Thirteen years ago, I was sitting in my bed eating bananas and vanilla ice cream and soaking up my three-year-old’s delight at discovering that his baby brother had shifted from my stomach to his cot whilst he was asleep.
Luckily, mini-Bigfoot was unaware of the collateral damage that Rugby-boy had left behind him in his haste to check out the world: a bleak, perineal Hiroshima, roped off below the sheets with crime scene tape and plastic cones. Rugby-boy is a kid who decides and acts without further ado. His birth was no exception, and he achieved an average cruising speed of one kilogram per hour to be on time for his first scrum with life.
For those of you who are worrying about getting a tear-jerking, blow-by-blow account of the sad demise of my pelvic floor, fear not. I have no desire to put anyone off having children, as there is so much more to discover after birth. The delights of an overnight transformation into a cross between Lolo Ferrari and a Friesian cow, for example. Discovering that you too can be a night owl, albeit a reluctant one. Learning how to single-handedly unfold a stroller in the rain with one hand, screaming child under your arm and Tesco’s shopping bag clenched between your teeth. Dealing with toddlers who have no issues with incontinence in public. The list is endless.
However, I do have one small request for any scriptwriters who could be reading this: Can you get a real woman to write the birth bits in your films and TV series, please? You know, someone who has actually been through the reproductive equivalent of crapping a watermelon at least once in her life without the help of gas, epidurals or being hit over the head with a heavy object?
The image you give of childbirth is far from the reality of things. In films, the episode begins with our pregnant heroine walking across the tidy room without a whining two-year-old clamped to her leg. She serves herself a glass of San Pelligrino, then dramatically clutches her perfectly round stomach, tastefully encased in designer maternity clothes. There are no visible stretch marks, and no extra weight is to be seen anywhere on her delicate frame. She isn’t wearing an engineering feat of a bra designed to transport two fully-grown elephants under a Chinook helicopter, and her ankles show no signs of containing enough water to top up the local council’s swimming pool. Her toe nails are both cut and varnished – schoolboy error, Mr Scriptwriter. Everyone knows that from six months onwards, pregnant women cannot reach their feet without having previous training in either yoga or contortion. So excuse me guys, but your scenario is already a bit shaky.
“Oh, honey, my waters have broken!” she bleats to a husband who is not at work, not painting the garden shed and not surgically attached to his pillow with drool at one in the morning. Whilst all she had to do was think about giving birth for the flood gates to blow like the Hoover Dam, my amniotic sacs were all so resistant that they could have been patented by Pirelli.
“Honey”, alias SSOH (Seriously Significant Other Half) immediately carries his wimpering wife (henceforth referred to as “WW”) into the car – mysteriously devoid of plastic toys, DIY material and food wrappings – and takes her to the maternity ward. Compare this with my three successive gems for each birth: “Just let me have a shave and a shower first”, “Are you kidding? I’ve only just got into bed….”, or “Great! I’m so excited! Home births are cool. Want a cup of tea?”
Back to our model couple. SSOH drives to hospital whilst WW moans “It’s coming! It’s coming!” At no point does she burst into hysterical tears, insult him, or underline the fact that giving birth is the only time in your life when you understand that biologically speaking, you really are an animal. Mother Nature takes over, and there is nothing you can do about it except step back and let her get on with the show. I never thought I had a real muscle in my body until my uterus came out of the closet and showed me what it was made of. If my biceps could work as efficiently, I’d be a force to be reckoned with. It’s the Arnold Schwarzenegger of M.M’s organ mafia. A lean, mean muscle machine so efficient that after Rugby Boy’s birth I asked the midwife to check that it was really just a placenta and not my entire innards that had followed him out backstage.
Back to our perfect couple, who arrive in hospital and get immediate service from doting staff. WW gets a wheelchair and a private lift, and does not have to stand in the public lift like M.M, muttering obscenities in English as bewildered French strangers clutching bunches of flowers look on.
Now comes the bit I love in films. Cue sappy music. WW dons sexy gown with delicate black print that ties up at the back then exchanges romantic niceties with SSOH, confirming their everlasting love and underlining what wonderful parents they are going to be. (Easy: they know full well that we will never see the episode thirteen years later when a teenaged John Junior sniffs glue with his pregnant girlfriend behind the garden shed.)
The nurse gently interrupts their
poetic pukesome pre-parental prelude and reminds WW that she has to push. Obviously, this is something you do on command in films. Personally, when the midwife had the bad idea to tell me not to push, I told her to push off: One of the few joys of childbirth is that it is the only time you can not only insult complete strangers and lacerate your husband’s palms with your fingernails, but you get away with it too. I informed her that my body had been taken over by alien forces and would be doing what it bloody well wanted to do until further notice. Maintaining that a birthing mother can switch pushing on and off on demand is as ridiculous as saying that you can stop a runaway steamroller rolling down an embankment using no more than optimism and a tooth pick.
WW pushes twice on demand, accompanied by unconvincing and dramatic moaning, and Perfect Offspring is born. PO is suspiciously clean, has dry hair and appears to be rather oversized for a newborn, although WW no doubt has a luxury womb stretching up to her tonsils and equipped with fridge, wide-screen T.V and politically correct toys to get him in the starting blocks for Montessori schooling. WW clutches her offspring and beams gormlessly at her tearful, emotional husband. She is perfectly made up, has beautiful hair, is not dripping with sweat and is not threatening to alleviate her child’s genitor of his reproductive appendages with the obstetrician’s torture kit in a bid to avoid making the same mistake again.
So sorry, guys, but there are a few major discrepancies with real life that need seeing to before you have a watertight birthing scenario. Let me know if you need a scriptwriter. In the meanwhile, I’d happily go back ten years in time and sign to do it all again. But my way, not yours.