Chapter 1: I Am Not Out of Control!
Ladies, there's one time in your life when you get a free pass for outrageous behavior, and this is it.
Here's how some moms let fly with thoughts, words and actions.
C'MON, ADMIT IT --
YOU REALLY ENJOYED THAT SHAVE
Jeannine Schwing is my (Irene's) sister, mom to Paul and Cate and one of the funniest people we know. Of course she'd have something to say about her delivery.
I'm terrified of hospitals. Even if I just drive past one, my heart races and I feel sick to my stomach. When I became pregnant, I blocked the hospital part from my mind and imagined the baby magically appearing.
That's probably the reason I didn't go into labor. My due date came and went. A week passed. A few more days. Four years later, I'd probably still be carrying this baby to avoid the hospital. However, the doctor decided it was time to induce.
I was extremely nervous. We arrived at the hospital at six thirty in the morning on March 18. They took us into labor and delivery. They hooked me up to Pitocin to trigger labor. A few minutes later I felt a tightening, which was the start of contractions. Dave, my husband, was sitting near me watching The Price Is Right. Even today, when I hear that show's theme song or Bob Barker's voice, I feel like puking.
The doctor said I was dilating and asked if I wanted an epidural. I said yes. I wasn't in a ton of pain, but I was uncomfortable. My mother brags about having this very high threshold of pain. She's had teeth pulled without a drop of Novocain. I, however, need anesthesia when having my teeth cleaned. In the background, Bob Barker yelled for someone to "Come on down!" Behind Bob, some slinky model with a French manicure smiled and stroked a microwave like it was her lover's butt.
The doctor kept checking me. At 2 P.M., I was at nine centimeters, but the head wasn't coming down. He said by 4 P.M. I'd have the baby. But 4 P.M. came and went. He said, "Wait a little longer."
Suddenly the room was filled with beeping. Beep-beep-beep-beep! A nurse ran in. She looked at the fetal monitor, picked up a phone and told the doctor to come in right away.
Seconds later the doctor raced into the room. He looked at me. "We need to do a C-section right now." They pulled the gown off me. Then another nurse arrived and started shaving my pubic hair. She had the same nails as Bob Barker's model. I saw Dave watching the shaving. He looked like he was viewing a porno movie. He gave the nurse this big smile. I thought he was going to ask her to shave him, too.
I was paralyzed with fear. I thought I was going to die. Then the doctor hands me some paper to sign.
"You have to sign this," he said.
"In case you die."
I felt as if signing the papers would give the doctor permission to let me die. At first I refused. It was like signing my obituary, I thought. But Dave convinced me to sign. Maybe he had a life insurance policy out on me. I could see him in some cheesy Vegas hotel room, lying on a heart-shaped, red velour bed. His face ecstatic as the same nurse shaved his pubes -- all on my death benefit!
As they're prepping me for surgery, a nurse hands Dave scrubs.
Next thing, Dave's staring intently at my doctor. I realize he's trying to figure out how to wear the outfit. He starts getting dressed in his scrubs. He puts on his pants and shirt and checks himself in the mirror between my legs. My legs are actually shaking with fear, and my husband's completely oblivious. He spends what seems like hours adjusting the cap on his head. He's trying different angles. "How does the hat look?" he asks me. "Is this the same way Doctor H. wears it?"
I'm about to die and my husband is worried about how a hat looks. I don't even answer him. I just watch as he adjusts the mask over his mouth. I know he's enjoying this. He's pretending he's a doctor. In a muffled voice, he asks me how he looks again. I pretend I can't understand him. (I do that even when I'm not about to give birth.)
Everything worked out fine. Our son, Paul, was born at 6:52 that evening, weighing 7 pounds, 3 ounces. I'm still alive. Dave looked like an idiot in scrubs. And I still don't trust nurses. Especially ones with razors and French manicures.
ONE DAMN RUDE BABY!
After three kids, June Conklin of Ossining, New York, thought she was a real expert when it came to childbirth.
I had the easiest childbirths ever. I was knocked out for the first one, so I barely knew I had the baby. The second one, I went into labor as I was getting my hair cut. I finished the trim at 4:30 P.M. and had my baby at four minutes after six that night. It slid right out of me. With the third one, I got a little cocky. I started getting contractions, but since my husband had just gotten home from work, I let him sleep. By the time we got to the hospital, the baby just popped out.
