The Cameron Column #56
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      Frequently I am asked by my readers to explain the mysteries of child birth. Well okay, that's actually completely untrue, but since we're on the subject I want to tell you about Lamaze class.

      Lamaze is a breathing technique whereby women feel no pain while having an object the size of a small watermelon claw its way out of their bodies. Yes, this is utterly ridiculous, but Lamaze class has apparently become a prerequisite to giving birth: in fact, a woman in East Jordan, Michigan was recently discovered by authorities to have given birth to a baby without having first attended Lamaze, and the courts actually made her put it back.

      Although pregnancy has been around for at least 100 years, most men don't understand anything about it. It was news to me that pregnancy takes place in three trimesters (Trimester comes from the phrase, "Don't you even TRY, MISTER," uttered by women when men suggest that maybe they can't make it to Lamaze class one night.) The three trimesters are:

      Vomiting, Weight Gain, and Crying.

      The men at Lamaze class are there mainly as punishment for having caused their mates to swell up to the size of Marlan Brando. I mean, realistically, how can we help someone else BREATHE? (More to the point, I can testify truthfully that a woman in labor who is urged to "breathe, honey, breathe" will respond in a tone for which "pleasant" is an antonym.)

      The punishment begins with the first lesson, where everybody sits there and is supposed to be quiet while they watch a film of somebody else's baby being born. This is where you learn you shouldn't have eaten before Lamaze class, even if your wife simply HAD to have a Pizza Hut Supreme with Double Cheese or she would pass out from hunger. You give the other guys a "can you believe this?" look, doing your Lamaze breathing so you won't blow pizza. By the end of the movie they ought to usher in a urologist to perform vasectomies; they'd make a couple of grand right on the spot. The final frame depicts everyone standing around looking happy, except maybe the baby, who frankly appears more than a little pissed off at how his morning's going.

      The night I went, the movie was a horror double feature, with Night of the Living Cesarean Section immediately following Birth of the Pizza Baby.

      After the movie there is a short break so the men can get together and vow that the only way they're going to make it through this is if they're drunk. Then the group is reassembled to practice breathing, even though we've been breathing all our lives and probably don't need any more practice. What did pregnant women do before this Lamaze guy came along, hold their breaths for nine months? And why do I have to practice? Heck, I'm so good at breathing I can even do it in my sleep! During all this panting and gasping, the men are told to squeeze their mates' thighs to "simulate labor."

      Squeeze her leg to simulate labor! That's like simulating a concussion by getting a haircut. If you want to simulate labor, you should run her lips through a pencil sharpener. But you don't know this, so you dutifully squeeze while she dutifully breathes. Men who make note of the fact that pregnancy has caused the thighs they are squeezing to maybe require two hands instead of one will be violently torn into small pieces by a bunch of crazed Lamaze women, and no female jury in the world would find anything in this other than justice.

      In Lamaze I learned there are several different stages of labor. In none of them do you want your wife to have access to sharp objects. By about the third stage you both know that this breathing thing is a bunch of baloney--labor, it seems, HURTS, and you can pant like a race horse after the Kentucky Derby but it won't alter the sensation of having a whole human being clamber out of your stomach and into the world.

      Often a man will run into a fellow Lamaze class husband at the hospital. It's a brief encounter, usually during a fast break to the men's room between contractions. The wild look they exchange says it all: this is nothing like what they expected.

      And after that, nothing ever is.


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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1997
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