A Labor of Love

As a columnist, I see it as my job to ponder some of society's greatest problems, and, if possible, offer up solutions.

One of the most confounding issues of the 20th and 21st centuries has been teenage pregnancy. The authorities have tried everything from social disapproval of all things sexual to openly teaching sex education in public classrooms. Nothing seems to work.

Of course, I have the answer: All we have to do is invent a device that gives someone a short, but memorable taste of what labor pain is like. Strap it to teens the minute they hit puberty and trigger it to go off every time they contemplate so much as a smooch. This will discourage all sexual activity until they are say… 85 or so. Indeed, not only will this solve the issue of teenage pregnancy, but possibly overpopulation as well.

Yes, as you may have guessed, I recently gave birth — a lovely baby boy named Tiernan, who showed up weighing 8 lbs, 7 oz.

The experience has taught me many things. For example, I now know why the mother-child bond is so strong and so powerful. This is because after giving birth:

1) Both of you are tired, sore and confused, and you blame each other for this.

2) Both of you are wearing pads and diapers.

3) Neither of you has a belly button, yours having disappeared in pregnancy and his not showing yet.

I also now realize that childbirth is not the private, personal experience of a select few medical professionals and your immediate family, like they show on TV.

In fact, at any given moment, either during labor or in the hours afterward when you're desperately trying to recover, you will be visited by: the obstetrician, the labor and delivery nurses, the janitor, the food tray lady, the postpartum nurses (never the same one twice), the pediatrician, the blood sample person for you, the empty food tray lady, the janitor, the ministry of health official asking you for the spelling of your child's name when you can't even remember your own, the blood sample person for your child (whom you would maim for making your baby cry if only you could get up off the bed) and, yes, once again, the janitor.

However, even if you had all of these people in your room at once, they would fail to equal the horror of a visit from: the “lactation consultant.”

A new weapon in the modern medical establishment's arsenal, the official job of the lactation consultant is to help new mothers and children learn how to nurse. Apparently, several thousand years of human history and instinct simply will not do the job anymore.

The consultant's technique during the first twenty-four hours after childbirth is to lie in wait outside your hospital room, and burst in during those precious quiet five minutes between visits. The amount of noise this person makes will be directly proportional to how long it's been since both you and baby have managed to drift off to sleep.

The consultant will then insist your baby is starving and must nurse, now. This is in spite of the fact that babies are too busy wondering what the heck happened to their nice warm, dark, environment to be hungry, and mothers are too busy saying “ow, ow, ow, ow” to produce any serious meals.

During the next 24 hours, this evil person will bring and inflict a variety of torture devices, like shields, pumps, vents, flanges, shells and pads — all of which will just make you and the baby increasingly cranky. The only way to make her stop will be to have your husband whack her over the head with your IV stand, and escape the hospital by signing your own discharge papers. Remarkably, you'll find out you can nurse at home just fine.

So childbirth is painful and postpartum recovery can best be described as a circus. Would I do it again?

In a New York minute.

To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.

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