They say it gets easier with each child. With the fourth one, I figured I could practically squat in a field. Throughout my whole pregnancy I thought, This will be an easy one. My others were only two hours each, so why would this be any different? I'm very lucky, thank God. There are some people who are just made to have children and some who aren't. I, obviously, am born to breed and I'm proud of it.
I always thought my outlook helped a lot, too. You see, I have this philosophy about childbirth. It's all about what you make of it. If you're strong-minded and focused, you can just push the baby out -- no problem. I also believe that you should never ever find out what you're having. The suspense helps the birthing. I believe that there's nothing like curiosity to help you push out that kid. I had it all figured out.
I began to suspect that I might not know as much as I thought I did. I'd been at the hospital for two hours with my fourth child and nothing had happened. At two in the morning, I should have had the baby already, but I was only two centimeters dilated. I kept saying, "When is this going to happen because this is getting ridiculous." I'm a very impatient person.
My doctor looked at me and says, "Well, everything's stopped."
I said, "What do you mean everything's stopped? It doesn't feel like everything's stopped. If everything's stopped, why am I in pain? Your machine must be broken. Get another machine."
As we're debating this back and forth, I'm listening to a woman in another room. She's screaming at the top of her lungs. I know this will sound sick, but I start smiling as this woman is screaming bloody murder. Misery loves company, I guess. Her shrieks are somehow comforting to me. It's nice to know that someone's in more pain than you. Ten minutes pass and the screams are like music to my ears. Then they just stop. I figure she must be vomiting or something. Maybe she died. I wait for the screams to begin again, but they don't.
A nurse comes into my room. I ask about the screamer down the hall. Is she dead? "No," the nurse says. "She had her baby." I ask her, "Was it her first one?" "Yes," the nurse tells me. "It's a beautiful baby girl."
Well, that's it. Suddenly, I'm pulling myself out of the bed and yelling, "THAT'S NOT FAIR! I WAS HERE BEFORE HER. I'M SUPPOSED TO HAVE MY BABY FIRST! THAT'S NOT FAIR. THIS IS MY FOURTH. IT SHOULD BE OUT ALREADY. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE, NOT SOME FIRST-TIMER."
My mother's in the room and she starts crying hysterically. She thinks her daughter has completely lost it. My husband is looking at the monitor. He nudges me. "You're about to have a little contraction. It's no big deal."
No big deal? Well, that just sends me over the edge.
"WHO ARE YOU TELLING ME WHAT'S LITTLE AND WHAT ISN'T? YOU'RE JUST SITTING THERE, DOING NOTHING. WHAT DO YOU KNOW? YOU DON'T KNOW PAIN. YOU COULDN'T HANDLE THIS. THAT WAS NOT A LITTLE CONTRACTION. THAT WAS A HUGE CONTRACTION. THAT WAS OFF THE SCALE. WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?"
My doctor looks at my husband and says, "Why don't you leave for a little while. Get something to eat."
I'm getting these stabbing pains that I'd never had with my other children. I feel like my insides are being ripped apart. I'm screaming. I'm crying. And the doctor's telling me I'm not even ready to push. I was supposed to have this baby in an hour and it had been more than three hours! Like I said, I'm not a patient person. If I have an appointment, I'm always a half hour early. As far as I'm concerned, this baby is being rude. It should have been here already.
My husband comes back in the room with coffee and a muffin for himself. I'm in the worst pain of my life and he's stuffing his face with food like he's watching a football game or something.
I couldn't take it anymore. I jump out of the bed. I rip off my gown. I try to pull off all the cords that are attached to me. My mother's saying the rosary. My husband and the doctor are trying to hold me down. I scream at the top of my lungs: "I'M A PATIENT. I HAVE MY RIGHTS AND I WANT A C-SECTION RIGHT NOW. I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!"
Well, the last thing I had ever wanted was a C-section. I went through all my childbirths and not one stretch mark! Not one. Now, a C-section scar would be worse than any stretch mark, but I didn't care. The doctor looks at me and doesn't say a word.
"IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO HELP ME, I WANT ANOTHER DOCTOR. I WANT TO GO TO ANOTHER HOSPITAL. I DON'T NEED THIS. I HAVE MY RIGHTS."
My husband's yelling at me to calm down. My mother's sobbing away. She's convinced I've lost my mind. She's praying. I'm trying to untangle myself from all the cords so I can get to a nice hospital where they'll give me a C-section without any hassles.
