FROM HERE TO MATERNITY: PREGNANCY & BIRTH IN THE MEDIA
Most classic movie fans will agree, there are few love scenes as passionate as the one in "From Here to Eternity."
For those who haven't seen it, here's a brief description: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr roll around on the beach lip-locked as sand fills their bathing suits and water rushes into every orifice.
OK, so that's probably not the most romantic description, but in truth, I'm sure that's what happened! Ahhhh, the joys of sex on the beach.
What most people may not recall is the conversation that takes place after Burt and Deborah are done rolling around in the sand. With tears in her eyes, Deborah tells Burt about the birth of her child: Her drunk husband returns home one night to find Deborah in the throes of labor. She begs him to get the doctor but instead he passes out on the couch. An hour later the baby is born.
"Of course, it was dead," Deborah says, implying that the baby died because the birth was unassisted. According to Hollywood, birth is dangerous and only doctors can make it safe.
Not much has changed in the past fifty years. Even the most independent characters can't successfully give birth without a doctor perched between their legs. Newspapers, books, and magazines are no better. Pregnancy is always a disease, and birth is always traumatic and excruciatingly painful. Rarely does the media portray pregnancy and birth in a positive light - or laboring women as confident and capable.
Sure, there are smiles to be had after the child is born, and certainly there are smiles during conception. But pregnancy and birth are sheer hell.
Below are some quotes I've collected over the years about pregnancy and birth in the media.
Woman #1: "Forty-two hours of labor and they still had to slice me open like a ripe melon."
Woman #2: "At least your husband's fertile. I'll never know the joy of a Cesarean!"
-from some sitcom I happened to catch the other night
"Amnesia: Condition that enables a woman who has gone through labor to have sex again. Impregnable: A woman whose memory of labor is still vivid."
-from "Parents Dictionary"
"Nearly all the seven dwarfs of pregnancy have shown up by now: Sleepy, Queasy, Spacey, Weepy, Gassy, and Moody. The only one who hasn't checked in is Happy."
-from The Mommy Club by Sarah Bird
"Every woman in labor hates her husband."
-spoken by a woman on the "Jenny Jones" show
"I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!"
-screamed by Salma Hayek during the birth scene in the movie "Fools Rush In"
"I CAN'T DO IT!!!!"
-screamed by Geena Davis during the birth scene in the movie "Angie"
"GIVE ME DRUGS OR I'LL KILL YOU!!!"
-screamed by the character Chrissy during the birth scene in the movie "Now and Then"
"LORDY BE! MISS MELANIE'S GOING TO DIE, AH JUST KNOWS IT! HELP! HELP!"
-screamed by Butterfly McQueen during the birth scene in the movie "Gone with the Wind"
"It was a cavewoman named Ooga who, while giving birth, was the first to swear at her Neanderthal of a husband that, if he ever touched her again, she'd invent the practice of circumcision just for him….it was this incident that led to the invention of the epidural - it just took several millennia of further threats for men to figure it out."
-from "If this ain't true, it oughta be" by Laurie Kay Olson (Colorado Daily, March 7, 1997)
Photo copyright Catherine Steinmann.