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point of view in a memoir

My Son Denis Is Born

To celebrate my birthday today, I would like to reprint a post from 2013. It is a passage from my mother Lucille Verreault Ledoux’s memoir,  We Were not Spoiled/A Franco-American Memoir:

My second pregnancy was also easy enough. This time, the war was over and Albert was not in the Army. He and I could live this time together. My mother had had most of her babies at home, but by the mid-1940s, women were being urged to have their babies in the hospital. (Dr. Desaulniers must have been urging me, too, but I can’t remember.)

We were still living with Albert’s parents when our second son was born on Saturday the eighteenth of January 1947. That afternoon, it was not snowing but there was a lot of snow on the ground. Albert had driven me to St. Mary’s hospital and then he had left me there. In those days, fathers were not allowed to participate in the birthing process and were told to go wait at home—“Somebody will call.” I guess neither of us thought of insisting that Albert should be there with me. It just wasn’t done, but even though Albert was not with me in the birthing room, it was different for me to know that he was in town and not on the war front.

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Albert had gone back to his parents’ home. Albert was never good with babies—Billy was still only 19 months, so I imagine that it was Mrs. Ledoux who was taking care of our boy. Our second baby was born at 7, and later that evening, Albert came with his father and my father. I don’t remember my mother or Mrs. Ledoux being there.

Mothers were kept in the hospital for a number of days after a birth. Again I was discouraged from nursing and I accepted the advice without questioning it and so this baby too was bottle-fed. On his visits to me, Albert and I tried to agree on what to call this boy. Naming Billy had been so easy because Albert wanted him named after his father, but this baby was not so easy. Albert wanted to call him Raymond, and I wanted to call him Gerald. Neither of us were giving in. I was sharing a room with a woman whose husband was a local union organizer. His name was Denis Landry. One day, I thought “Denis would not be a bad name.” When I asked Albert, he agreed the name was a good one and we had a name—Denis Gerald. I guess I won a little by using Gerald!

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4 Responses to My Son Denis Is Born

  1. Marjorie Webb January 18, 2013 at 5:34 PM #

    Awe, how precious this is and inspiring for me to read this essay of when you were born, Denis. I only wish I could do the same, or that I had asked my mother to tell me the story of my arrival before she died. This wonderful story confirms how important it is for us to leave our story for posterity.

  2. Denis Ledoux February 1, 2013 at 12:09 PM #

    {Note: When I wrote the reply below at the time I originally published this account, my mother was still with us. She passed away on May 5, 2015.] Thank you, Marjorie. I am fortunate to still have my mother with me. She is 91. I ask her questions about her life and about my childhood regularly. I hope to finish her memoir very soon, but I keep getting more info. Both wonderful and a bit frustrating to that part of me that wants to finish and move on–but that part needs to be kept in check as I continue to mine the memory vein.

  3. Maura Murphy January 18, 2018 at 5:15 PM #

    What a treasure, to have an account of your birth story, within the historical, cultural nuances of the time. A very happy birthday to you, Denis Ledoux! Thank you for helping us bring our stories to life.

  4. Denis Ledoux January 18, 2018 at 6:24 PM #

    Thank you. And, what a treasure to have an account of my birth in my mother’s words!

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