Painful Lessons from the Maternity Ward

David Leonhardt

Whoever dubbed New York, New York "the city that never sleeps" should visit The Maternity Ward. My recent visit included a drop-in on several screenings of "A Star Is Born" at the late-show theatre, right near Mamas Breast all night milk bar and Papas Gas Station "We burp you on your way.".

To a chorus of infant cries, I drafted this column at 1:00 a.m. Of course, it was 3:00 p.m. in Tokyo, so I suppose it wasnt so late after all.

The whole experience of birthing seems to be a very traumatic way to build a family. Fortunately, it did lead to two very happy results. It gave me a new daughter, Lauralee, the Little Sister. And it taught me some valuable lessons, which it is my patriotic duty to share with you.

The first lesson – all men, take note – is that my wife is my hero.

As the husband, I experienced the whole birthing outburst second-hand. After careful observation, I conclude that this is the best way to experience it. Apparently I had some first-hand experience over 40 years ago, but I cant remember too many details.

Most husbands suffer great humiliation during childbirth. Wives hurl razor-sharp insults like "I hate you!" and "You fink!" and "You did this to me!" and "I HATE YOU!!!" My wife, truly original even in pure agony, didnt use any of those words. In fact, she didnt say a thing. Instead, she threw up on me.

Of course, I dont hold the throwing up against her. The second lesson I wish to share with you is the importance of forgiving people who act in haste, in anger, or in excruciating pain from pushing a six-inch wide baby through a one-inch wide hole in their bodies.

Did I mention that this was a "natural" childbirth Natural, as in no painkillers. OK, so there was the epidural, which should have relieved the pain, if even one of the four dosage increases had worked. And I suppose you could call morphine and nubain painkillers if they had actually killed any pain.

So my wife, with a permanent back condition amplifying the stab of every contraction and reverberating it through the spine with no momentary relief between contractions, felt every glorious minute – 487 in all – of the unplanned "natural" childbirth. Did I mention that she is my hero The third lesson is, when the best-laid plans go astray, improvise which might explain the throwing up – I have reason to believe it was not planned, either.

My wifes trauma was nothing compared to what Little Sister overcame. Her shoulders got stuck, pinching the umbilical cord and cutting the oxygen supply from her not-quite-yet-born brain. To do the equivalent, you would have to press your shoulder up into your nose, while a bulldozer on steroids pushes you in a river of blood through your mailbox. Dont try this at home, folks.

Thanks to Quick Thinking Doctor, the focused team of nurses, and a well-sharpened pair of scissors, Little Sister is enjoying great suction at the all-night milk bar with no more damage than a limp arm. Thats "brachial plexus injury" in medicalese. The arm will hopefully recover. Even if it doesnt, we know what the alternative would have been ... and we do not look good in black. Lesson number four is to appreciate what you have rather than worry about what you dont.

The Maternity Ward offers far too many lessons to share with you now. My fatigue is overtaking me. I feel like a wad of gum squished on the asphalt, baked in the sun, and stuck on a motorcycle tire burning rubber on a gravel trail. Ha! Bet you never felt like that in New York, New York.

About The Author

The author is David Leonhardt, The Happy Guy. To receive his satirical happiness column weekly in your inbox, sign up at or read more columns at Visit his home page "Finding Happiness and Self-actualization" at

home | site map
© 2005