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Sunday, June 16 News

In Other Words: When push comes to shove

Back in the 1960s when natural childbirth first became popular in the United States, pregnant women fell into two groups: those who were staunch supporters, and those who would rather be run over by a cement truck than try it.

I have since discovered they are one and the same.

Speaking firsthand, if you think that natural childbirth requires the same effort as getting pregnant, you’re in for a big surprise. Going the “au natural” route is hard enough without your husband shouting: “Hang in there, honey. I know exactly how it feels.”

How do you respond to a statement like that from the man who got you into this situation in the first place?

For years it was thought that most women, given the proper emotional support, could easily handle childbirth without drugs. Proper emotional support meaning the woman lies there moaning while her husband applies cold compresses to her forehead, rubs her back and then, when the first big contraction hits, he turns white and faints.

She is then left to her own devices. Her choice is to take a deep cleansing breath or scream bloody murder. Most women, being the primal creatures that they are, opt for the latter.

The course I chose to pursue during my pregnancy was Lamaze, named after the renowned French obstetrician, Dr. Fernand Lamaze, a man who knew everything there was about childbirth without ever having tried it.

For those women who still think that natural childbirth is all about eating sprouts and going braless, think again. It’s a birth that takes place without the influence of drugs and anesthesia, both of which most men need in order to get them through the ordeal.

I remember this experience with the same fondness as my first root canal. In its beginning phases, it’s about the same as a bad case of the stomach flu. The difference being that here you end up with a baby instead of ginger ale, saltines and Jell-O.

Those women who venture into this are highly motivated individuals, who don’t want to miss a moment of their child’s birth. If that wasn’t bad enough, they expect their husbands to share in the process. Most men weren’t counting on this when they took their marriage vows.

Before Lamaze, men were banished to the waiting room to pace the floor. Pacing classes were in fact, the forerunner of Lamaze classes. Men were taught how to walk around in perfect circles engaging in meaningful conversations with other men.

“Hey bud, your first time?’ (pace, pace).

“Yup. Yours too?” (Pace).

“Nope, my third”( Pace, pace).

“Want a cigarette?”

“I gave up smoking a year ago, but this seems like the perfect time to start” (Pace, pace).

“Did ya’ catch the score?”

“Yep, 3-2 Yankees” (pace, pace). “Now that’s what I call real tension” (pace, pace).

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Then one day, a group of women decided: why should the guys have all the fun? Men were invited into the labor and delivery rooms as coaches — Lamaze partners, who learned how to turn green along with their wives. My husband approached my labor with a gung-ho athleticism meant to inspire me. He did a swell job. He cheered me on much in the same way he did when his team scores a touchdown.

While this may work well in a stadium, the last thing I wanted to hear during a contraction was, “go baby go.” Any man who accompanies a woman through labor knows this to be the most profound and monumental experience of his life, second only to front-row seats at a basketball game.

The final stage of labor — transition — is the one that allows the woman to tell her husband all the terrible things she’s been storing up for years. Any reasonable man will understand and forgive her for anything she says.

In the end, childbirth is a bonding experience where a couple comes away feeling euphoric. The woman is now the champ, having survived what can only be described as a Mount Vesuvivius eruption. But it is the man who will take all the credit.

“So, how’d it go?” his cronies ask.

“A piece of cake,” he says, “I didn’t even need drugs.”

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views monthly in the Westport News. She can be reached via email at joodth@snet.net or at judithmarks-white.com.

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