Ariane Audet

Denise, Montréal-Nord QC (Canada)

Ariane Audet
Denise, Montréal-Nord QC (Canada)

I was 24 when I got pregnant with my son. My husband was in med school and I was working full-time as a nurse. I got so sick during my pregnancy that I had to take two anti-nausea suppositories a day to go through my shifts. But I was the breadwinner of our family so I worked until the day I gave birth. Luckily it was very quick. My water broke at 6:00pm and by 9:15pm I had him in my arms. I delivered him where his dad was a student so he was able to catch him when he came out, and the first thing he did was pee in his dad’s face – at least we knew everything was working alright! Back in the days, your baby didn’t stay in the post-partum room with you. Only when you were able to walk by yourself to the nursery were you allowed to hold him. At the same time, I was so tired… I’m not sure I would have wanted him in the room. We went back home and I resumed working 15 days after having him. Maternity leave didn’t exist in 1961 and we had to pay the rent. My days started at 6:30am and ended at 10:30pm. I would work all day, then go to the market, cook, and clean. I had an electrical laundry machine but had to wring the clothes by hand. I would get up early to prep the bottles and feed the baby. I didn’t breastfeed. It wasn’t something you did back then. At the hospital, after you gave birth, they used to give you hormones to stop the milk from coming. I didn’t take them but I got lucky, my milk production slowed down very quickly and I wasn’t in too much pain. Pumps might have existed but we didn’t know about them. Anyway, I’m not sure I would have had time with everything else I had to care for. But I was lucky. Your dad was an easy baby. He was so sweet and so beautiful. He still is, beautiful I mean. But as far as temperament… I preferred him as a baby!

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I was very tired after having him, but it was normal for me to work and take care of the house. I knew one day my husband would make enough money and I would be able to stay home. But gosh was I tired. Then about three years later, we had another baby. A daughter. Her birth too was super fast. I swear I gave birth like a rabbit. I went through labor without anesthesia – my husband was an anesthetist resident by then and attended the birth, but he didn’t give me anything! We were so happy. She was full of life. Woke up happy and went to bed happy. She was an easy baby, too, but you had to watch her closely because she was moving around a lot! At the same time, I was so exhausted that when she’d wake up, I would put her into her highchair next to the bed and try to go back to sleep. I’d watch her, drowsily, trying to catch up sleep. I know I probably shouldn’t have, but I was so tired. I think this is why I had a thrombosis soon after.

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I had asked my doctor to prescribe me the pill after my daughter was born. We were about to move to the US for two years because my husband was accepted as a Fellow at NIH and I really didn’t want to get pregnant while we were living there. Back then, contraceptive pills had a really high dose of hormones. And I was smoking. No one knew – or had told me – that it could be dangerous. The headaches I had were insane. But we drove 12 hours to Maryland anyway. The night we arrived I got so, so sick. And despite the symptoms, my husband didn’t realize what was happening. He only called 911 when I passed out. Firefighters came and transferred me to the hospital. I thought I was getting sick because of a gas leak, but they thought I had tried to commit suicide. I guess they did not get my symptoms either. I stayed a month at the hospital. When I was released, I had the most terrifying vertigoes. Being in a car or feeling the wind on my face made me want to cry. Two of my nieces flew down from Montreal to help with the kids. I couldn’t talk, so I whistled when I needed something. I eventually learned to talk again, without any help of speech rehabilitation. It took years.

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You know, I’m 83 now. When I was 24 – when I got married – it was your job as a wife to take care of everything. That’s what was expected of you. I don’t know, maybe I was a bit silly or naïve. But my husband was studying or working, he had long hospital shifts. He was tired too. He used to play with the kids, of course, but I would have never asked him to wake up at night to change a diaper! We didn’t go out much when the kids were little because we didn’t have a lot of money. I didn’t have friends but I had many sisters and my kids had so many cousins! But now, most of my siblings are gone, so there’s that. If I didn't have any kids of my own, I would have adopted. Of course I would have preferred having a third or a fourth child instead of my thrombosis, but it wasn’t my karma. And because it took so long to get better, I would have been too old to get pregnant again. There was also the pain, constant. We had two healthy children and I think we were satisfied with that. We never really talked about it though. My husband isn’t the most talkative of men! Yes… I had two beautiful babies and you know how it is: your baby, it’s your baby. You can hold him, tickle him… you can bite her toes and kiss them whenever you want. We’re proud of our kids now. And in the end, it all worked out.