DL— Today is my birthday. Here is the story of my birth on January 18, 1947. It is taken from my mother’s memoir, We Were Not Spoiled.
My second pregnancy was also easy. This time, Albert was with me, and he and I could experience it 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, Denis, 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 Saint Mary’s Hospital in his father’s 1941 Buick—the heater was beneath the dashboard and there was a fan to blow the heat into the cab—and then he had left me in the maternity ward. In those days, fathers were not allowed to participate in the birthing process because it was thought to be a medical procedure. Fathers were told to go home and wait for someone at the hospital to call them. 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. I would be seeing him soon.
Our son is born
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 o’clock in the evening and, later that night, Albert came with his father and my father. I know this seems odd that the women didn’t come but I don’t remember my mother or Mrs. Ledoux being there.
When I was taken out of the birthing room, I was rolled into a two-person room rather than in a ward as when Billy had been born. This time, Albert and I were paying for the bill and we had opted for a room. Mothers were kept in the hospital for a number of days after a birth—sometimes as long as week. Once again, I was discouraged from nursing and I accepted the advice without questioning it, and so my second baby too was bottle-fed. The babies were kept in a nursery, and we were allowed to see them only for short periods each day. The nurses—who were mostly laywomen—would bring us our babies, and we might bottle feed them and then they would come back to take them away. Those first days I spent alone, and Denis spent them alone. The nurses said it was good for us mothers to rest and the babies didn’t need to nurse or be with us. There were some women who had decided to breastfeed and so their babies were brought in more often but not necessarily when the babies cried to be fed. In those days, the doctors and nurses believed in feeding schedules and in discipline for babies. I don’t think it was a good thing, and I wish I had decided differently but that’s not what I chose.
Agreeing on a name
We still had not named our baby at this point. 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. Albert accepted that he had already had his choice when he had named Billy and was not stubborn about Raymond, but still 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 Leblanc. One day soon after my baby was born, I thought “Denis would not be a bad name.” When I ran it by Albert, he said the name was a good one and why not go with it.
“Well, it’s your turn,” he said, and so we had a name— Denis Gérald.
Coming back home
On Monday, Albert had to go to work and so Mémère Ledoux took care of Billy while Albert was gone. After a number of days, when I returned home with Denis, Billy saw me come into the house and he was so happy to see me! He ran up to me and wanted me to pick him up. He had been without his maman too long. He was all over me and the baby, and I was so afraid that he would hurt Denis. He seemed so big and bumbly. But of course, he was a baby, too—only 19 months!
Billy was walking and getting around. He was a chubby kid. Whenever he cried, my mother would say he was hungry and I should feed him. It was probably not a good idea to feed him so often. My family loved to have him over and the boys often played with him. He was like their plaything.
In May, my brother Marcel and Jeannette had a second daughter whom they named Lucille. It seemed that they were having girls a little while after Albert and I were having boys! For a while, they called her “Little Lucille” but I put an end to that when I said, “If there’s a little Lucille, there has to be a ‘Big Lucille!’ ”