A couple of years ago, my then 7-year-old daughter, Chloe, walked in the room as I was watching "Call the Midwife." It was during a particularly scream-y scene of a woman giving birth, so I paused the show, explained what I was watching, and she said she wanted to see it. I didn't want to lie to her about her body, how it works, or where babies come from, so I pressed play.
I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she looked at the TV screen, at first curious and then cringing and burying her face in a blanket during the especially vigorous pushing. When the baby was out—in all its fake-world cuteness without any of the real blood and goo that come with giving birth—and was handed to its beaming mother, Chloe smiled and seemed to appreciate the moment. I paused the show again and asked her what she thought.
"And that's why I don't want to have a baby," she said.
Uh-oh. Not wanting to have scarred her for life and eliminated my chance of ever having grandchildren, I continued the conversation in hopes of mitigating the damage.
"Why?" I asked.
"That was scary," she said.
"Which part?" I asked.
"The baby coming out of her...," pointing to her bottom, through her legs.
"Where else would it come out?" I asked.
She opened her mouth wide and pointed to it. I opened my mouth wide, too, and said, "Ahhhhh....," like the doctor tells you to do when he's checking your throat. We both laughed.
"I don't think that would work very well," I said.
And then, even though she hadn't said anything about the screaming or pain, I gave her a hug and said, "This show is about a long time ago, and now they have medicine that makes it hurt less, so it's not so bad."
Um, what? It hurts a lot. And that "medicine" didn't work for me and giving birth was awful. I had three epidurals that all failed, leaving me suddenly at higher levels of pain without warning, and Chloe never dropped down far enough into the birth canal for me to push her out. I was wheeled to the operating room for a C-section, screaming and shaking the bedrails down the hospital hallway so badly that a nurse walked in front of me the whole way closing the doors to the rooms where other moms-to-be were laboring so I didn't freak them out.
Obviously, other women have much better experiences than I did, so telling Chloe the story of her birth might be unnecessarily frightening, especially at age 7. Many don't even have an epidural and manage just fine. But I probably should've been more honest in that it does hurt a lot; plus, it's kind of weird to think about pushing a human being out of your body. But it's so worth it, because at the end, you get a baby—a gooey, bloody baby—but it's your baby, and you love it.
What do you think? Should I have been more honest about the pain of childbirth?