It is my understanding that childbirth is an extraordinarily painful process, which is no surprise, given that it consists of reaching inside a person and pulling another person out of her. I can’t think of any 8-pound section of me that I would let you remove unless you first gave me enough drugs to kill me.
Yet women have babies every day. Not the same women, obviously, but different women. And EVERY DAY. Somehow they endure it. Some of them endure it better than others, though, and that brings us to this week’s subject matter, which is: CRAZY CHILDBIRTH STORIES.
A couple childbirth stories have been in the news recently, both involving Caesarean sections, a procedure named after the first person known to have been born that way, one Thaddeus Section. From Utah comes the dreadful story of Melissa Ann Rowland, who refused to have a C-section and thus lost one of the twins she was carrying. She was charged with “depraved indifference to human life,” and eventually pled guilty to the lesser charges of “child endangerment” and “extreme skankiness.”
Rowland, who also took drugs during her pregnancy and was smoking cigarettes minutes before she delivered, was told repeatedly that a C-section was necessary to save the lives of her unborn babies. She refused, however, allegedly because she didn’t want the scars that such a procedure would produce. According to a nurse who spoke with police, Rowland said she “would rather lose one of the babies than be cut like that,” and if you’ve seen Rowland (her picture is posted to the left), you know she’s someone who takes great pride in her appearance.
So she refused the C-section for several weeks, even though she was unable to deliver them, er, the normal way. (The term is “vaginally,” but I refuse to say it, except in parentheses.) Finally, after major complications had set in and she realized there was no other way to get the babies out of her, she allowed the procedure to be performed, but it was too late. One baby was stillborn. The surviving twin has been placed with a non-insane family.
You look at someone like Rowland and you think: How did she even GET pregnant? I mean, I know HOW. But HOW did SHE get pregnant? Despite the unpleasantness of the story, it does serve as a reminder to those of us who are average-looking, or even grossly unattractive, that willing romantic partners may indeed be out there, somewhere, provided you have access to liquor. At any rate, she will be locked up for a while in a women’s facility, so there is not much risk of her reproducing again anytime soon, at least not the traditional way.
From Mexico comes a story at the far opposite end of the spectrum, and by spectrum I mean continent. No, I mean spectrum. A 40-year-old woman in rural Mexico took extreme measures to ensure the safety of her unborn baby. What did she do, exactly?
(Warning: If you are disturbed by the thought of a woman performing a C-section on herself with a kitchen knife, do not read the next sentence.)
She performed a C-section on herself with a kitchen knife, that’s what!!!
As reported by CNN.com, the woman lives eight hours from the nearest hospital and has no running water or electricity. She lost a previous baby due to labor complications, and when this one proved impossible to deliver, er, the normal way (you know the word I mean), she took matters into her own hands, as it were.
Dr. R.F. Valle of the Dr. Manuel Velasco Suarez Hospital in San Pablo, Mexico, said: “She took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts … and delivered a male infant that breathed immediately and cried.” (Well, you’d cry, too, if the first thing you saw upon waking was your intoxicated mother coming at you with a kitchen knife. Believe me, I know!)
I am both horrified and touched by this story. It speaks to a mother’s natural instinct to protect her child at all costs. And it is also a sobering reminder that we should consider ourselves lucky that we do not live in Mexico (although, even with accessible hospitals in most of the United States, the kitchen knife method of childbearing still might be easier than dealing with an HMO).
Finally, we come to the story of my friend Pants (names have been changed) and his wife, Mrs. Pants, who delivered their fourth child AT HOME, without ANY ASSISTANCE, while sitting IN THE BATHROOM!
Now, the crazy thing about Mrs. Pants — well, among the crazy things about Mrs. Pants — is that she prefers to give birth at home, with midwives, as opposed to in a hospital, with drugs. She is also home-schooling her children. My conclusion? She just doesn’t like leaving the house.
Anyway, early one Saturday morning last fall, she found herself, as she often does, nine months pregnant and on the verge of delivery. Her contractions had begun, but they were relatively mild and widely spaced. She and Pants decided the midwife, Margie, did not need to be called just yet.
But after a while, the contractions began to be longer and closer together, and so Pants called Margie. “Why don’t you come on over for the party?” he told Margie. “Her contractions, though not really hard yet, are pretty close, and I’m sure we’re on our way”
“OK,” Margie said, “I’m going to throw some clothes on and I’ll jump in the car.” (Pants adds, “I appreciated knowing she would be dressed when she arrived.”)
At this point, Mrs. Pants ventured into the bathroom to do a little business, but found that things were progressing faster than expected. She bellowed loudly, and Pants rushed to her aid. “I have to push,” she told him. He reports: “I called Margie back and said, ‘She needs to push.’ I suppose I was hoping that Margie had a ‘Back to the Future’-type car and would be able to arrive immediately, if not five minutes ago. Margie shot back, ‘Oh, tell her not to push.’
“Thanks, Margie. My wife’s on the brink of delivering, and I’m going back in with ‘Margie says not to push.’
“‘Margie says not to push,’ I told Mrs. Pants. She looked up at me like she was wondering when I had started drinking in the mornings. Then there was a large gush of water. Her water had broken. The expression on her face was telling me this was IT. I had seen it before and I knew this was it. I knelt down and had her scoot to the edge of the toilet and lean back. There was the baby’s head. Not just a sliver of it, but the entire top of the head. At this point, it didn’t matter if she pushed or not, the baby was coming out.
“Mrs. Pants seemed calm, and I think more than anything, that is what helped me be calm. I told her I was ready and that she could push when she was ready. She pushed once and the head came right out, no problem. It was facing to the side, correctly. I put my hand on it to guide it out, and waited for her to push again. She sort of panted and reevaluated the situation. She stood up and hunched over my shoulder, and pushed again. The baby came right out into my arms.”
Margie called from the road to see how things were going, and she instructed Pants on how to cut the umbilical cord. Everything turned out just fine, though baby Roxanna may one day face taunting when her classmates find out she was a toilet baby. I’ve advised the Pantses to tell her that early, so she doesn’t have to hear it from someone else first. It would be especially cruel in her case, since her classmates would be her siblings, being home-schooled at all.
So here’s to you, responsible mothers of the world! My hat’s off to you. And to you, Melissa Ann Rowland, I say this: What are you doing Friday night?
For the record, I did check with the Pantses before telling their story, then went ahead anyway when they said no. But I kid. They gave some suggestions and a few delicate points not to tell the whole world, but generally didn't mind their marvelous/alarming story being shared. The quoted parts are from an e-mail Pants sent out to friends and family days after the birth occurred.