A View from Glen Hill: Giving birth — some things have changed

The best holiday gifts are ones we can look forward to enjoying always, and Becky and I got the best of those this holiday season with the birth of Hazel Anne Hudspeth, daughter of Samantha and our son David, just last week. Hazel is the second of our two grandchildren, the first being Jack, 18-month-old son of our daughter Carrie and son-in-law Liam. We’ve found it such a joy to watch Jack’s development as, with delight on his face, he masters some new skill, usually by dint of much conscientious repetition; surely, play serves as the work of youngsters!

My daughter and daughter-in-law’s birth experiences in terms of venue were very different — and both of them, in turn, markedly different from our birth experiences over three decades ago. While Carrie gave birth in a traditional hospital setting in Boston (similar to Becky’s those multiple decades ago, though much more user-friendly), Samantha gave birth in a birthing center. The Connecticut Childbirth & Women’s Center is very birth-couple and family friendly, with the full medical facilities of Danbury Hospital right across the street if needed.

I drove there after work, pulling into a parking space right in front of a two-story house-like structure. Pleasantly surprised already, given what I had expected by way of a daunting medical facility, I walked into a very attractive and large living-room setting with a nice kitchen adjoining. There, a half-dozen family members were gathered talking, watching TV, and breaking into the large collection of food they had brought for the occasion. Samantha’s own birthing room was appointed like a very nice bedroom with an adjoining bathroom with huge bathtub in which a birthing mother might find herself more comfortable.

One other couple was also there giving birth, but they and their family were in a separate section of the center down the hall from this living room. We could hear both expectant mothers. Samantha was applying the hypnosis techniques she had learned in a birthing class and, with David joining in, focused on deep relaxation hypnobirthing, a definite step beyond relaxation techniques in use when Becky gave birth.

Shortly after Samantha had given birth, our entire family got to see Hazel. She was looking very pretty with a full head of hair, and she seemed entirely untroubled by the birth process and also clearly interested in what was going on around her as she was held in the arms of her remarkably relaxed and beautifully radiant mother Samantha, with her beaming father David by their side! Twelve hours later, they were on their way home.

Becky’s first birth experience happened in a large hospital on Staten Island. In the wee hours of that Sunday morning, we had said good-bye to our extended family, all spread out on multiple beds around our house having just welcomed my brother-in-law Randy off his flight to JFK, home from his graduate studies in London. Becky and I knew as we left our house there was no way we were going back to this assembled multitude without a baby in our hands!

Our plans in that regard met a hurdle, however, when the hospital’s staff obstetrician, upon examining Becky, advised us that we were “way too early” in labor to be admitted — “just typical first-time parents.” A Sunday-morning search for a place to spend time until the baby was closer to coming yielded little by way of encouragement in the seedy environs of our hospital. We finally settled upon a motel that charged for rooms by the hour, a convenient feature in our circumstances even though we were presumably not its usual or intended clientele.

We stayed there for only about two hours, not as an hourly-rent-inspired economy move but because Becky had come to the firm conclusion that now was the time. There followed a run through stoplights on unoccupied streets to pull up to the ambulance area of the hospital. We went up the elevator to a now completely abandoned-looking maternity ward with not a soul in sight. My polite “Is anyone around?” yielded no response, but a loud “Help!” from Becky got us some immediate attention. She was taken off by a nurse while I went to move our car to a lawful parking spot. But as I got off the elevator, I was told, “Go right back up — your wife needs you, stat!” So back I rushed, fortunately just barely in time to witness David’s birth.

We could really have used a birthing center!

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.