The definition of transitional characters was originally given by Carlfred Broderick in his 1980 book called "Marriage and the Family" (currently unavailable on amazon).
A transitional character is one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it to their children. They break the mold. They refute the observations...that "the sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children to the third and fourth generation. Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their own lineage so that the generations downstream will have supportive foundations upon which to build productive lives.
A few weeks ago, my mother and I were talking about the history of birth practices (or the generational transmission of birth, if you will) in our family. I know my birth story. I was born via Cesarean section at 39 weeks 4 days for being breech and for the convenience of having my father in town, since he needed to leave for work around my due date. My mother was born in a hospital in 1953, so we can assume that twilight sleep was used on my grandmother. Unfortunately, we cannot ask her for her birth stories of my mother and uncles since she passed away in 2006. That means we also cannot ask her what she knows of her own birth. She was born in 1921 in rural California, so its kind of toss-up if she was born in a hospital or on the ranch where my great-grandparents lived. Now my great grandmother was born in San Francisco in 1904. Hospital birth was still relatively new then (using a reference from the history of birth presented in the Business of Being Born), so she may have been born at home, but since it was a big city, there's also the chance she was born in a hospital.
Together, my mother and I couldn't come up with anymore information on the topic, so we started thinking of who in our extended family might have known. We contacted my grandmother's cousin who is currently the matriarch of the family. She was unable to give me anymore information other than she's pretty sure that both my grandmother and great-grandmother were born in hospitals.
So with that information, I pretty much am left to believe that the last 100 hundred of birthing history in my family has taken place in hospitals. If my readers are familiar with my story, my first child was born in 2007 (103 years after the birth of my great-grandmother) and his birth was enough to prompt me to "return" to homebirth. I had hoped that my history would have afforded some homebirth stories of my women ancestors but I was disappointed.
However, that affords me the opportunity to be the transistional character for birth in my family. It wouldn't be the first time. On my father's side, I'm a transitional character for stopping the transmission of emotional, verbal and sometimes physical abuse, so my efforts in parenting and my marriage are to overcome the tendencies and examples set by my father and his parents. This does raise the question of the history of birth on my dad's side. I know both my father and grandmother were born in hospitals, but I don't know anything about where my great-grandmother was born. I can ask my grandmother's sister who is still alive. I will update this blog when I've been able to converse with her on the topic.
Looking forward to the future, I plan to birth the rest of my babies at home, barring a medical need to birth in hospital, and this will start the tradition of homebirth in my family. I hope that my children will know and remember how they and their siblings were born so that they will too will expect to birth their children at home, in a safe, supportive, loving and gentle environment.