They give me some Demerol. Nothing happens. Actually, the pain gets worse.
I'm standing there yelling at my doctor. "CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATE ON THOSE. THEY'RE NOT WORKING. I FEEL EVERYTHING. WHAT KIND OF HOSPITAL IS THIS? YOU HAVE OLD USELESS DRUGS. THIS IS RIDICULOUS."
I'm going on and on about my rights when suddenly I feel this pressure. After three births, I know it's the head. I have to sit. I push twice and the baby's out. Just two big pushes and Lee-Ann popped out weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces. She's born at 4:04 A.M. on August 1, 1994. Now that's more like it. That's what I'm used to.
I look around the room. My mother's mascara is pouring down her face. My husband looks like he might pass out. My doctor is pale. I'm beaming as I stare at my beautiful baby girl.
"That wasn't so bad," I say.
THE GERM BOAT
Jessica, a mom from Queens, New York, tells how a dream vacation in paradise turned into a nightmare cruise to hell.
I'm a very suggestible person. If I watch a TV show with a hypnotist in it, I fall into a trance right in my living room. If I'm driving on the expressway and hear a police siren, I know I'm headed to jail. If I have a phone conversation with somebody who has a cold, by the time I hang up, my throat is sore. That's just the way I am. Not exactly a hypochondriac, but not all that far off, either.
When I first became pregnant, this germ thing of mine went into some kind of hyperdrive. I had two bodies to worry about, doubling my fun. When my husband, Mark, would come home from work, I'd make him wash his hands before he could touch anything. If anyone I knew had a cold, I'd avoid him or her until I was sure they were over it. Before the baby, I never cared about nonsmoking anything -- in fact, I smoked through college and for a few years afterward. But with the baby, if someone lit a match on my block, I'd have a fit.
Now when I look back, I realize I wasn't so much fun to be around, and though he won't admit it, Mark started working later so he'd get to spend a little less time with moi. Mark is in sales, and all those extra hours he put in helped him win us a very nice vacation. It was a week-long eco-cruise around Central America, everything included. It was also a "use it or lose it" deal, so we had to go right away.
I had been to the Caribbean -- you know, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands -- and loved it all. White beaches, palm trees, coconuts -- what's not to like? Well, I really wasn't paying all that close attention to the "eco" part of the thing. So I agreed.
So we bought khakis, sun hats and number 30 sunscreen, packed our bags and headed -- by limo -- for the airport. This was going to be great!
We flew to Costa Rica and had a nice night in a hotel. The next day, we were driven to the cruise ship. It looked okay, but it was a lot smaller than other cruise ships I'd seen; and the back of the boat looked weird. Our cabin was a little claustrophobic, but the crew couldn't have been nicer (or cuter -- Ricky Martin must have cousins in Costa Rica).
The first night, they had a slide show to tell us about tomorrow's activities. We had a choice. We could take a guided hike through the rain forest or do some kayaking around the ship. Okay, since I was a little over four months, I figured paddling around in a kayak would be easier. Mark said, "Hey, you'll be bored with that in ten minutes -- let's go see what's in the jungle."
When did they decide to call the jungle the rain forest? "Rain forest" sounds so nice. "Jungle" sounds so dangerous. I answered my own question, didn't I?
We had dinner, and the next morning we headed for adventure in the "rain jungle." That's when I found out why the back of the boat looked strange. I was expecting the ship to pull up to some big pier and we'd all walk down the gangplank and into a jungle lined with souvenir shops. No. We had to climb into rubber rafts, with little outboard motors, and then jump out when they hit the beach. It was like Saving Private Ryan, without the bullets. By the time we got halfway to the beach my clothes were soaked. Then, with the water landing, my feet were soaked, too. And it wasn't eighty and sunny. It was like fifty and heavily overcast.
If I could have hailed a cab right there to take us back to Queens, I would have -- even if it meant selling the house to pay the fare. But I reminded myself to keep an open mind. Mark seemed to be enjoying himself. We started walking into the jungle.
Everything this guide stopped to show us could either make you really sick, or kill you. Spiders the size of squirrels. Bats. Bats hanging upside down, waiting for dark so they could swoop into your face. Then the guide waves to us like he's found Blackbeard's treasure or something. He shushes everyone and points at something under a tree. I forget what he called it, but it looked like a ten-pound rat with legs as long and thick as a pig's. And these people are smiling at it and snapping pictures like it's Elvis resurrected or something. I'm thinking, What was I thinking?
