The Awful Truth

Childbirth: A Barbarian Absurdity That Must Be Eliminated

Published March 9, 1996 9:57AM (EST)

When my mother was pregnant with my sister, I was almost ten years old. I already knew everything there was to know about sex and biology and was tragically bored by both subjects. Nevertheless, my mother, in yet another fit
of ruthless misunderstanding, requested that I watch an "after school special"
called "My Mom's Havin' A Baby," which she felt would clarify any further questions I might have on either subject. The ending of this show promised
a live birth, wherein an actual child would be shown emerging out of the
actually pregnant actress. If nothing else, I was curious to see how the network would handle this raunch.

The show dribbled with Christian claymation dialogue like "Do you
think mommy still loves me as much, now that I'm gettin' a little brother or
sister?" and moments of sentimental family pornography involving the mother
having her older child touch her great misshapen abdomen to feel the jostling of
the sinister fetus within.

I sneered through most of the viewing and waited around for the big nudie climax. It was extremely disappointing. The mother was surrounded by some kind of papery
medical tent which obscured everything but the anatomical part itself, which was
completely trimmed and shaved and powdered for maximum attractive pre-teen
viewability. During labor, the actress, unflappable, with perfect hair and makeup, seemed to be "Havin' "a minimum of strain while "Havin' " the baby, engaging in perfectly civil dialogue with all of the participants in the
delivery ward. The emerging head of the child glowed a healthy Revlon peach
tone, and was presented in its first moments of life as completely scrubbed,
with no attached tubes or unsightly effluvia. I expected the assembled cast to break into a song like the welcoming number in "Annie," with acrobatic nurse puppets spinning the newborn out on a large lacquered plate where it would spring to life in a spangling red, white and blue diaper and
weep with musical joy for being born American.

I think that we are civilized enough now
as a culture to recognize that far from being anything like the aforementioned scenario, actual childbirth is a huge and, to be frank, sadistic biological mistake. It is painful, violent and unsightly, filled with screaming and bursting and squirting. All this loose talk that's going around about "the miracle of life" is nothing but rank propaganda, most probably designed by the Pope.

My friend Angela is one of those who has been brainwashed by this insidious advertising campaign. "It's amazing!" she said in a chipper monotone. "You walk into a room with four people and you walk out with five. It changes the energy of the whole group dynamic instantly."

I hate to quibble, but there are a lot less painful ways to perform this "miracle." If observing reproduction is such a primordial need of the human spirit, why not simply take married couples to the rodeo and show them forty or so tiny clowns emerging out of a Volkswagen?

Recently I saw photographs of the natural childbirth of my friends D. and R. The images burned their way onto my corneas. D. had assisted R. with
the birth. Normally a strong man of jovial attitude and ruddy
health and masculine good humor, D. looked like a 350-year-old vampire exposed to
the equatorial sun at noon. He was straining with every ounce of his ability to prevent
the listing of R.'s huge and rudderless body. R., with her eyes satanically
rolled back in her head, appeared to be waging a brilliant
battle against the father of her child. Thrashing wildly, she cursed in ancient tongues and screeched at "D." that she was going to tear his arms out of his
sockets if he didn't give her drugs and let her out of the "natural" squatting position.

From there it only got worse. The next shots were
festooned with dark, unidentifiable fluids. Midwives appeared, bringing to mind the final scene from "Carrie." When the child itself emerged, it held long
tubes of shiny entrail in each fist and its toothless jaws were wide with deafening
wrath, like an avenging gargoyle bent on the destruction of man. "Isn't she BEAUTIFUL?" cooed "R."

I marvelled at the speed with which the Vatican had dispatched its team of Manchurian Candidate-like experts. I imagined the flock of black cars pulling up in front of R.'s house, furtive bishops and cardinals in black
overcoats, wraparound sunglasses and tall golden hats jumping out like a SWAT
team and blasting through the front door. Once inside they had kept her sleep-deprived and shown her films such as "The Miracle of Life" and "My Mom's Havin' A
Baby" and an onslaught of animated Disney classics, pumping her full of designer
euphorics and lite jazz, until she had that glazed, stoned-out look of exhausted
new-parent love. Then they released her into the world, changed, ready to
spread their doctrine.

Alternatives must exist. Surely the brilliant minds in the field of genetic technology could cross our species with that of more dignified birth-giving creatures, such as female alligators. Alligators in the Everglades lay up to three dozen eggs, then cover them with mud and leaves and check up on them casually every now and then for nine weeks to see how they're coming along. The baby alligators either capably burst
out of the shells themselves, seething with independent life force, or the
mother bites the shell softly to give its more introverted infants a helping
hand. If the egg is infertile and all yolky, the female alligator eats it: a
waste-not, want-not solution.

Another attractive option is presented by sea turtles. Large turtles such as Kemp's ridley or the olive ridley migrate en masse to Costa
Rican beaches in order to lay their eggs. When they are laid, the turtles bury
them and crawl back into the sea. Only about one percent of the eggs laid ever
become fully mature turtles. Even in an egg state, they must fight off fungi,
larvae, crabs and Latin Americans who steal the eggs and sell them to local
bars for $2 a dozen, where burly and lustful men eat them raw for their purported aphrodisiacal qualities.

Recently, environmentalists have been
assisting the rather ill-thought-out reproductive habits of the sea turtle by
surrounding the hatching baby turtles with large nets, then nudging them into
the sea before the aforementioned predators can eat them. In return
for this favor, the turtles would surely agree to help us out.

According to Dollo's Law, the irreversible nature of evolution prevents a species from fully reverting back to its ancestral condition. So we cannot independently revert to such asexual reproductive measures as splitting in two or shedding off a part of ourselves in order to produce offspring. Fortunately, such extreme measures will not be necessary. It should be no problem for scientists to devise a method by which human females can converge with sea turtles. Then all we gals will have to do is fly to Costa Rica, lay a bunch of ping-pong ball-sized eggs in the sand (a MUCH more humane and intelligent size than the standard human infant), and swim off into the clear
blue water.

Environmental protection groups will supervise the eggs and protect
them from bugs and coyotes, allowing the mothers to return in nine months or so to
assist in the egg-crackings in the manner of the alligator. The unfertilized
eggs would be given to the Latin American bar patrons.

Everyone wins. Bar business would boom, helping the local economy. The children would be magnificent, with large powerful flippers and beautiful shiny exoskeletons. And since it takes up to fifty years in some cases for a tortoise to mature and reproduce, modern parents would have plenty of time to educate their young to make wise decisions concerning family planning. Like don't.

By Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

MORE FROM Cintra Wilson

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Catholicism Children Motherhood