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Archimedes Inside and Out:
Chronicle of a Pregnancy

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Part 7: The Weekend of Dread

Month 8

I can no longer dodge the scariest aspect of pregnancy. For the past eight months, I have conveniently focused on pregnancy and parenting, sidestepping the gnarly and visceral issue of labor and delivery.

It's not that I'm afraid of the pain. I have every faith in my doctor and modern medicine, and am absolutely willing to take any and all drugs. I'm even hoping for a nicely sized doggie bag of painkillers to take home. But honestly, the whole labor and birth thing grosses me out. A lot of mysterious body fluids and unnatural stretching seem to be involved. Yikes.

Last weekend my husband Liam and I took our labor and delivery course, a whole day affair that crams in everything you needed to know about giving birth — Super Kaplan for Lamaze. I was psyched that our extremely efficient and practical obstetrician prescribed the one day deal. Also, our instructor, Sarah, was very experienced and encouraging, and not at all annoying. Still, I was apprehensive about the course ahead of time.

The class was full of smiley couples holding hands, rubbing bellies, stroking hair, and in general oozing parental gooey sunshine. It made me want to vomit. Liam caught whatever bucolic virus was in the air too, but given my personal space issues and stress level, I had no plans to join the damn happy-clappy display of pregnant bliss.

Things weren't bad in the beginning. We listened intently to explanations of labor, then obediently practiced the hee-ing and haa-ing breaths used in those stages. Sarah lightened things up by making the coaches (mostly fathers, but ‘coaches' is the PC term) get in front of the class, sometimes on all fours, and moan while they swiveled their hips.

But then she played videos of how these exercises were to be used, and they were horrifying. Mothers-to-be screamed well-rehearsed hee's and haa's, with naked body parts and wires everywhere. New-agey music accompanied the gory drama. Fathers-to-be anxiously droned on about how great their wives were doing, right in their wives' faces. I thought, how absolutely awful! Liam may very well have the crap beaten out of him if he tries that.

Lots of people in the videos then told the mothers-to-be it was almost over as their nether regions stretched beyond comprehension. Mystery liquid gushed everywhere, and suddenly a white gooey baby gets unceremoniously plopped on a hyperextended belly.

At this point, most of the smiley collective, which had been gripping each others' hands and bellies, burst into tears of joy and pent up expectation. Liam was perhaps the worst, but these days he pretty much cries at every baby related thing; he tears up looking at newborn clothes at Baby Gap, much to my embarrassment.

I, on the other hand, sat stunned, arms crossed, mouth open. Sure, you get a baby out of the deal, but it's just SO GROSS. Doesn't anyone else see that?! I half-expected the babies to suddenly go all alien on the videos, like in The Fly or that 80's mini-series V.

The afternoon offered only more of the same. You'd think that after watching half a dozen births, I would have become inured to the nastiness of it all. I did get used to it a bit, but I stayed grossed out. I consoled myself by volunteering Liam to simulate the pushing part of labor in front of the class. He had to pull his legs up by his ears, crotch and butt out to the class, and grunt like a pig in heat. I laughed my ass off. I also burned that hilariously unattractive image into my brain so I can recall it and laugh again when the drill becomes the real deal for me.

The baby-tastic weekend continued the next day with a coed baby shower, thrown very graciously by my friend Angela. I insisted that the event be coed, to mitigate any spiraling of estrogen-laced insanity, a common theme of chicks-only showers I've attended in the past.

Also, while I was excited just to hang out with our friends, I was also uncomfortable about being the center of attention, because I know I'm no paragon of bucolic impending motherhood.

Am I somehow deficient because I can't get excited about lavender butterfly coat hooks or pink gingham crib linens? Or because the Pottery Barn Kids catalog makes me want to buy black leather hotpants? Or because when I try to remember the words to lullabies, I can only recall the lyrics to my favorite Alice in Chains album?

When the grocery checkout guy recently commented on my enormous belly and asked if I would be having twins, I retorted, "Are you trying to be an asshole or does that come for you naturally?" Personally, I considered this a restrained response, since it did not include the f-word or ‘moron.' My friend Lydia says that pregnancy is partly socially sanctioned weight gain, and random people feel happy when they see a big belly but unfortunately feel compelled to make inane commentary. I think she's right on.

Fortunately, my friends are my friends because they know how to find the humor in the anxieties that plague me. The shower turned out to be a wonderful afternoon full of laughter and delicious food, and involving minimal belly rubbing. Even the usually nauseating baby shower games were fun. There was only one tense moment, when someone guessed my belly's largest girth was 65 inches — exactly my height. But my friend Ron turned the game around by trying to guess the girth of Liam's belly instead.

Lots of things are increasing with the approach of Archimedea's due date: my belly, the swelling in my ankles, my appetite, my credit card bills, my impatience with idiotic pregnancy commentary. All of this feeds my anxiety. But the two events I dreaded most — the Lamaze class and the baby shower — did the most to make me laugh and soften the sharp edges of nervousness I have about the final month.

I feel lucky to have great friends and a good-natured husband with an enormous capacity to endure public humiliation. I can't wait for Archimedea to meet us all.

Copyright © 2002 Yumiko Shinoda.

Yumiko Shinoda lives in San Francisco, California.