We hike a little farther and invade capuchin monkey territory. Again, I had figured there'd be one or two up in a tree a few miles away, but this was like being inside the monkey house at the zoo. They were all around us, and right over our heads, screeching and leaping. I started screeching as I raced back down the trail in the opposite direction. I'm thinking, I'm out of here. Eco-schmeko, this is not vacation, and God knows what diseases I am picking up from spiders and monkeys and giant rats. I walked back to the beach and made one of those guys take me back to the ship in the rubber raft.
At dinner, some woman who had spent the day kayaking sat at our table and asked me about the hike. I told her the monkeys were all I could stand. She looked at me and said, "They all have TB. And those bats? All bats carry rabies!" Rabies. Rhymes with babies. Jesus Christ!
The next day, I stayed on the boat. And the day after. And the day after. Finally, they announced they're pulling into some port. I'm thinking, Great -- civilization! I can shop and see some concrete. But an hour before they docked, they canceled shore leave because of an outbreak of dengue fever in town. I asked a Ricky Martin how this fever, which could be fatal, was carried. By close personal contact or mosquito, I was told. I ran to the cabin and never left. Better cabin fever than dengue fever.
When I got home, I ran to my OB/GYN and told him everything. He calmed me down and said that if I'd gotten any kind of bug, I'd be showing symptoms by now. As soon as he said that, I started burning up. I made him take my temperature, but it was perfectly normal. I think he was laughing at me, but I didn't care.
So, for the next few months, I took my temperature daily, hardly left the house and prayed that neither my baby nor I had picked up any amoebas, microbes, spores or monkey-borne TB in the rain jungle.
Even when I went into labor, I couldn't stop thinking about dengue fever. Once the serious pushing started -- and I pushed for two hours -- I forgot all about it. Then, when my boy was in my arms, that was it! Heaven. John was born on March 3, 1995, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces. He was perfectly healthy.
Having John has calmed me down a lot. I don't worry about germs as much -- with a kid, they're hard to avoid. Although I can guarantee you won't find either of us in any monkey house anytime soon!
I'LL TAKE MINE WITH PEPPERONI
B. J. Rack, a film producer (T-2, Mimic, Beautiful) from Los Angeles, could have used a stunt double for her daughter Sara's birth.
Our first child, Amy, had been a Lamaze adventure -- no stress, low lights, only four and a half hours total -- and transition was eleven minutes, very Zen. Of course, you always expect the next one to be the same. No way. Sara's debut was going to be the yin to Amy's yang.
It was October 7, 1983. We were living in the Hollywood Hills at that time. At about 2:30 A.M., I felt one lightning-bolt of a contraction. I pivoted upright, called my brother who lived a few blocks away and told him to come over to watch my youngest. Then I threw on a coat and woke my husband by screaming, "GET THE CAR!" I was certain that I was having the baby at any second.
We jumped in the car and flew to Cedars-Sinai. How fast was the baby coming? Well, I had a total of ten contractions before she was born. I was certain I wasn't going to make it to the hospital, and as we drove past major intersections, I starting thinking I'd name her after whichever boulevard she'd be born at. "Beverly" seemed pretty good. But when we hit Fairfax and Robertson, I abandoned that idea. Between those thoughts, I was screaming at my husband to pull over. "I'M HAVING THIS BABY NOW!" Finally, he took my word for it and pulled to the curb. But at that exact spot, I could see the hospital. Now I'm yelling, "DON'T STOP! GO!"
He pulls up in front of the hospital and I get out of the car, and he says, "I'm going to go park the car." So off he goes to park the car, and I feel like this baby is going to fall out of me.
I run into the reception area screaming, "I'M HAVING THE BABY! I'M HAVING THE BABY!" The receptionist very calmly says, "May I have your Social Security number?" I give her the number, and she starts to slowly type it into the computer. Then some guy comes over -- an orderly or somebody, I never found out for sure -- and starts wrapping that blood pressure-thing around my arm. I'm certain I'm about to drop this baby in a straight-back chair, and I spot a gurney. I feel like I need to be in a prone position and head for the gurney, which starts to rip the blood pressure sleeve from its mooring on the wall. This gets the orderly very, very nervous. He's saying, "No, ma'am, we have to take your blood pressure." He was being very nice about it, and I'm sure he assumed I was just another hysterical mother hours away from delivery.
