I was married once. It was a long time ago. We got pregnant 18 months later. I don’t goof around.
The hospital where we were scheduled to deliver made us take a childbirth class. There were four sessions, one per week, with six other couples of the usual variety: some who want you to think they know everything, some who ask relentless questions and don’t listen to answers, and some, like us, who sit silent and saucer-eyed, minds spinning as if they were just informed their father was David Crosby. If you don’t take the childbirth class, I guess the baby just stays in there forever.
The first class was about feeding and bottles and how to hold a newborn so his head doesn’t fall off. I wondered how babies survived before school was invented. I don’t remember what the second class was about because the Q&A couple wouldn’t shut up long enough for the teacher to get a theme going.
“We’re going to watch a film,” the teacher announced at the third class. Mrs. Q&A started to ask whether it was video or Super-8 as the teacher pressed on: “…all about Cesearean sections.” That shut her up, her hollow mouth still open.
I froze. “They’re going to train me to go in after the baby?” I envisioned myself like Little Jack Horner, only instead of sticking in my thumb, it would be my whole hand, and instead of a pie, it would be a lasagne. Instead of pulling out a plum, it would be my daughter.
Back then, if you had a C-section, you had to deliver that way forevermore. I wondered why they bothered to stitch women back up, just to open them again later. Why not install a little door? Women like Octo-Mom could harvest babies like eggs from a hen. You could decorate the door with a little wreath, maybe tattoo some daisies around the entrance. You already have a little shrubbery.
They don’t because women wouldn’t leave the door shut. Every woman I know, but one, wants me to understand what she’s really like on the inside. If she could just show me, she would.
All these thoughts raced through my head in one second, and the dizzy swirl popped like a soap bubble when the movie started. I learned that once a C-section begins, the father has no job whatsoever. He doesn’t get to say, “Breeeaaathe,” because a machine took over that job. He doesn’t even get to coach, “Push, honey,” because to push at that point is like squeezing a pumpkin seed.
There’s no need to tell you more about the movie. You pretty much know what happens, if you saw Aliens. I don’t know why they made us watch it except to make regular childbirth, which is the equivalent of passing a football-sized kidney stone, look like fun in comparison.
Contractions started three weeks early. In the delivery room the doctor said flatly, “Congratulations. You’re having twins.” He left. That wasn’t in the class.
Right after delivery, I ran into our birth teacher in the elevator. Shell-shocked and exhausted, I could barely form sentences. I tried to explain that since we had just delivered twins we wouldn’t be attending that night’s class covering normal childbirth.
“How big were they?” she asked.
“Fifteen and sixteen pounds.”
She fainted, right there in the elevator. “What are you fainting for?” I thought. “You’re the one who presents horror films for a living, and I’m the one who just touched two bloody, waxy fetuses for the first time.”
No, wait, I remember now—they were five and six pounds. I don’t know whether that’s good or not. They probably covered that in class.