That, and people are generally really happy that they aren't the ones in pain.
Perhaps Carol Burnett said it best when she said that childbirth is like taking your bottom lip and pulling it up over your head. As a mom of three, I would agree with that assessment, except to add that the bottom lip needs to go not only over one's head but also over, say, a watermelon.
With our first child, we attended a childbirth course entitled "Prepared Childbirth." The idea here is that if you are PREPARED for the birth, it won't HURT as much. Now, I'm not saying this concept doesn't work, I'm just saying there's a reason why you don't see a lot of people taking courses in being prepared to be run over by a tractor trailer. But we bought into this idea of "prepared childbirth" and felt well-trained to embark on this exciting venture.
After 16 hours of labor, let's just say I was "prepared" to knock somebody's block off. One of my fondest memories was when my doctor, at about 5 p.m. on March 7th, announced that we were looking at a March 8th baby. I accepted this information with as much grace as I could muster, which is to say, I reached up, pulled the doctor's bottom lip up over his head, and informed him that he was sadly mistaken.
My son's birthday is March 8th.
He also had what's known as "shoulder dystocia," which is a fancy doctor term, derived from the original Latin meaning "this baby's shoulders are STUCK like a pig." I won't go into all the gory details except to say that my son's head is a solid 5 minutes older than the rest of his body. That and it took me about 3 months to convince my husband that I did not have an affair with an NFL linebacker.
Miraculously, two years later we decided to have another child. The fun this time came when I received my epidural. For the lay person, "epidural" is a fancy doctor term, derived from the original Latin, meaning "Thank you, God, for medical technology." However, with this epidural I had what's known as a "hot spot," which is basically a small area that doesn't get numbed. In my case, it was a small area on the left side of my back roughly the size of New Jersey.
When I mentioned this fact to the anesthesiologist, he nodded knowingly and launched into a full throttle dissertation explaining the physiological REASONS why a "hot spot" occurs. This man is standing there telling me about nerve endings and spinal fluid and messages to the brain, and all I wanted was for him TO MAKE IT STOP. He was not able to do this. And I got the sense that he'd never even BEEN to New Jersey. So I took his bottom lip and… well, you know.
As I approached the third go-round, I figured we'd seen the darkest of our birthing moments. And things did actually go fairly smoothly. All except for the final stages of delivery, at which time I became, well, somewhat VOCAL. I remember yelling some very profound things like "IT HURTS!" I actually at one point repeated this very phrase six or seven times in a row. Why would I do this? Was anybody really so much in doubt about that fact that I needed to reiterate it?
Then at another point I was making such a tremendous racket that my husband actually "shushed" me. There I am, in the throes of labor, and the very man who is responsible for this whole escapade is SHUSHING ME. Again, I was the picture of grace as I growled out like a fire-breathing dragon,
"BARRY, I NEED TO MAKE NOISE!!"
He didn't shush me any more after that.
Fortunately, regardless of how inhumanely we behave during childbirth, the result is a little baby. A tiny, shriveled and sticky person with a head shaped like a mailbox. And believe it or not, that little critter is always worth it.
The morals of my story are as follows:
1. "Prepared" childbirth classes may be a bit of an illusion, but it's still fun to watch your husband go through the torture of watching the birth films.
2. You know you've entered a new phase of your life when a "hot spot" no longer refers to a trendy new place to hang out and have coffee.
3. When in labor, go ahead and make as much noise as you want. Your husband won't dare shush you - at least not more than once.
Suzanne Pearson is the mother of three boys and has a reputation for being a terrible obstetrical patient.