I sit back down in the chair because now I feel I won't make it to the gurney. I realize I'm still wearing underpants, and all I can think is that I have to get them off me or the baby will suffocate. This poor guy is still trying to take my blood pressure when I dug my nails an inch into his arm and screamed in his face -- "I'M HAVING THIS BABY NOW!" Well, I guess that did it. Suddenly this look of realization comes over his face and he says, "We better get you onto a gurney."
He helps me onto the gurney and says he's going to get a doctor. That's when I latch on to him again and say, "YOU'RE NOT LEAVING ME; YOU'RE HELPING ME HAVE THIS BABY!" Meanwhile, my husband is prowling the parking lot in search of the perfect parking space. And this orderly is pleading with me to let go of him so he can get a doctor. Even in my blind panic and excruciating pain, I negotiate a compromise and convince him to wheel me along as he looks for a doctor.
He finally wheels me into a room. I can feel that the baby's head is coming out, but I still have my panties on. The room is very dimly lit -- no one can seem to find the light switch. They haven't yet located the doctor and in walks a nurse. The nurse helps me get my panties off and the baby starts coming faster. At that second the doctor walks in, followed by my husband, somebody hits the light switch, the baby shoots out of me and hydroplanes across the metal top of the gurney, right to the edge -- and is stopped by the umbilical cord.
I look at the baby and she is an ashen blue color, which is not all that uncommon, but it convinces me she's somehow suffocated. I start screaming, "WHY IS SHE BLUE? WHY IS SHE BLUE!?!??!" Of course, the baby is screaming, too, and I just didn't realize that suffocated babies tend not to scream. Someone points that fact out to me and I begin to calm down a little bit.
The chaos begins to subside, the baby stops crying, the pain abates and my husband tells me the whole thing took maybe twenty minutes. I was never really quite checked into the hospital. I'm starting to feel better, and I turn to my husband and say, "Let's just go home." They weren't having any of that, so they wheel me into this recovery room and that's when a hunger that you wouldn't believe hits me. I ask for some food and they offer to get me some Jell-O and a fruit cup. That sounded about as satisfying as a glass of water and a stick of celery. So when the hospital people left the room, we ordered a pizza. I could see the nurses' station through the curtain and told the pizza guy to just bring it there. When it arrived, my husband swooped out, paid for it and brought it into the room. It was terrific. The best pizza I'd ever had.
And by the way, they never did get my blood pressure!
HEY, MOM, YOU GONNA KISS YOUR BABY WITH THAT MOUTH?
Bridget, a mom of two from a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, was possessed by Andrew Dice Clay during her delivery.
I was at two centimeters for about eight hours, so everyone just assumed this was going to be a long, slow labor. The doctor went home for dinner. The nurses were tending to other patients. But suddenly everything felt very different. The contractions were tighter, stronger and closer. "This baby's coming," I said. My husband replied, "Oh no, honey. Don't worry about it, the doctor said you're only at two centimeters."
I was seeing red. How dare he tell me about my body! I commanded my husband to get the g.d. nurse. NOW! He took his own sweet time with it. When she finally checked me, she explained that I had gone from two to nine centimeters. I could give birth pretty soon.
Well, I was in pain and I wanted an epidural. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was all about modern medicine. None of this hero stuff for me. Drug me up. Make me numb. The problem? They said they couldn't find anyone to administer it. But I didn't believe it -- I thought they wanted me to suffer. And I knew there was a time limit. If I didn't get the epidural soon, I'd never be able to have it.
I screamed, "I want my epidural now. I won't have the baby without it!"
The nurse had this thick Irish accent. "Relax. Calm down. Everything's all right." She kept saying this over and over and stroking my hair. "You're doing a lovely job. Relax, lovey." I couldn't take it anymore. She kept calling me honey, lovey, dear. I knew she was trying to stall the epidural, so I said, "Shut the fuck up! SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
Once I got the epidural, the pain disappeared, but I was mortified. I don't usually have a foul mouth. I felt horrible because she was the nicest nurse. I apologized and apologized. She said, "Oh, that's no big deal. I've been bitten, scratched and punched. Cursing is nothing."
