THE HORRORS OF CHILDBIRTH: A MENTAL HULA HOOP JOURNEY
Jason, Freddy, and The Shape combined can’t scare you like a pregnancy can.
Okay, I am biased. I just watched my wife go through the trials and tribulations of a confusing and emotional pregnancy. Regardless, I think it’s time we—and by we, I mean the collective man—get a grip and respect the rollercoaster of emotions and physical threats that a woman undergoes when it’s the day or night of the big event.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that you are pregnant, guys. After enduring the diner-sized menu of pain for nine straight months, which consisted of some of the following ailments: back pain, wrist pain, chapped nipples, bloody nipples, leaky nipples, minimal appetite, gargantuan appetite, shortness of breath, insomnia, gas, constipation, bouts of crying, bouts of delirium, bouts of depression, you arrive at the big day when the on-call doctor gives you the go-ahead to visit the hospital based on either water leakage, wicked contractions, or both.
The Horrors of Childbirth: A Mental Hula Hoop Journey— Horror Oasis (@Horror_Oasis) August 8, 2021
Jason, Freddy, and The Shape combined can’t scare you as a pregnancy can. It’s time the collective man respects the rollercoaster of emotions and threats that a woman undergoes when it’s the big event.https://t.co/nvg3guhgAB
And while the entrance to the hospital goes rather swimmingly, you embark on a journey—let’s call it the mental hula hoop journey—that could end in a few hours, or it could drag out, slowly and not so surely, for a 24-hour-plus stretch sans food. Stamina, anyone?
As if the vague sense of completion isn’t enough, you are greeted round the clock by a collection of medical professionals that range from full-time nurses, tech people, lactation specialists, residents that don’t want to disappoint the doctors, med students who don’t want to disappoint the residents, anesthesiologists and their mentees, a hearing checker, a pediatrician that may or may not reveal themselves actually to be one, and a social worker that will pop in with a put-on smile to offer up information that goes against what the collection of aforementioned people told you in the first place. Stressed yet?
While you are not allowed to leave the room for even the simplest hallway stroll (abiding by COVID is necessary), you are forced to keep an “open invitation” to ANY being that wishes to enter. Certainly, no one would want to deny access to someone that could help you during this arduous period of the labor process. The blood and heart rate and anything else of importance need to be checked on the regular. There is no denying that. But there is never, under any circumstances, a time where someone in the building asks, “Is this a good time?” or “Would you like an hour of rest?” Apparently, there is no rest for the wicked.
This is not a place where emotion is welcomed; it is a place where a baby needs to be pushed from your womb. Crying nonstop? Take a few breaths and relax. Gassed from excessive pushing during a 30-minute clip? Get over it and gear up for another 30-45 minutes. Emotionally spent by a monitor beeping on maximum volume and the screens blinking bright red? Wait for the nurse to come. That is, of course, if they hear it from the hallways.
Then it comes time for the collection of professionals to announce their impatience with this process. The baby—your baby—is at the 10 cm mark and should be ready to greet the sterile world of the delivery room. This reminds you of an observation made by one of your first nurses. She wondered, “Is something going on with the umbilical cord?” This question went unanswered by you because you can’t guesstimate what’s happening in your body. But was it answered by one of her peers? That’s what makes you wonder.
But remember those beeps of doom and how they punctured your soul? They come roaring back, and it’s time to make a decision.
It’s interesting and all that you had plans to push this kid out naturally, but it is C-section time. As you sign a form to consent to this process, one of the nurses—one that never heard of bedside manner—promises that you will throw up. No joke. You will projectile vomit like the plump kid in Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me. Oh, and this will all take place in about ten minutes. Oh, but you have an ace up your sleeve that she, nor the resident who just wanted you to “Push, push, push” see coming. You have a fear, one that’s grown like moss to rock, since your childhood. And what could that fear be?
Vomiting, you guessed it.
Now, this is where the disappointment really reveals itself. Not only are you an amateur baby pusher, but now you have to make the C-section process an ordeal because you, unlike the world population, hate to throw up.
As if this is a bomb that no professional knows how to disarm, the anesthesiologist (the second of the day) offers words of comfort and generates a plan to keep that anxiety and its tidal wave force at bay.
Less than fifteen minutes later, you hear your baby girl crying, and it seems like it’s all been worth it. Then you hear the collection of professionals talking about how the cord was wrapped around your child’s neck three times. Relief sets in, but then it’s taken over by grief, the grief that devilishly convinces you that you’re to blame for the cord fiasco, and you’re less of a woman for not getting a baby out the natural way.
After a three-plus-hour stint in a recovery room where you’re left to figure out how to nurture and hold and breastfeed this new being, you are taken to the maternity ward where a room is all ready for you. It amuses you that your bags, every single one, was taken to this room minutes after your C-section, but you weren’t allowed to go in there for fear of…something that wasn’t explained.
Instead of getting rest, you need to learn how to swaddle, breastfeed, pump your breasts immediately after a feeding (disregarding the fact that the milk probably won’t come for at least 5 days), and read bits of literature dumped in this and that corner of your room.
All you want is sleep. And here is when people promise that you’ll get it. One even suggests putting the baby in the nursery (if someone’s there to watch the new kiddos) and allowing you the chance to get some shut-eye. Hope on the horizon?
Oh no, no, no. While one grants you the reward of sleep, someone new and curt and judgmental enters to assess your progress. “You can sleep later” is the vibe. But your eyes are fading, and your soul is draining. Can you keep doing this? Can you remain awake to be everyone’s puppet? You must. You have to do it for the baby. You have to do all this while people on exit day confirm and then deny that you can leave on more than one occasion.
Just when you thought that the Mental Hula Hoop Journey had reached its apex, it continues. So, bring Jason. Bring Freddy. Bring The Shape. Bring all of them together. I can assure you that they wouldn’t scare you like the emotional chaos that exists during a pregnancy.
E. C. Hanson earned his MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU and was the recipient of an “Outstanding Writing For The Screen” certificate.
His work has been published by Smith & Kraus and Applause Books in 8 play anthologies. More than 35 of his short plays have been developed and produced in the United States.
His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Ghost Orchid Press, Horror Oasis, Collective Tales, Curious Blue Press, Trembling With Fear, The Parliament House, Stranger with Friction, and Versification Publishing House. His debut horror collection, ALL THINGS DEADLY (Salem Stories), was released by D&T Publishing in 2021. His novella, WICKED BLOOD, will be released in 2022.
As an educator, Hanson has taught undergraduate and graduate-level English courses at Sacred Heart University.