A first-hand look at how pregnancy has changed -- for better and for worse.

60's pregnancy
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I gave birth to my first child 28 years ago. That child is now the father of a 3-year-old, and I am once again pregnant -- this time with twins. Circumstances in my own life have greatly changed. I have a different and more supportive husband, less career pressure, better resources, and far less apprehension about giving birth and parenting. Still, perusing pregnancy websites and baby stores is like learning a foreign language. Here's what's new to me this time around.

"Natural" Childbirth

Back in the eighties, there was a huge push to have babies naturally and painkiller-free. Lamaze and Leboyer were the hot topics and many women aspired to have a completely natural childbirth. But my new young pregnant friends are looking forward to their epidurals. On a hospital tour, the nurses confirmed that the epidural is the number-one method requested by today's moms. Natural childbirth, while not unheard of, is no longer as popular as it once was.

New Technology

Back in 1984, my doctors did not have an ultrasound machine. I didn't know I was having a son, nor did I get to see what he looked like before he was born. At each doctor's visit, they would put goopy gel on my belly and use a Doppler microphone to listen to the baby's heartbeat. That confirmed that all was well. They would measure my belly with a tape measure to see if my size conformed to my expected due date. Sometimes the doctor would get really low-tech and use a stethoscope to check the heartbeat. To date, no OB I've seen has approached me with a Doppler or a stethoscope. In fact, because I am having twins, I have ultrasounds every two weeks and growth ultrasounds every four.

By the time my third child was born -- in 1992 -- I was able to see grainy black-and-white pictures of her via ultrasound. But no ultrasound performed on me then compares to today's machines and technology. I almost fainted recently when the tech handed me what they call a 4-D photo. The machine spit out a picture that eerily showed my twins' faces, at 26 weeks, looking like masks set in bronze. When I showed it to my husband, he threw the pictures down in shock, shouting, "You bronze the shoes, not the babies!" I've since put them away. They are just too creepy-looking.

Revealing It All

In 28 years, reality TV and the Internet have taken over, and have fanned the desire to make everything public. Photos of big shiny bellies, called "bump photos," are in style, and professional photographers create memorable art out of stretch-marked bellies. These are shared on Facebook for everyone to enjoy. Furthermore, as we now can accurately identify boys from girls with the super ultrasounds, grand "reveals" are planned via social media and parties. Before the baby shower, the world knows exactly what to expect when you are expecting. Although I can see how revealing the sex of the baby ahead of time alleviates the gender neutrality of gifts at a baby shower, it also robs a couple of the element of surprise. Because so many people reveal the sex of their child prior to childbirth, "What are you having?" is the first question everyone asks, assuming that I know and that I want to tell. Guess what? This old-fashioned mom doesn't!

Maternity and Baby Stores

Back in the eighties, there weren't many chain stores for maternity or babies. The Internet did not have price comparisons and sale alerts. That meant that maternity fashions were purchased at high-end and pricey boutiques. I remember shopping for cribs in small stores that specialized in children's furniture. This time around, I perused the Internet, checked reviews and then comparison shopped for cribs and a changing table. I registered at Buy Buy Baby and Babies "R" Us and figured out precisely what would work best for me.

I have to say, both hubby and I did a double take when we saw the prices of today's strollers with their aeronautic designs and inflatable wheels! Back when our children were young, an umbrella stroller could be purchased for $30 and a top-of-the-line name-brand stroller was $300. We were happy to note that an infant car seat is no longer just a car seat -- it now doubles as a stroller insert and infant carrier. That's a wonderful improvement, even if it does necessitate another stroller purchase when the baby outgrows the carrier. Other improvements, like white noise machines, vibrating infant chairs and perfumed diaper pails, look interesting, but I just might opt to do things the good old-fashioned way.

The Best Newfangled Inventions of All: babymoons and push presents

I heartily approve of the new customs of a couple taking special time alone prior to the birth and of Dad presenting Mom with some bling to recognize her lengthy and difficult efforts. Although I'm not likely to expose my supersize belly -- er, bump -- on Facebook, I may plan to take some alone time with my husband prior to my due date. And if he presents me with a push present or two (after all, we're having twins), this grandmother/mom-to-be will graciously accept!

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