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Having a Baby Takes a Lot Out of You 

by Laura W. Haywood

 


I was already a "senior woman" when I conceived my first (and only) child. Okay, I was 35 (36 when he was born), but if you want to be treated like a case of galloping senility, get pregnant in your mid-thirties.

Despite the fact that Bill and I had been married for 10 years, and trying to start a family for seven, the news came as a shock because four months earlier I'd had a test that "proved conclusively" that it was impossible for me to conceive. I had an ovarian tumor removed when I was 24, and they'd taken all of one ovary and most of the other, and the surgery had left scar tissue that formed a blockage. But, apparently the test itself cleared the blockage, and I was "infanticipating."

I have a sister-in-law who had two children, and she searched diligently for an obstetrician who used the LaMaze method, but couldn't find one in her area. I thought she was stark, staring mad -- I wanted anesthesia and plenty of it.

Naturally, my obstetrician turned out to be hipped on LaMaze. He gave me a book to read titled "Thank You, Dr. LaMaze" (I read it and immediately changed the title in my mind to "Damn You, Dr. LaMaze"), and then he sent me to a local hospital to see "The Story of Eric," which showed a woman giving birth using the LaMaze method. Throughout most of the film, she was pleading for a pain killer, while her doctor and husband (both male) were telling her she was doing fine.

My husband is a Christian Scientist and thought LaMaze was terrific, and I have a vivid memory of standing on a Lexington Avenue subway station and snarling at him, "Well, next time you get pregnant and have the baby any damned way you want, but I was unnatural childbirth!"

The next day, I went to see my doctor and told him I wanted to discuss a Caesarian. "You saw The Story of Eric,'" he said. He refused to plan a Caesarian, so I told him I wanted to try hypnosis. I had a Jewish doctor, and I didn't know that Judaism frowns on hypnotism; if you want to go the hypnotism route, you need a Catholic doctor, because one of the Popes issued an encyclical specifically permitting hypnotism. My doctor hemmed and hawed and finally came up with the name of a woman who used hypnotism, but she'd never worked with it for childbirth.

Nevertheless, I went to her and she "hypnotized me." As a student of "The Search for Bridey Murphy," I didn't think I was in a trance, but she said I was. In the second session, in a heavy German accent, she said, "Unt vhen you haff the baby, you vill feel no guilt." I sat up and said, "Oh, for heaven's sake, who'd feel guilt?" (Okay, I said something a little stronger, but we'll let that pass.) "You aren't hypnotized," she said, and that was the end of that.

My doctor arranged for me to take LaMaze classes. I signed up and then heard from two actors I knew that the classes were held in the same building where many shows rehearsed, and the actors spent breaks watching pregnant women going through Lamaze gyrations and laughing hysterically.

I arranged for private lessons. At first, it wasn't bad. Oh, I had trouble lowering myself to the floor and even more trouble getting back up, but I was learning all sorts of techniques that would "distract" me from the pain. That bothered me; how could I be "distracted" and "awake and aware" at the same time? The teacher had no good explanation.

Then we got to breathing into a paper bag. The idea was keep you from hyperventilating and fainting. I didn't understand that at all. It seemed to me that if I could faint at the strategic moment, it would be all to the good, but she pointed out I was supposed to be distracted but awake and aware. The trouble was that my husband and I had seen "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" a number of times.

There is a scene in the show where Charlie Brown is having lunch and he sees that "cute little redheaded girl" across the playground. She isn't looking at him, and he begins to wonder why. Is she so great and he so small that she can't look at him? He looks again, and she's looking at him. He pulls his lunch sack over his head, and then says something like, "If that cute little redheaded girl is looking at me, she must think I'm the biggest fool alive with this paper bag on my head. Of course, if I never take it off, I'll never have to know if she's looking at me. On the other hand, it's very hard to breathe in here." I glanced at Bill, he was looking at me, and the two of us went into gales of laughter, thereby convincing the teacher that we were even madder than she'd thought.

But the worst moment came when she tried to teach us a really weird breathing exercise. You breathe very fast, in and out, six times, and then you let out a big puff. If I ever understood the purpose of that, I've forgotten it now, but judging by the emphasis she put on it, it was of some significance. For reasons that escape me, she decided Bill should learn it, too. I don't know why; he wasn't pregnant, nor planning to be, but she was insistent. The trouble was that he invariably breathed in and out five times, and then puffed on the sixth (instead of the seventh) breath. Losing patience, she finally asked him why he did that, and he explained that he only had five fingers on his hand. "Mr. Haywood, what do you do for a living?" she asked. "I teach math," Bill responded truthfully.

On my own, I finally located a doctor who used hypnosis. He had been an obsetretion and, despite the fact that he was Jewish, he'd used hypnosis. When he learned his son was a transvestite, he'd gone back to medical school and become a psychiatrist specializing in treating boys who thought they were girls and girls who thought they were boys. By that time, I was in my eighth month, and he told me there wasn't enough time left to teach me all the techniques I'd need to give birth in a trance, but he agreed to work with me. So on a Sunday morning, we drove out to Coney Island and I went into his office to be hypnotized. What I didn't know was that, out in the waiting room, my husband wound up in a meeting of boys who thought they were girls and girls who thought they were boys. It wasn't one of his finer moments.

As my due date approached, my doctor pointed out that I'd had LaMaze and hypnotism training and asked how I expected to actually have the baby. "Well, I'll tell you," I said sweetly. "If you don't promise to knock me out, I'll arrange to be blind drunk." He knocked me out and I didn't feel a thing -- except disappointment. I had spent the last three months of my pregnancy fantasizing about tracking down Dr. LaMaze and killing him. The trouble was, he was already dead. I haven't seen the death certificate, but I can't help wondering if somebody beat me to it.

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