, and it is certainly different this year with the virus still spreading in our community. But there will be cards in the mail, gifts delivered, and as much of a celebration as we can have while keeping everyone safe. Our holiday will be very different too, but there are still many things to celebrate. I think we are all looking forward to 2021, being able to see family and friends on all the special days, and everything in between!