As I mentioned two weeks ago, I picked up the The Good Mother Guide at Books-a-Million while looking for something interesting to read while on the cruise. Being a "new" mother again, the title and 1950s style cover immediately caught my attention. The chapters are brief and each features comical (when read today) excerpts from Ladies Homemaker Monthly, a popular magazine during the 50s. To follow through on an earlier promise to blog through each chapter, I am going to begin today with a response to "Rule #1: A Child is Born". This chapter offers an insightful discussion on the typical woman's emotions and appearance on the day that she gives birth to her child. I won't go into great detail (to prevent a copyright suit) and because you should read the book yourself if you're that interested. My goal is not to provide a Cliffs Notes version.
To begin, I couldn't help but to compare the photograph in the book with my own photo, taken shortly after 15 hours of labor and delivery. The contrast startled me a little. The young mother in the picture was dressed in a white lace nightgown (not practical, considering what had just taken place), and was in complete makeup. Her hair was perfect and featured a white bow. Her bundle of joy is a yawning cherub. He/she is also perfect and doesn't feature the disformities that I've seen in most newborns.
In contrast, I am wearing a green hospital gown and my hair looks like I combed it with a firecracker. I remember writhing in pain to the point where my hair was completely matted to my head. I didn't bother trying to comb out the tangles for two days.
I am not wearing makeup. It never crossed my mind to apply any, and why would I? My face is swollen to twice its normal size and makeup would have only drawn attention to this.
My baby does not look like a cherub. She looks like a conehead. The top of her head stuck out for over an hour before the rest of her body emerged. The cone remained until the next day. She is a little jaundiced, but mostly beet-red and very wrinkled.
The magazine stated that, "A woman never feels more beautiful, more blissfully radiant, than on the day she welcomes her bundle of joy." I felt neither emotion. Instead, I remember feeling lots of pain, an internal promise to "never do this again", some disdain for the baby's father, and a thorough annoyance directed at all others in the room who didn't have a baby poking its big head out of their lower extremeties.
After reading this first chapter, I realize how ridiculous and artificial society was at the time. "Good" women were really expected to apply makeup and slip into a lace nightgown before the father (who was smoking a cigar in the lobby) and other visitors entered the room. Well, times have changed. I've had the displeasure of being in the delivery room with several friends and relatives through the years, and they all look like hell at the end (except for my two cousins, Christy and Dana, who never broke a sweat or mussed their faces and hair during the ordeal).
I've heard some call the birthing process both beautiful and miraculous. What I've seen cannot even be called pretty. New babies are smelly and kind of ugly. Mothers are nappy-headed and bloated. That's just how it is and that is acceptable now, thank God! I guess I broke Rule #1.