My sperm donor and I spent my 31st birthday in a prenatal class at the Health Sciences Centre. (The class was twice as long as my labour, ironically.) We were practicing breathing techniques, and one of the exercises required Andrew and I to turn and face one another. I had to breeeeeathe – hee hee hoooooo – and he had to lean toward me and rub my shoulders and such. Without thinking, he said something that permanently etched itself into my memory – the part of my memory where I store reasons to dropkick people in the face, and call them “sperm donor” instead of “loving husband”. His exact words “This is going to kill my back.”
I think even Max cringed in utero. Oh. My. God. Did he really just say that? My back had been aching for eight months. Peaceful sleep was a distant dream (and you have to sleep to dream so I was royally screwed). And the epic pain I was about to endure any day now was going to make his backache seem like a hangnail. I was petrified about what was about to happen to me, and he was casually complaining about his back. Grrrrrrrrr.
But despite this slip of the tongue, and my earlier posts that might suggest otherwise, I am not bitter – not toward him, (and yes, he is a loving husband, by the way), not toward anyone who is exempt from this ungodly pain. I just like to whine about it; it makes me feel better somehow. It’s kinda like swearing. I don’t really need to curse. Frankly, I’m never really that pissed off. But I just like to throw in a good, solid “DAMN” now and then, to send a little surge of lightning through the ol’ bloodstream. I joke about the nightmarish labour, comparing it to that big, goofy Kool-Aid jug bursting through the brick wall. I tell tales of case room horror, occasionally employing the use of hyperbole to heighten the entertainment value. It did hurt. A LOT. But truth is, I’m over it. Well, almost. And I don’t really blame anyone for the pain (anymore). Apple-eatin’ Eve is my homegirl. The nurse in the case room who told me to hold off on the drugs; she was doing the best an overconfident meathead can do. And men – how can I resent them? I mean, they’re not exactly getting off scot-free. In fact, because they’re largely omitted from this unique life experience, I actually feel kinda bad for them.
Think about it. In every other avenue of life, men and women are equals. (In the Western world, anyways.) We have equal opportunities – at work, at school, at play. We may not be able to pee standing up, but we broads can be the best, the boss, the bomb. Men and women alike, there are no limits to what we can do. The world is our oyster and we both get to shuck it.
But this thing – carrying a child and giving birth – men simply cannot do. It’s just not possible! They will never know what it feels like to bake a person inside of them like a Butterball turkey. (Nine months… now that’s what you call slow-roasted.) They’ll never know the exhilaration of having that child, just moments after entering the world, latch onto their breast with sheer animal instinct; born to suck. Men have nipples, but why? They’re as useless as tits on a bull. In fact, they are tits on a bull. Men can only sit back and observe the miracle of keeping this spectacular creature alive with nothing more than the nectar of our own bodies. It sounds too impossible to be true. But God, or evolution, or Aphrodite, or Yoda, or someone, made it very possible. For women and women alone. We may be the subspecies to endure the pain, but we are the lucky ones to have the privilege of this first-hand miraculous life experience.
So we must have compassion for men, not resentment. And we must do what we can to include them in this experience. In fact, we must enable them to in our pain. We must let them rub our feet, our backs, our legs. We must permit them to run warm baths for us, paint our toenails, shave our legs, and run out at 2am to buy ketchup chips, muffins (“I said BLUEBERRY, damn it!”), and mangoes. During labour, we must squeeze their hand so tight, it’s at risk of losing a finger. We must have them fetch the hungry baby from the crib, then put the happy baby back. We must encourage them to spend time with the lil’ munchkin, while we go shopping for 200-dollar leather boots. It’s the least we can do to include them in this heaven-sent journey from which they have been so unfairly excluded. In the name of equality, it’s simply the right thing to do.