My friend Rachel Stengel is pregnant with her first. Here are her thoughts on the end of pregnancy:
“Maybe I should invest in a Brazilian wax”, I thought as I looked over delivery photographs in As Your Baby Grows: 9 Months from Conception to Birth. This pleasant and factual title belies the horrific scenes found within.
Before I offend anyone, I should confess that the miracle of life has always disconcerted me; pregnancy and birth seemed more akin to science fiction than the soft-focus sentimentality found in family magazines. That said, I am now eight weeks into my own pregnancy, and it isn’t so bad. With my growing sense of ease about maternity, I decided to skip to the end in As Your Baby Grows because -- let’s face it -- everyone is waiting for the fat lady to sing. The first photo of Month 9 was a little racy, but I’m a big girl so I turned the page and… HOLY TOLEDO there was more woman showing than anything you can find outside of the highest shelf porn mags at the liquor store. I sat there stunned. The soft focus world of smiling, gestating women was gone and the reality of Alien and the Invasion of the Body Snatchers had returned. My husband must have noticed my thousand yard stare and asked “Are you okay? You look shell shocked.” "Look at this!" I said incensed. "This is what birth is like!" I snapped the crisp brochure pages open and presented it with the eagerness and gravity of a trial lawyer producing that last piece of case-winning evidence. I’m sure you can picture the scene: the circus of blue robed technicians crowding around the mother who lays spread out in the birthing chair, her face twisted in a wild, lupine expression. My husband examined this sequence of full-frontal crowning shots. "It doesn’t look that bad to me" he said peacefully. "Are we looking at the same page?!" I exploded. I guess the general ethos on his side of the couch was a more tranquil one.
In the past, when forced to watch educational films about the journey to birth, I thought, “If nature thinks that women are going to put up with kind of malarkey it has another thing coming. Unfortunately, though I have tried to find it, nature does not have a suggestion box. Now I too am on track for that same kind of malarkey. So how does one handle this bizarre finale to pregnancy? Since I will be sharing my nether-lands with the general public, maybe I should own it. I could do something that says “I wasn’t just fooling around and found myself sans panties - I intended to be here.” Brazilian waxing or strategically placed henna tattoos might do. I will of course have to check with my physician to see if this is okay. She will invariably say, "Hold on I have a brochure about that," and proceed to pull out a drawer and thumb through the folders of obscure pregnancy information. "Hmm, let’s see here," she'll say. "Perch Fishing and Your Baby's Health… Operating Heavy Machinery and Maternity… ah here it is A Hairless and Healthy Delivery."
From everything I've said it might seem like I am calloused and unloving toward my future child -- not true. It helps people like me to acknowledge that real life, even its most seminal moments, can be messy and weird.