Doulas of Los Angeles is committed to honoring women; past, present and future. The following interview is an example of some of the changes women have brought about over the years; we are dedicated to telling women’s stories. For according to Maya Angelou, “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.” We urge you to share our gratitude for those who have come before. Tell their stories as you write your story.
What is your full name?
My full name? Starting from where? When I was born? Carol Roene Pharrus Johnson . . . how much paper you got? . . . Allen Lamons. That is my full name.
What is your birth date?
Feb 18, 1942
How many children do you have?
Two, born June 14th 1961 and May 12th 1964.
Where was your first child born?
In Inglewood at Centinela hospital.
What do you remember about that hospital?
Umm . . . what do I remember . . . I remember it was a lot different than it is now. [They] were very friendly; it was very clean. The nurses were very caring. Except the ones that came in every hour to push on your stomach. Other than that I really don’t remember too much.
What was it like when you first went into labor with your first child?
I did not know that I was in labor. I was sitting on the toilet for probably four or five hours. I felt like I was constipated, really constipated. And I finally called the doctor and he said ‘Oh well come to the hospital you have back labor’. He said, “That’s what my wife had, was back labor.” And I went to the hospital and Mark was born later that night.
How long was your labor?
Total, I would say maybe six or seven hours.
What was it like once you got to the hospital?
What was it that was scary?
Oh, the light and all the clammer . . . not knowing what to expect and not knowing what was going on. But I was very young and very naive. It was just very scary and then going into the delivery room was even scarier because the lights are so bright and I have been really healthy all my life so I have not had to spend much time in the hospital. For me that would be my one thing would be that I was scared.
So what was the process like when you got to the hospital?
I basically stayed in one place. I mean we went in and they got me prepped and they put me into a room and I stayed there until they took me to the delivery room. And then back to my room. And that was back in the days . . . the dark days when they kept the baby in a nursery and I only held the baby for a few minutes. You got to feed them the first day and you got to play with them and look at them. And then think “what do I do now? Oh what have I done!?”
What was it like coming back home?
You know it was kind of interesting, all of a sudden you’ve gone through all this nine months and you have this baby. And all of a sudden you are in the background and the baby is in the foreground. And then my dad was not very helpful either. I had put on a dress and he said, “You looked pretty good before you had that baby and now you have that bump.” My mom and dad, as good as they were, they never talked a lot about babies and they said stuff like that. Parents just kind of figured out things as they went along. That was the sense that I got, because my mom and dad never talked about. So I just kind of found out on my own, as time went on, how to take care of my baby. It was a lot more work. It was very tiring.
Was there ever a point when it started to get easier … when you got more comfortable?
Um . . . yeah it did. I would say probably within a month. Although the waking up in the night still bothered me. I don’t know if I didn’t get enough sleep at night, or I was grouchy, or I did not know what I was doing. I just kind of stumbled through. He would wake up during the night, (and I did not nurse) I had to get up and get a bottle and then come back. I was always told I could never lay in the bed with the baby because I would smother the baby. So I had to sit up with the baby in a chair.
Tell me more about that decision.
I don’t know why I did that to tell you the truth. Um . . . I don’t know whether I was afraid or whether it was something that my husband and I had discussed. That I really truly don’t remember. But I can honestly say I regret it. As I have gotten older I felt like I have lost a lot that I could have had, had I nursed. I think it was the time too. A lot of people were not nursing then. Now it is like the modern mothers are all nursing. Which I think it helps a lot. I mean lots of things transitioned – I mean men are more involved now in raising kids. My husband would not have changed a diaper or fed the baby if his life depended on it. He just didn’t. But no one else in our age group did either. I can remember the first time I saw a man bring his kid to the pharmacy to buy a prescription for the kids. The kids were sick and he had the kids with him; and I thought, “I never saw a man take a kid to the doctor in my life.” And it is transitioning now when men are taking more responsibility with the kids. I think that is good. You know I see people at church and kids and I see some of the other dads. It’s nice to see.
Was your husband with you during the labor?
During the labor, yes. During the delivery, no. And he wasn’t any help at all. He should have stayed in the other room. I remember the nurse coming in and saying, “you’re just about ready.” To be honest, that’s just about the last thing I remember. I am assuming they gave me something to calm me down, to soothe me. I don’t know. I do remember that I was numb from the waist down.
How would you characterize the staff?
Very, very good. And very, very blaze’ at the same time. It was something they were used to. You know you are in labor and the baby will come any minute . . . “you do this and this and this” . . . I didn’t have too many problems with that.
So Mark was born in 1961. And then your next baby was born in 1964. What was that baby’s name?