Copyright © 2002 by Irene Zutell and Larry Bleidner
Eureka moments always strike at the oddest times. There I was, legs splayed by stirrups, privates exposed and a 6-pound, 13-ounce creature ramming its head at my cervix. A pain coursed through my body that made me pray for death. And then my husband and my obstetrician nearly came to blows.
I thought, Wouldn't this make a funny book?
Let me back up a bit: A few days before my due date, my doctor -- the one I had interviewed for the job, the one I thought understood me and my unborn child -- decided to mention that he'd be plying the Greek isles during my baby's birth. He walked me to the office of his partner, wished me luck and sailed off humming the theme from The Love Boat.
I was left facing Dr. Brock St. Claire, the substitute obstetrician, who seemed more like an actor playing a doctor than the real deal. But this was Hollywood, where even brain surgeons sneak out for auditions during lunch breaks. He shook my hand and stretched his face into a crescent-moon smile. His teeth were so white and polished they belonged behind glass, spread out on a swatch of black velvet. His skin was mahogany from too many sessions at an electric beach. His perfectly coiffed hair was just this side of a televangelist's.
This guy's going to deliver my baby? I panicked and then squinted past his head, desperately searching for diplomas and various degrees. All I discovered were headshots of actresses and models. Thanks, Brock, for catching my baby. You're the best, one read. He caught me looking and raised his eyebrows. It was as if he were saying, Oh yeah, I've seen their vaginas.
Eventually I calmed down. St. Claire may not be the Norman Rockwell-doctor I'd imagined, but if a bunch of millionaire actresses trusted him with their labor, why shouldn't I? Besides, it was too late to search for someone else.
A few days later I was in the delivery room. St. Claire barreled in and announced, "We'll have this bambino out in a few minutes." Then he imparted some medical advice. "Just keep pushing like you're taking a shit. I like to tell my patients that this is the biggest shit of their lives."
As he laughed, St. Claire checked his reflection in the mirror that had been positioned by my legs. He smiled.
"Remember, push like you're really constipated, honey."
I squeezed my husband's hand and we took long, deep breaths together. Sweat dripped down my face as the contractions tore through me. I'd been pushing for the last two hours. I wanted more drugs. I wanted to call it quits. I wanted a doctor to slice me open and pull this creature out. I wanted to die.
Then St. Claire said: "So, if it's a boy, I'll circumcise him."
I held my breath, pushed and waited. I'd heard Larry's take on circumcision so many times now I had it memorized. Our original doctor knew the deal but apparently St. Claire hadn't checked the files. During the last nine months, Larry had debated this with everyone -- friends, family, co-workers, waiters, mailmen, winos...
Even though Larry and I didn't know our child's sex, he was convinced it was a boy. He'd been calling my swollen stomach "Johnny" for the last nine months. And he had made it clear from the moment the plus sign appeared on the EPT test that his son's foreskin would remain intact. Since Larry believed he knew more about penises than I did, he thought he should have the final say in this matter. Jeannine, my sister, had a solution. "Just have the baby circumcised and then blame it on the drugs." Gee, I really don't remember anything....
Most people quickly abandon a debate with Larry on this subject. Believe me, it's not worth it. Larry's a master at verbal sparring. I suppose most decide, "Sure, let his kid be ruined for life. Why should I care?"
St. Claire's mouth hung open. His teeth glistened under the fluorescent light. "No!!!!!!!!???? You can't be serious. Everyone gets their kid circumcised."
St. Claire was on one side of me. My husband on the other. They were like two matrons across a picket fence.
Larry gritted his teeth as he spoke. "I don't. Why mess with the manufacturer's original design?"
"Why? Because...because you don't want your son to be a freak. And you don't want your son giving women bladder infections because of all the smegma. He'll have too much smegma."
My baby hadn't even been born yet and already he was a sex machine!
"Smegma? Please." Larry ignored my contraction as he clenched his jaw. "Circumcision is no different from tattooing or body piercing. It's mutilation."
The nurse strapped an oxygen mask to my face while St. Claire swatted his hand through the air as if Larry's remarks were the dumbest things he'd ever heard. The nurse cleared her throat. "Doctor, this baby is ready to come out."
St. Claire thrust his palms out at the nurse to silence her. After all, there were more important issues at hand. "Well, I'd like to know who's going to clean the smegma."
The baby was ripping my bowels. I pushed. "It's almost there. We're at stage two," the nurse said. "Look, you can see its head."
