top of page

Child Bearing Through the Years

Leila Clarkson, 26 of New Jersey, wouldn’t have dreamed of smoking during her pregnancy 4 months ago and her family and friends wouldn’t consider smoking around her protruding belly. They have all heard countless lectures about the effects of cigarette smoke on a forming baby. But this was not always the case. Twenty-eight years ago, when Tilly Smith, 47 of New Jersey, was pregnant with her first daughter she smoked a cigarette in the morning and one at night to keep the symptoms of morning sickness away. No one questioned smoking around her nor did they question her indulgence in a cigarette. Tilly was than 19 years old and pregnant with her first daughter. Years later she would have two more daughters and would smoke through both of those pregnancies as well.

It is obvious that some changes have occurred in attitudes towards childbirth and childbearing over generations. Danny Blake, 50 of Sullivan County, New York, followed the classic sequence of events leading to his son’s birth 15 years ago. He met a woman, fell in love, got married, and produced off spring. Tilly, despite not being married during her first pregnancy, got married and later had two children with her husband. Today, nearly 4 in 10 survey responders find marriage obsolete and unnecessary for starting a family. Leila being one of those 4 responders “I did not see how having a child needs to be justified by having a husband.” Danny would never have thought of starting a family without having first been wed. His generation believes a family is constituted of a mother, father and child. Today 86% of polled people consider a single parent and child a family.

All my interviewees created new life in the traditional manner of intercourse. Both Leila and Tilly experienced vaginal birth in a hospital with the assistance of an epidural and Demerol respectively. Danny’s wife went a different route with a scheduled C-section. All three pregnancies where monitored by doctors but the amount of monitoring varied by generation. The most recent birth having had more ultrasounds in comparison to the one almost 30 years ago. Genetic testing also varied greatly between the most and least recent. Leila and her spouse received genetic counseling after blood tests revealed that she is a carrier for a serious genetic disorder. Danny recalled his wife only needing moderate blood tests during her early trimesters while Tilly said she almost no tests done.

The blood tests and genetic counseling Leila received gave her peace of mind. She knew that her little boy was going to arrive healthy, though it didn’t predict him arriving early. After his month and a half early debut Mathew was put in an incubator and monitored for 6 days before he was released from the hospital. All the monitoring, ultrasounds, countless doctor visits and endless blood tests that mark todays pregnancies may seem like extreme over kill when you are bloated and uncomfortable but they provide a reassurance that couldn’t be found 50, 30, or 15 years ago.

Mothers and fathers today not only have the luxury of peace of mind but they have almost complete control over their birthing practice. They can choose to go to a hospital, stay at home, be in a tub or bed or on the floor on all fours. They can welcome the family and friends into the room or have a doula by their side. The event can be photographed, videotaped, or live streamed to be shared with everyone, even the baby when he/she gets old enough. So many of these options weren’t available years ago. With the opening of all these new choices mom, dad, and baby can enjoy the experience on their terms.

Today almost anyone can become a parent with enough determination and some creativity. There is a wide array of options available to people who are seeking to raise a child. Classic conception and adoption being the oldest methods with new methods such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and the use of surrogate mothers. Those who couldn’t have dreamed of having a child 50 years ago can now not only join the pleasure of raising a child but can, if they so choose, have a designer baby. Whichever route a couple or individual decides to go, birth is still part of the process.

There is so many child birthing options available to pregnant moms. It can get over whelming to select the right method that fits your vision. For both of my children I chose to have a natural birth in a hospital. For me, it seemed like the only answer. I wanted to be in an environment that I felt safe in; in the event of a complication. There were minor concerns with the pregnancies of both of my children. During my pregnancy with my son I was sent for rigorous monitoring to chart the fluid levels that surrounded him. My pregnancy with my daughter took two and half years and two failed pregnancies to accomplish. It was important to me to have my trusted doctor and her monitoring equipment at my side. The only way, in my eyes, to accomplish that was to give birth in a hospital verses an at home birth. Although our hospital offers a water birthing room, the idea of being submerged in a mixture of water and my own fluids, did not appeal to me. The idea of being in a medically induced fuzz during the first moments with my new baby did not appeal to me either, so I opted out of any episiotomy anesthetics. (I think it is also interesting to mention that my husband was not in the room for either of our children’s births. We both decided that there are somethings he just didn’t need to see and a body coming out of my body was one of those things. He and the rest of our family waited patiently in the waiting room during delivery.)

Unfortunately, with the birth of my second child, a complication did arise. After only a short moment with my new baby, my doctor became concerned about the after birth. I had a condition known as retained fetal membrane, the placenta did not naturally dislodge itself from my uterus. After long minutes of trying to naturally remove the placenta I was sent to the operating room and put under anesthesia. When the procedure was completed it took me an hour or so to feel comfortable enough to hold my new baby girl. Even so many months later, I still feel like I was robbed of those key moments after birth. It just shows “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry (Of Mice and Men, Danny Steinbeck).”


"The Decline of Marriage And Rise of New Families." Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends ProjecClarckson N.p., 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <>.

Rathus, Spencer A. CDEV. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. PrinClarckson


bottom of page