We’ve begun watching horribly graphic childbirth videos in our Bradley class. Yes, I understand their purpose: no one is trying to candy-coat this whole delivery thing, nor should they. Labor is obviously painful and wet and loud and bloody, and if we aren’t ready for that we’re doing ourselves—and our baby—a major disservice. But it’s still gross.
There was the video in which the husband crumpled to the floor like an empty tent when the doctor presented the massive needle for his wife’s epidural.
There was the water birth in some kind of icky prenatal jacuzzi that eventually had nine or so different kinds of fluid floating in it, none of which you’d want to see in your kitchen sink.
There was the one with the woman who pushed and pushed but nothing happened so she walked the halls of the hospital in agony, stopping periodically to lean against her husband, smack his chest, and wail.
Then there was the one in which a terrified-looking woman was obviously repulsed when the doctor handed her a purple, slippery, misshapen newborn. The husband cowered in the corner. And this was their second child.
Then we saw a video featuring the most perfect Natural Childbirth exhibition of all time. The couple, who knew their Bradley Method like that Mormon guy knew Jeopardy!, worked in synch and smiled and kissed throughout the whole thing. There were no drugs involved; they breathed when they were supposed to; pushed when it felt right; squatted on the hospital floor, and treated the midwife and doctor with the warmth of family.
No crying, no screaming, no insane demands. Nothing. When the top of the baby’s head “crowned,” and the kid was threatening to be born, the concerned doctor said something to the effect that the baby wasn’t ready yet. “Can you stop pushing for a little while?” he asked.
“Sure,” the woman said, smiling sweetly. She put her hand on her husband’s cheek. “I love you, sweetie,” she said, ignoring the bloody alien half-protruding from her crotch.
“I love you so much,” he said. “You’re going to meet your baby soon.”
The camera panned over to the clock: 3:30.
The next shot of the camera, it was roughly 4:42, and the baby’s head had not moved, and the skin around her vagina was stretching to impossible lengths. It was the most gruesome thing I had ever seen.
The mother and father were still cuddling.
“You’re doing great,” he said. “You’re going to meet your baby soon.”
“I love you, sweetie,” she said back.
When the child was finally out, the bloody mess squiggled up to her mother’s chest for her first feeding, like a good Bradley baby. The mother, in tears, fed her child for the first time.
“I love you so much,” the father said, to the mother, or the baby, or perhaps to the doctor. Or maybe he was talking to the camera, I don’t know.
* * *
Sarah was making noise about wanting a specific perfume for Hanukkah. Of course I bought the wrong one—Ralph Lauren makes multiple perfumes?—but it was a much better kind than she wanted, so it’s all good. She was more excited to give me my present anyway, which was supposed to be the first three seasons of Seinfeld on DVD. The box looked a little bit small and felt kind of light, but I still tore it open with such gusto that the menorah almost caught the paper on fire. I pulled something light and soft out of the box and held it up.
It was a pint-sized White Sox jersey. I stared at it. “What’s this?”
“The Sox onesy we talked about for the baby. Remember?”
“This is my present?”
Sarah frowned. “You don’t like it?”
I lifted up the tissue paper in the box to see if there was something underneath the jersey. Nope. There would be no Seinfeld tonight. “No, I love it. It’s adorable.”
As I ridiculously held the tiny jersey up to my chest, another thing dawned on me. I’d learned Early Fatherhood Lesson Number 16: A present for the baby counts as a present for me.
God, that sucks.