Sharine. Sharine was almost a month late, to the day. I thought I had miscalculated but they said no. Judging by my last period I missed, I thought I miscalculated. They said no, she was just a month late. Finally I was so miserable and so uncomfortable, my husband called the doctor and told him, “I don’t care what you have to do, this baby has to come out.” So we went to the hospital and they broke my water. And she was born in about three hours.
Had you had any contractions before your water was broken?
Not that I knew of.
Was it the same hospital?
No. It was out of Rose Hills California. It was a new hospital, so it was nice and clean. It seems to me, if I remember correctly, all the rooms were not completely painted. I don’t think it was completely ready for occupancy. It was nice. The grounds were beautiful. I remember that. The rooms weren’t painted but the grounds are beautiful. It was a nice little hospital.
How was the staff?
Oh, the staff was great. It was new, so a lot of the nurses were new. The doctor was new, he was a young man. His mannerisms, he was really nice. I am sure he was older than he looked. He was a doctor so he had gone through so much schooling and he was very down to earth. I remember going in for a visit and his whole leg was in a cast and I said, “Doctors are not supposed to get hurt!” He broke it skiing. But he was still at work. And when I went back after she was born, I asked him a lot of questions. He said, “You’ll know more after you bring her back then I can ever tell you.” He was kind of fun like that. He said all these things – “you’ll learn and then you’ll know more than me.”
Then I went back and he said, “I just want you to know, that for a woman with two children, you have a nasty mouth when you are in labor.” I said, “No I don’t!” And he said. “Yes, you do! You know words I have never even heard.” I am sure I had a little bit of a crush on him ‘cause he’s tall and handsome. He was a cutie.
What was it like coming home with Sharine?
Um . . . It was easier. It was better. I knew more what to expect. With Mark, I went to my mom’s house. With Sharine, mom came up there. Mom made several trips waiting for her to be born. And she stayed with me . . . it was a lot easier.
What was it that she did that made the experience easier?
Oh, she did everything. You would have to know my mother. She did all the . . . she took care of Mark, actually, more than she helped with the baby. But it freed me up to do more things for the baby. Now Mark was pretty good with her (Sharine) because we had been telling Mark for a month “this is your baby.” We had read the book by Dr. Spock and we tried to help Mark feel like he was a part of it.
We got up one morning and we hadn’t heard her cry, and so I went in to check on her and she was gone. And I thought, “OH NO!” And the panic began to set in. Then it dawned on me that my mom probably had her, so I went to check with mom. My mom had been sleeping and I asked if she had the baby and she said no. And I said, “the baby is gone.” She said it can’t be gone. Then I went into Mark’s room and Mark was gone. Then panic really set in. So then we were picking up blankets and looking in things and then I look outside and Mark is pulling the wagon and the baby is in the wagon. And he had gone all the way to the end of the block. And I said, “what are you doing?” And he said, “She wanted to go for a ride.” What do you say to that? I can still feel the way I felt when I could not find her. And it is funny that I did not even think about Mark until he was gone. I thought where’s the baby? But he had her.
Is there anything that you would have changed about their births?
I would have liked to have known more. I was so naïve, I think if I had more information it would have made more sense. I remember going to church and my kids had to have the stiff leather shoes, you know, and now I see kids who are bare foot until they are three and I think “that my must be so much more comfortable.” They are so much happier than mine were. I just think I did not know a lot. And I think I was so young and naïve that I didn’t care to learn because I thought I knew everything. And I didn’t know anything, it turns out. That’s all. I probably would have learned had I put more thought into it.
With Sharine you said you read the Dr. Spock book. Is that the way you would have preferred to learn, by reading?
No. I would have preferred to talk to somebody who was willing to share their experience with me. Times are different now. I hate to keep dating myself, but I can remember, I have an elderly aunt and I went to the beach one day with my sister and her friends and she [the aunt] said, “You can’t go, you’re pregnant.” And I said, “Why can’t I go to the beach?” And she said, “Someone will see you.” And I can remember going to the beach and digging a hole and laying on my stomach and putting my stomach in the hole, so no one could see me. So I could lay on the beach and no one would see that I was pregnant.
Mothers now wear tight dresses and smocks when they’re pregnant, they’re much prettier than the things we had to wear. The first year I was pregnant with Mark, they came out with maternity outfits and I cried ‘cause they were so awful. It’s funny that you’re bringing things up that I have not thought about for years.
Was that a common feeling among the community at the time – not wanting to talk about pregnancy or be seen?
Umm. I don’t know. Everyone was very conservative. You know. Just a few years before I was pregnant, I was in high school and I went outside to pick up the newspaper or something and I had my pajamas on, and they were flannel pajamas and my grandmother was living with us, and she raked me over the coals. She said “You don’t leave this house looking like that!” I said, “I just went to get the paper, nobody saw me.” There is a lot to be said about how the world has evolved.