Twilight Sleep: The Horrifying Truth About Your Drugged Up, Crazy Preggers Grandma

Today I solved a great family mystery.

It’s been widely discussed in my family, that my grandmother had no recollection of giving birth to any of her three kids. She couldn’t explain it… as far as she knew they just put her to sleep and she woke up with a baby.

My mother, who was very much conscious for my birth, didn’t buy that bullshit.

So, it was often postulated that either the great and mighty Lois was lying, or that there was, indeed, some way that women in the 50s and 60s gave birth without being at all conscious for it. While Lois was not known for being uncannily honest, I figured this wouldn’t really be a thing she lied about… Would she find and open her Christmas presents well before Christmas, and then seal them up like nothing happened? Absolutely. Would she steal her daughter’s dolls to practice hair cutting and then lie about it? You’re damn right. Did she spend my life from age 4 up telling me that she was a robot alien sent here to take me away from my mother, just because she thought the unsure fear in my eyes was hilarious? Yeah… and that’s probably a reason that I’m hella fucked up. Still, lying about remembering the birth of her children just felt a little out of place for her. It was not her typical MO.

I always wondered what miracle of science had been lost to the pages of history, where a woman would give birth under sedation and just wake up with a baby. That sounds WAY better than the shit they do now, dontcha think? No screaming, and you don’t even know if you shit on a table in front of a group of people you’ve never met before. It just sounded like a thing that we should be doing now, since it worked then. Granted, I was sure that the practice was done away with for a reason, but like… WHAT could be worse than childbirth pain?

Childbirth pain hurts so much that women gladly let doctors (anesthesiologists) jam needles into their spine (epidurals, which are safe procedures). I don’t have exact statistics on the chances a spinal tap (it’s not a spinal tap) like that will leave you paralyzed (it’s pretty negligible, tbh) but that is scary shit! Wouldn’t things just be better if the woman were unconscious? I mean a woman in a coma can still give birth to a child, so consciousness isn’t really necessary, is it? (Coma patients CAN give birth under perfect circumstances, but it’s not safe, recommended, or well studied.)

I recently started listening to a podcast called Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. It’s good. They talk about old medicine and how fucked up it was. It’s also child friendly, in the sense they don’t curse… unlike this blog, where I say fuck a lot. Anyways, in 2014 they were expecting a kid, so they did a series of childbirth related podcasts. On the actual BIRTH episode, they talked about different ways that men had fucked up the long-standing tradition of men having nothing to do with childbirth, and all the stupid shit they did to “improve” childbirth. (There were good things that came from educated doctor men getting involved in childbirth, but like… this show is about how medicine fucked shit up, not how it helped people… except the vaccine episode, which is great, but also addresses the fact that the dude that developed the smallpox vaccine did some underhanded shit to poor people….)

ANYWAYS, (so much derailing and side-barring) I was listening to the childbirth episode and they got to the point in history where Twilight Sleep became a thing.

Twilight Sleep
In 1903, this guy named Carl Gauss thought, “Hey… why don’t we drug these women giving birth?” Yeah. Great idea, buddy. So, he mixed morphine (obviously a great painkiller) with scopolamine (which has been known to cause hallucinations, confusion, memory loss, agitation, seizures, and all kinds of potentially fatal things for mom and baby, since it can cross the placenta barrier). Gauss thought it up, and people just went with it.

This meant that women would go to the hospital, essentially remember going to sleep, and remember nothing else, but would wake up with a baby. Unbeknownst to the mothers, they would have been strapped down to hospital beds and out of their god damn mind. They’d be violent and unpredictable. I’d scream and cry and see shit errywurr… And then they’d give birth, recover, and remember NOTHING.

You’d think that something from 1903 would have died out pretty quick, but this actually PEAKED in the 50s, which is when my darling grandmother had her kids. So, her lack of memory pretty much points to this being the method she had her kids with, and it didn’t really fade out till like the 70s…Which is a LONG TIME to have crazed women shooting out infants.

Unless you’d previously had a kid, you didn’t know what happened in the delivery room, and even then you didn’t remember shit. Dudes didn’t know what was up, because they weren’t allowed in the delivery rooms. So it just had a tendency to go on. Finally, in the 70s it faded out of style, since people kind of wanted to be more involved with their kids. There’s a real statistical indicator that the mothers that gave birth this way had a cognitive dissonance toward their kids, because there is no birth experience, and that’s probably why things like lamaze became popular. You’re awake and dealing… and supposedly that will make you a better mother.

Anyways. That’s what I learned today, and that solves the mystery of why my grandmother didn’t know anything abut childbirth.


This is how my morning started at 230am. I went to bed around midnight.
I’ve never been so mad at Serj Tanikan and Daron Malakian in my entire life…

As a result of not sleeping, I just finished reading Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart. Hannah Hart is one of my favorite YouTubers, and it’s not just because her show My Drunk Kitchen revolves around getting wasted and making snacks (although, that IS a terrific selling point). What I like about Hannah is actually that she actively tries to be a good person, spread a good message, and use her position to do something meaningful while still having a good time. She seems to care, and I find that really appealing in my late-night YouTube adventures that end with watching foxes on a trampoline.

Buffering is a great book. It’s just a conglomeration of stories from Hannah’s life. You get into her parents, and her family, and how she dealt (or rather, dodged) her sexuality. I found it a great insight into her life, especially her formative years.

The problem with that… is that I then started thinking about my own life.

More than once I’ve touched on school and how the social pressure changed me as a person. I’ve expressed to you a number of instances in which I felt personally betrayed or confused by motivations of people. I have a habit of dwelling on the past and meditating on things that have long since come and gone.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m sure I can keep myself from thinking about past events permanently, but I can try to stop dwelling on them.

Hannah’s book was fascinating because the Hannah I know is a well-adjusted young woman with a bright outlook on life and a smile for everyone. Without spoiling anything, her life has been hard; parts of it still are. If you told me just her background story, I would not expect Hannah Hart to have turned out the way she did. Her ability to take her life and turn it into something that brings so much joy to so many people is truly a gift. What I learned from reading that book and seeing that stark contrast is that your past will always contribute to who you are… but it doesn’t have to dictate what you do with the rest of your life to come.

I’m really bad about dwelling. I dwell and I rehash. I try to find how things could have been different, what I could have done different. I’m torn up with anxiety and self doubt about 90% of my social interactions going all the way back to 5th grade, and there’s no reason to be. It’s over and I can’t fix it, no matter how many times I go over it in my head.

I’m never going to make friends in 5th grade.
I’m never going to be less of a geek in middle school.
I’m never going to be more important to my high school and college friends.
I’m never going to be able to go back to high school and either actually go to class or take that academic probation with Regis University and see where I end up going to a GOOD college.

I can’t undo the poor life choices I made.
I can’t un-date the people I’ve allowed myself to be scarred by.
I can’t make my dad love me the way dads love their kids in 50s TV shows.
I can’t change the past.

All I can do is try to make today a day I won’t want to change.

I’ve been awake too long.

Do things that make you feel good until they don’t make you feel good anymore.

Wallow in misery.


Try not to think about the fact this is how drug addicts think.

I could be a drug addict.

I wonder how long they would make me feel good?

Not long enough, if my drug addict friends are anything to go by.

What makes humans beings happy anymore?