Often, when we look at our parents’, grandparents’, and ancestors’ history, the stories of pregnancy and childbirth are sparse. Without an eye-witness account, these chapters of your family history often remain unwritten.
Ask your Relatives for Stories of Pregnancy and Childbirth
With today’s technology, it’s easy for moms- and dads-to-be to share the progress of pregnancy and the details of childbirth with the world. It’s a fun way to connect with loved ones that previous generations didn’t have.
Because of their emotional significance, these memories rarely fade. If you ask your mom, mother-in-law, or grandma about their experiences, they still have relatively vivid recall. They’ll happily relate their stories of pregnancies and childbirth because these are the very stories that folks never tire of telling. (Not just the moms—don’t get my father-in-law started about trying to move across the country with a woman with morning sickness.)
Preserve Oral Histories
Whether you write them down verbatim or preserve them with a handy voice recorder, preserve whatever family stories of pregnancy and childbirth you can. Such firsthand accounts reveal great insight into family dynamics.
In my husband’s family, we’re grateful beneficiaries of Robert Hedgcock’s painstaking research. In his book, The Hitchcock Hedgecock Hedgcock Family he quotes a relative telling of an anxiously awaited birth: “She told her brother … he best be naming one of his girls Keziah which is a Welch Family name. He kept saying I will when the next baby girl came. So, when the next baby girl came Keziah got in t the buggy waltzed in Matthias and Elizabeth’s place and said this girl will be called Keziah…”
Write What You Know
Many times, we don’t know any details. We just wonder. But, you can write about what few facts you do have. For instance, my father was an only child, which makes me wonder if my grandmother had a difficult pregnancy or delivery. I wish I had thought to ask.
Sometimes, we can glean details from census records. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census, for instance, gives us clues to infant and childhood mortality. It lists the number of children a mother had as well as the number of children still living.
Other records can also reveal hints. Going back to Robert Hedgcock’s research, for one ancestor he notes, “According to some records … Hannah was in the family way before they married and that caused a delay in their being taken into the [Friends] Society.”
Fill in with historical background
We don’t need firsthand accounts to know that in rural areas in the early 1800’s, babies were born at home. However, with a little research, you can fill in even more historical background for event of the distance past. Were there other relatives living close by? How far did the family live from a doctor?
Making your own history for your kids
Even if your children are out of the house, it’s not too late to document stories of pregnancy and childbirth. Let your children know how eagerly you awaited their birth or how worried you were about becoming a parent. Especially if there are health issues that might be passed down, note those as well.
If you’re still having kids, consider keeping a pregnancy journal or scrapbook—written or pictorial. (I freely admit a written journal of my pregnancies would have been boring and primarily about puking. However, monthly profile pictures would have been cute.) There are tons of photography ideas on Pinterest, including my own Photography Pinterest board.
Why do you think it’s important to preserve stories of pregnancy and childbirth? What stories come to your mind? Please comment!
 Robert E. Hedgcock, The Hitchcock Hedgecock Hedgcock Family in Maryland and North Carolina and Their Descendants, 2nd ed. (Utica, KY: McDowell, 2000), 19-20.
 Ibid., 16.