Untitled excerpt (short story)

Seth and Stephanie didn’t go to a birthing class. Stephanie labored for fourteen hours and still ended up having to have a C-section. That was Stella, who is now six. She turned out okay, but we still wonder if she’s maybe a little bit autistic. Something about the way she fingerpaints. They went to a birthing class for their second baby and little Kayla popped out in fewer than three hours.

Joel has these friends from college she talks about—Jamie and Brett, I’m not sure which one is which—who were partiers. Brett—or Jamie, whichever one is the woman—drank shots of tequila during pregnancy and their baby came out looking like Eric Stoltz in Mask. All forehead and cheek, and one of his eyes boggles out like a gargoyle. Plus, I know this one couple—Suzanne and Nicholas—who used aspirin instead of ibuprofen and had a glass of wine every single night like they were French or something, and their baby miscarried. Twice. I mean, who would continue to do that shit after the first miscarriage? Their third try they had a healthy boy, eight pounds twelve ounces, and they said they didn’t do anything different, but that was just them pretending to be French. They named their boy Ariel. Man, is he going to have problems.

We started a website, bethanyandjoelhaveababy.com, but that was back in January. We haven’t posted much in the last, jeez, February March April … four months? We will be much better now about posting our updates so you all can see the progress. It’s all becoming so real!

I’m starting to fill out my birth plan now, and I’m posting it on the site. Joel isn’t much help. He won’t give me a straight answer. I ask him if we want painkillers during birth and if so, at what point?

“When it starts to hurt?” he says.

“Don’t you want to at least try for a natural birth?” I ask him.

“So long as it’s got ten fingers and ten toes and doesn’t look like a gargoyle,” is all he can think to say. Though he does add, “And so long as you make it through okay.”

“You’re thinking of the other one, death. This is birth. Remember? Anyway people have been doing it for thousands of years. Tens of thousands.”

“Mm. Hundreds of thousands,” he says.

I explain to him about natural childbirth again and express doubt that he’ll be able to go to bat for me if the nurses come at me with the epidural.  It’s meant to push Joel’s buttons but Joel just shrugs. “You might want to control the pain,” he says and I swear I’m this close to throwing my home Doppler kit at him. “What does your midwife say?”

He’s referring to Carla Chang, our certified nurse-midwife, whose degree is the equivalent of a nurse practitioner, so she’s not some kind of woo-woo midwife with hippie beads and long flowing skirts. Carla Chang wears professional attire, and sometimes wears teal scrubs, but I have never seen her wear beads or a skirt or put her hair in a bun. Still, Joel is changing the topic and I can’t do this without him.

“Leave Carla out of it. You and Carla. You people have no sense of moral duty. Of human evolution. No idea of what I’m—what we’re capable of.”

“I have some idea,” he says. That’s his trump card. He works at a zoo.

“Oh, please, you work in marketing.”

“So do you.”

It ends there, because there is nothing you can say to that. It’s exactly the kind of nonsensical counter-argument that makes me think sometimes I’m married to a cocker spaniel. He’s loyal, means well and is good company, but debate isn’t his strong suit and he’s only moderate protection in a burglary.

Personally I don’t want any pain meds. I want a natural birth like a normal human. I have a book that guides you through an optional self-hypnosis to control labor pain, but I’m not sure that counts as natural. I checked. The other women in the online pregnancy forums seem divided on this, so I’m thinking why risk it? What happens if I hypnotize myself and something goes wrong, and I’m not consciously able to respond to commands? Sounds like a path straight to C-section.

“What if you accidentally hypnotize the baby,” is Joel’s take. You see what I’m up against.

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