EXCERPT: 'Don't Say I Didn't Warn You'

During labor, there is a portion called "transition." This is when the baby is moving into the birth canal and stuff starts happening a little faster. In one Lamaze session they warn the men that the mom-to-be might become agitated during this phase and say things to him that are not very nice. This is to be expected, the professionals say, and the mom doesn't really mean the awful things she is saying.

I have come to believe that this phase is actually the culmination of the aggravation from those prenatal visits backing up on the woman; she needs to vent about all that has happened so that she can rid herself of a ton of negativity before her innocent baby comes into this world. That and the fact that she is totally done having a Volkswagen Beetle–size being parked inside of her. "Transition" is the time during which a woman works up enough frustration steam to push the VW Bug outta there.

If you are the woman in labor, you morph into an amateur contortionist. The labor and delivery nurse tells you, "Now, Ms. Renfroe, on this next contraction we want you to put your knees up next to your ears and push!" Any other time in my life, I would have told her to please lay down the crack pipe, but I was always so ready to have the child by that point that I would literally try any ridiculous thing the nurse suggested.

"And push," she'd say. "And just one more push. That was a really good one. Let's have one more push. And another one. Good. Just one more." This is a lie that can go on for hours, this "one more" deception. I have no idea why they think you actually believe them when they've been saying the same phrases over and over unless epidurals affect your short-term memory. You try to block out the nurse and the doctor and birthing coach (whoever it may be) "just one more-ing." Then, suddenly, it's out! It's yours! It's crying! And the relief you feel at hearing that child cry is indescribable. Unfortunately, this is probably the last time you will feel relief when you hear that wail.

For one moment, though, you feel pure joy.

At least that's how childbirth happened for me. I know some women have Cesarean sections, some have peaceful epidurals with a couple of pushes, and some adopt and skip the whole thing (they pant, blow, and push their way through mountains of paperwork instead). But for me, getting three little Renfroes into the world was an effort of epic proportions. And that was just to get them up to sunlight.

By the way, babies don't really look like those Gerber ads for the first couple of days, but if you think of where they came from and how they got out, it's amazing they look as good as they do. People are generally kind and refrain from saying things like "What a pointy head!" or "Do you think his little ears will eventually even out?" And right after the baby has made its appearance in the world, you get a small window of respite wherein he sleeps a lot for about the same amount of time as your HMO will let you stay in the hospital. I have no idea how the ba-bies know how long that is, but they generally start waking up and creating inordinate amounts of decibels about the time you take them home. This is usually the first time a new mother sus-pects that she may have been sent home from the hospital with the wrong baby.

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