With apologies to Hans Christian Andersen:
Early in this century there lived a Mother who was so exceedingly fond of feeling superior to other mothers that she was constantly searching for ways to distinguish herself from them. She claimed to be the best, most natural, most authentic mother in the world. She took no interest in current events, did not work, and only socialized with other mothers in order to boast of her superior birth, breastfeeding, parenting style.
Now one fine day a swindler, calling herself Midwife, arrived. She declared that she could facilitate the most magnificent birth that one could imagine; better than a homebirth, better than an unassisted birth … an orgasmic birth! Not only was the birth perfect in every way – unassisted, in water, videotaped and painless – but it culminated in the greatest orgasm ever. Even better the orgasm had the special power of being invisible to everyone who was not a super awesome, all natural, authentic woman.
“What a splendid idea,” thought the Mother. “If I had such a birth I could prove that I was the best mother ever, much better than those C-section, formula feeding, unattached mothers.”
So the next time the Mother got pregnant, she gave the
swindler Midwife large sums of money to pay for the Midwife’s books and videos and the two week course at her Farm. Day after day the Midwife went home with more money.
Now the Mother was eager to know give birth and have a giant orgasm. She was, however, somewhat uneasy. “Suppose,” she thought secretly, “suppose I don’t have an orgasm at the exact moment of birth. That would mean I am not an awesome, all natural, authentic woman. That cannot be,” she thought, but all the same I will watch videos of orgasmic birth. “I will best be able to see how a birth orgasm looks. After all, I am the best mother and most authentic woman possible.”
So the Mother and her best friend downloaded videos of orgasmic birth from YouTube and watched them together with the Midwife.
The best friend opened her eyes wide. “Shit!” she thought. “I see only women in pain, screaming their heads off at the moment of birth.” But she did not say so.
swindler Midwife begged the best friend to come nearer and asked her how she liked the videos. “Are not the births painless, and see how rapturous is the orgasm,” she said. The best friend stared and stared. She saw nothing of the kind because there was nothing of the kind. But she did not dare to say she saw no orgasm. “Nobody must find out,”‘ thought she. “I must never confess that I could not see it.”
Instead the best friend said:
“Oh, it is beautiful – most excellent, to be sure. Such a painless birth, such rapturous orgasm. I am now a believer in Orgasmic Birth.” To the Mother the best friend said, “That birth was truly orgasmic.”
Two and a half weeks after her due date, the Mother started having contractions and was looking forward to experiencing painless labor. Accompanied by the Midwife, a doula, the best friend, her college roommate, her husband and her preschool age children, the mother labored in the kiddie pool in her living room. After 4 hours of contractions, painful and getting more painful, the mother was only dilated to 2 centimeters.
“Is not the labor painless?” said the
swindler Midwife. “Notice the pleasurable ‘waves’, the glorious ‘tightenings’.” The doula, best friend, the college roommate and the husband looked at the Midwife and nodded. Each thought that the other could see that the labor was painless and pleasurable.
“What can this mean?” said the Mother to herself. “This is terrible. Am I so unnatural? Am I not authentic? This is disastrous,” she thought. But aloud she said, “Oh, the labor is painless and the ‘tightenings’ are wonderful.” She would not, she could not, admit that the contractions were painful, when her doula, her best friend, her college roommate and her husband were watching. “Magnificent.” “Excellent.” “Exquisite,” went from mouth to mouth and everyone was pleased.
Everyone sat up all that night waiting for the labor to progress. By 8 AM, the Mother was entering transition, vomiting into the kiddie pool and screaming with every contraction.
The Midwife issued inspiring statements. “You are doing great,” she said. “You are having a painless labor,” she said. “Let’s tweet your birth progress to your Twitter list. Oh, and could you move a little to the left so that you are not obscuring the videographer’s view of me.”
“Magnificent,” cried the doula, the friend, the roommate and the husband, even as the Mother retched and grunted. Nothing would have persuaded them to admit they were watching a labor that was far from painless, for fear they would be thought unnatural or inauthentic.
And so the moment of birth approached. The doula, the best friend, the college roommate and the husband cheered and cried, “Oh, how painless is the labor. How soothing the waters of the kiddie pool.” No one dared to admit that mother appeared to be in agony and was screaming for the pain to stop.
“Soon it will be time for my orgasm,” the mother thought to herself in scattered moments of rationality.
Finally the baby was crowning and the Mother was screaming, “Get it out of me. Get it out of me now!”
The head was born and then … nothing. “Surely I will split apart in agony,” the mother thought.
swindler Midwife paled. “Push!” she screamed. “Your baby is stuck!”
“Fuck,” she was heard to mutter under her breath, “another shoulder dystocia.”
The Midwife twisted the baby this way and that. The doula, the best friend and the roommate were screaming, “Push!” and the preschool age children were crying hysterically. The husband was dialing 911.
With an ear splitting howl, the mother pushed with all her might. The baby emerged limp and blue into the hands of the Midwife. It’s right arm dangled at a unnatural angle. The mother fell back into the kiddie pool hemorrhaging into the dirty water.
“Don’t cut the cord,” screamed the Midwife. The doula tried to perform CPR. The best friend burst into tears. The college roommate ran to open the door for the ambulance crew. The husband was heard pleading, “Breathe, baby, please breathe.”
The EMTs bagged the baby who was still unconscious and wrapped him carefully preparing for transport to the hospital.
“Wait,” shouted the Midwife, “there hasn’t been any skin to skin contact. She needs to nurse that baby first!” The EMTs ignored the Midwife and barreled through the door, with the husband grabbing his car keys to follow.
Several hours later, the profoundly anemic Mother was finally settled into bed after passing out several times. The husband had called from the hospital. The baby had regained consciousness and was now intubated and doing well. His arm still dangled limply at his side.
“You pushed out a 10 pound baby with no help at all,” crowed the Midwife, “and you had an orgasm, too.” The doula, the best friend, and the roommate nodded.
From the doorway a little child suddenly gasped out, “But, Mama,” he said,” it looked like it really hurt.”
The Midwife, the doula, the best friend, and the roommate stared at the child. Her little boy’s words seemed to rouse the Mother from her near stuporous state. “What can this mean?” said the Mother to herself. “I did not have an orgasm. I was in agony. Am I so unnatural? Am I not authentic? This is disastrous,” she thought. The Mother made up her mind.
“Oh, no, honey,” she managed to whisper, “I enjoyed it. I had an orgasm.”
She drew herself up and smiled proudly, and the doula, the best friend, the college roommate and the Midwife nodded enthusiastically.
swindler Midwife collected her multi-thousand dollar fee and headed for the door. “Sorry to run,” she called over her shoulder,” but I’ve got to help the videographer with the footage. A little judicious editing, and we’ll have yet another orgasmic birth video. Check for it on YouTube tonight.”
This piece first appeared in April 2010.