The Sweet Childbirth Advice A 93-Year-Old Woman Gave Her Pregnant Granddaughter

Every generation thinks they invented childbirth.

vintage photo of mother holding baby IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock

“I’m going to call your daughter,” my Mom said. “She’s probably getting nervous.”

My mother is 97, and my daughter is in her ninth month of pregnancy with her first child. This is what happens when life expectancy increases and more women delay childbirth.

“That’s nice of you, Mom. She’s feeling pretty good but I know she’d love to hear from you.”

“I want to tell her about childbirth,” she said, a look of determination on her face.


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My mother is an amazing shape for someone born in 1924. She can get up and down the stairs, belt down a cocktail, and is as capable as she ever was of delivering a sharp opinion. That said, her eyesight is shot, her short-term memory is not great, and her judgment is sometimes questionable.

I explained to my Mom that women today have access to a great deal of information about pregnancy and delivery, far more than even I did when I had kids in the 1980s.

In fact, I’ve been amazed by how much my daughter knows — the month when the baby’s kidneys are functional, when the baby grows eyelashes, the exact measurements of the baby’s spine.


When my mother was expecting in the 1950s, none of that technology existed. Three decades later, when I was pregnant, I had only one fuzzy sonogram. My daughter has seen technicolor images of the four chambers of her baby’s heart.

“Mom,” I said. “Childbirth has changed a lot since you had all of us.”

“Nonsense,” my mom said. “Having a baby is having a baby. Besides, you had two caesarian sections. I had my babies the normal way. So I know more about that than you do.”

“Yeah, but didn’t you have twilight sleep or some kind of gas?”

“Oh for heaven’s sake, Kate, I don’t remember. I just know that it was no big deal. Every generation thinks they’ve reinvented childbirth.”


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A day later, I talked to my daughter.

“Grandmommy called,” she told me. “We had a great conversation.”

“Did she tell you about childbirth?”

“Not really. She mostly told me about what difficult babies you were. Well, not you, but your siblings. And she was appalled to learn that my husband would be in the delivery room.”

“Oh, dear. Well, she means well,” I said. (I’ve always hated that phrase and don’t know why I use it. What does it even mean?).

I knew my daughter was nervous about labor and delivery. Every woman is, especially with their first. She needed support, not horror stories.


But then my daughter surprised me.

“Your mom gave me a pep talk. She told me I was strong and smart, and that I’d be fine.”

That floored me. My daughter is strong and smart. And feisty. Just like her 97-year-old grandmother. That inheritance will help see her through. And she’ll be fine.


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Kate Stone Lombardi is a journalist and author and contributor to the New York Times for 20+ years.