One thing I neglected to mention in Are You Woman Enough? is that the women I’ve spoken to (or read about) who chose natural childbirth did so for reasons I understand. Most cite a desire to be fully present, to experience every moment no matter how difficult, and to complete labor with not only a newborn child but a profound sense of accomplishment.
“Maybe I’m a masochist,” said SK, a writer and long-distance runner (two self-torturing endeavors, so there’s your evidence). She said she hadn’t wanted to be dulled during the experience, and that she had a purist streak. While I’m far from a purist—it’s the mutts of existence that compel me—I understand not wanting to miss a thing.
But even those most committed to natural childbirth need some encouragement. SK told me about getting to a point during the labor of her second child when she was so overwhelmed by pain and exhaustion that she was considering asking for a C-section. Forget the epidural, she thought: get this kid out of me now.
Her husband gave her a great pep talk urging her to hang on a little longer, she said. He told her, “This baby has to be delivered one way or another, and you are the only one who can do it. You have to go through this experience.”
And that got her through the roughest part. Like her first, her second daughter was born au naturel.
“It’s good that you reacted that way, because there was always another option,” I said. “Which was to say, ‘You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, so shut the hell up.'”
Which is probably what I would say. Maybe that’s why I reacted so strongly to the idea of a Corkboard of Motivation. I became aware of this innovation in the natural childbirthing room courtesy of BiologyLady, a science teacher and my best friend from childhood, whose sister-in-law is due in a few weeks. BiologyLady’s brother called her last week asking her to come up with some motivational phrase; he would write it on a slip of paper and pin it to a corkboard that would be placed in his wife’s labor room. Then, whenever his wife was feeling like natural childbirth was too much, that she couldn’t get through it, she could look to the corkboard for supportive messages from family and friends.
BiologyLady was fretting about what to write. “I’m no good at these things!” she said. “That’s just not who I am. I mean, even with a birthday card I don’t write anything. Just ‘Love, BiologyLady.’ And what am I supposed to say? ‘Keep pushing’?”
I suggested she skip over the labor and focus on the results: “Maybe something like, ’24 hours from now you’ll be holding your newborn baby’.”
That seemed reasonable to her, so we dispatched with the advice and starting wondering what the fuck was up with this Corkboard of Motivation. BiologyLady has a 3-year-old daughter herself, and happily gave birth with the help of an epidural, thankyouverymuch. “I know I have only my experience to go on, but she’s not going to be looking at a freaking corkboard! She’s kind of going to be occupied.”
“If it were me, I can only imagine it being a Corkboard of Rage,” I said. I tried to picture it. It would be propped up on the windowsill, its mealy-brown surface fluttering with scraps of paper. I imagined the increasing pain and exhaustion, and trying to take heart from those chipper messages written by people having beers or answering email or sleeping—doing anything but being split open. I envisioned eyeing it with twin beams of hate, throwing darts at considered messages of encouragement, lodging knives in notes expressing the beauty and wonder of birth. I imagined one long howl of fuuuuuck youuuu.
So maybe it could serve some kind of purpose: as a focal point for the pain, or apparently my rage over the pain. It’s a better option than throwing stuff at Dr. Awesome, I suppose—though I am in no way ruling that out.
So here’s my question. What would you write on my Corkboard of Rage? And skip the sweet advice. What’s the very last thing you think I’d want to hear?