The hairy top of my precious baby's head was showing and the doctor and my husband ignored it. Instead they glared at each other.
"Why stop at the foreskin? Why not lop off a couple of inches so his pants fit better?"
I pushed and pushed. I exhaled and inhaled. I visualized. I was on a raft -- alone -- in the ocean, floating peacefully. The cool water lapped at my legs. The sun massaged my face, my shoulders, my arms, my stomach...
St. Claire threw up his arms and guffawed. "You're circumcised, right? You know the trauma your child will go through when he sees that your penises are different?"
"You know, I was worried about that." Then Larry pretended to cup his penis as he spoke in a good ol' voice. "Lookie here, Junior, our Johnsons don't match."
St. Claire's eyes narrowed. "You laugh now. But what about the kids in the locker room? You think it will be easy for him if his penis is different from theirs? He'll be ridiculed. He'll have no friends. He'll come home from school begging you to cut his penis. What will you do then, huh? Huh?"
"I'll get him a box-cutter and a fifth of Jack Daniel's."
My ocean churned with turbulence. The raft capsized. I swallowed gallons and gallons of salt water. A shark bore through my stomach. I was dying! And they were talking about smegma. When this was over, I'd report St. Claire to the American Medical Association, or the Screen Actors Guild. I'd file for divorce. Better still, I'd kill them both.
"GET THIS BABY OUT OF ME," I barked at the doctor. I turned to my husband. "I'LL NEVER HAVE SEX WITH YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!!"
After I'd uttered this anthem for laboring moms, that eureka moment hit. I thought, This can't be an isolated incident of delivery-room hijinks. With pain at a maximum and adrenaline on overdrive, childbirth captures people at their most insane. Why not a book that takes a lighthearted look into this extraordinary event? After all, I couldn't be the only mom yelling, "I'll never have sex with you AGAIN!" Could I?
After my delivery, I recounted the story to friends. My suspicions were confirmed -- many had hilarious anecdotes to share. There's the father who missed his son's delivery so he could change into a suit and tie. The mother-in-law who grabbed the forceps and demanded that the doctor get busy. The nurse who relentlessly pitched a horror movie to a mom giving birth. And the wife about to undergo a cesarean who believed her husband was plotting her murder. As one labor nurse explained, "Women in labor get downright weird." But let's not be sexist. As another said, "The biggest laughs I've had are always at the expense of men in the delivery room. They just get so nervous."
"Tell me about when I was born." As children, it's one of the first stories we request because we're the main character. It's the first chapter of our lives and we can't get enough of it. We listen for Mommy and Daddy to fill us in, begging them to repeat parts until we have it memorized. It's family lore. I'd heard the story of my arrival so many times I'd forgotten what a wonderful anecdote it was. As my mother recounted it for the book, I realized I knew it verbatim, even though I hadn't heard it in decades.
So why not share these stories with expectant moms? After all, no one deserves a laugh more than pregnant women. They've got mood swings, hemorrhoids and an additional twenty-plus pounds to lug around. Plus everyone -- friends, relatives, strangers on the street -- feels compelled to share birthing horror stories with them. Larry and I promise that in this book there will be no sad stories or scary moments. All these stories have happy endings.
Which brings us back to my story.
Suddenly they remembered I was there. My husband squeezed my hand. "Okay, breathe, honey," he said. Yeah, as if I hadn't been doing it on my own for the last thirty years! You're worthless, I thought. I should be squatting in a field of sunflowers without any husbands, doctors or other variety of men around -- circumcised or not.
"It's almost out," the nurse yelled.
A head appeared, followed by the tiniest, pudgiest, most wrinkled hand I'd ever seen. "Looks like it's reaching for a credit card," St. Claire said.
It felt as if everything inside me was tumbling out.
"What is it? What is it?"
"You tell me," the doctor said to Larry as he yanked the baby into the room at 1:11 P.M. on September 30, 1999.
"It's a girl! It's a girl!"
Thank God. A girl! A girl with indoor plumbing. A girl who couldn't be a freak in the locker room! A girl! The doctor placed the slimy, bloody, wriggly little creature on my chest. I wrapped my arms around her naked body and Larry cut the umbilical cord. We stared at our baby and fell in love.
I had my little family; and Olivia Jeannine, her first story.
Copyright © 2002 by Irene Zutell and Larry Bleidner