Page 8


AFTERWORD The Joy of Baby-Having By Dave Barry \(Editor’s note: The following ar-fiC le found its way to oliiroffice under the tenure of the previous eddor, Geoffrey Rips, after having made… ill on the Austin’ midwives’ circuit: 0h:fortunately, our copy; which Carried the title “To See Your Child Being Born Is To Know the True Meaning of Yucky,” was 4. “bootleg” manuscript without the author’s rime. Recently we have traced it back to humor cdlumhist Dave Barry, who tells us it Was first published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. We are happy to dedicate this reprinting to Editor Rips and his wife Nancy L, ET’S TAKE JUST a ,quick look at the history of baby-having. For thousands of years, only women had babies. Primitive women would go off into primitive huts=and groan and wail and sweat while other women hovered around. The primitive men stayedoutside doing manly things, such as lifting, heavy objects and spitting. , When the baby was born, the women would clean it up as best they could and show it to the men, who would spit appreciatively and head off:to the forest to throw sharp sticks at small animals. If you had suggested to primitive men that they .should actually watch women have babies, they would have laughed at you and probably tortured you for three or four days. They were treal men. At the beginning of the 20th century, women started having babies in hospital rooms. Often males were present, but they were professional doctors who were paid large sums of money and wore masks. Normal civilian males continued to stay out of the babyrhaving area; they remained in waiting rooms reading old copies of Field & Stream, an activity that is less manly than lifting heavy objects but still reasonably manly. What I’m getting at is that for most of history, baby-having was mainly in the hands were born under this system. Charles Lindbergh, for example. Things changed, though, in the 1970s. The birth rate dropped sharply. Women started Going to college and driving bulldozers and carrying briefcases and freely using such words as debenture. They just didn’t have time to have babies. For awhile there, the only nave Barry is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He is the author of Babies and Other Hazards of Sex, published in 1984 by Rodale Press. people having babies were unwed teenage girls, who are very fertile and can get pregnant merely by standing .downwind from teenage boys. Then young professional couples began to realize that their lives were, missing something a sense of stability, of companionship, of responsibility for another life. So they got Labrador retrievers. A little later, they started having babies again, mainly because of the tax advantages. These days you can’t open your car door without hitting a pregnant woman. But there’s a catch: Women now expect men to watch them have babies. This is called “natural childbirth,” which is one of those terms that sound terrific but that nobody really. understands. Another one is “pH balanced.” At first, natural childbirth was popular only with hippie-type, granola-oriented couples who lived in geodesic domes and named their babies things like Peace Love World Understanding Harrington-Schwartz. The males, their brains badly corroded by drugs and organic food, wrote smarmy articles about what a Meaningful Experience it is to see a New Life Come Into the World. None of these articles mentioned the various other fluids and solids that come into the world, with the New Life, so people got the impression that watching somebody have a baby was just a peck of meaningful flin. At cocktail parties, you’d run into natural childbirth converts who would drone on for hours, giving you a contraction-by-contraction account of what went on in the delivery room. They were worse than Moonies or people who tell you how much they bought their houses for in 1973 and how much the houses are worth today. Before long, natural childbirth was everywhere, like salad bars, and now perfectly innocent civilian males all over the country are required by federal to . watch females have babies. I recently had to watch my wife have a. baby in our local suburban hospital. First, we had to go ‘to 10 evening childbirth classes at the hospital. Before the classes, the hospital told us, mysteriously, to bring two pillows. This was the first humiliation because no two of our pillowcases match and many have beer or cranberry-juice stains. It may be possible to walk down the streets of Kuala Lumpur with stained, unmatched pillowcases and still feel dignified, but this is not possible in suburbia. Anyway, we showed up for the first class, along with about 15 other couples consisting of women who were going to have babies and men who were going to have to watch them. They all had matching pillowcases. In fact, some couples had obviously purehased tasteful pillowcases especially for childbirth class; these were the North Shore couples wearing golf and. tennis apparel, who were planning to have wealthy babies. They sat together through all the classes and eventually agreed to get together for brunch. The classes consisted of sitting in’a brightly lit room and openly discUSsing, among other thing’s, the uterus. Now I can remember a time ‘in high school when I would haye killed for reliable information onthe uterus. But having discussed it at length, having seen actual fullcolor diagrams, I must say in all honesty’that although I, respect it a great deal as an organ, it has lost much of its charm. , Our childbirth class instructor was very big on the uterus because that’s where babies generally spend their, time before birth. She also spent some time on the ovum, which is near the ovaries. What happens is the Oyurn hangs around reading novels and eating chocolates until along comes this big Crowd . of spermatozoa, which are tiny, very stupid, : one-celled organisms. They’re looking for the ovum, but most of them wouldn’t know it if they fell over it. They swim around for days, trying to mate with the pancreas and whatever other organs they bump into But eventually , one stumbles into the Ovum, and the happy couple parades down the Fallopian tubes to.. the uterus. In the uterus, the Miracle of Life begins, unless you believe the Miracle of Life does not begin there, and if you think I’m going to get into that; you’re . Anyway, the ovum starts growing rapidly and dividing into lots of little speCialized parts; not unlike the federal government. Within six weeks, it has developed all the organs it needs to drool; by, 10 weeks, it has the ability to cry in restaurants. In childbirth class they showed us actual pictures of a fetus developing inside .a uterus. They didn’t tell us how these pictures were taken, but I suspect it inyolved a great deal of drinking. We saw lots of pictures. One evening, we saw a movie of a woman we didn’t even know having a baby. I am’ serious: Sortie women actually let some moviemakers film the whole thing. In color. She was from California. And another time, the instructor announced, in the tone of voice you might use to.tell people that they had just won free trips to the Bahamas, that we were going to see color Slides . of a, Caesarian section. The first slides showed a pregnant woman cheerfully entering the hospital. The last slides showed her cheerfully holding a baby. The middle slides shOwed how they got the baby out of the cheerful, woman, 30 JANUARY 15, 1988