Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone! If you're anything like most Americans, you're planning to take the upcoming weekend to relax, because you know this holiday is a formal recognition of the labor movement and a time to unwind. But if you're part of the small, yet vocal, percentage of people who like to associate Labor Day with birth -- aka, the miraculous act that follows a woman's long, intense period of labor -- then this day takes on a whole new meaning. We've seen this rise of Labor Day², as I like to call it, for years now. I've personally been on "Labor" Day Watch for at least five years, and it's like no matter how hard I try to tell people that Labor Day isn't about moms who have labored, people just keep on keepin' on, because this is America, where we work hard for what we want in life, and our jobs won't be completed until everyone finally warms to the idea that Labor Day-themed birth and labor jokes are apropos and hilarious.
After all, moms are tenacious, too. Hence, the need for a little additional recognition that not only is Labor Day a grand celebration dedicated to all laborers and American workers, but also that moms are a kick-ass bunch of gals, and most of them have been through -- you guessed it -- LABOR themselves! Ha ha ha. The kind that involves bodily fluids! It ain't easy! It's funny 'cause it's true, you guys. Every single one of us is on this planet because of a woman who labored. How cool is that? Plus, this never-ending series of holiday puns creates a fantastic opportunity for doulas to run limited time offers on their services. Synergy!
So this year I thought, "If you can't correct 'em on WTF Labor Day is, join 'em!" Isn't that how the expression goes? This year, instead of banging my hands against my keyboard and shouting, "BUT THIS IS WHY WE HAVE MOTHER'S DAY!!!!", I'm going to tip my hat to my fellow sisters and revel in Woman's birthtastic abilities. That's right -- this entire column is dedicated to birth stories. They're very chic, always in season, and each one is totally different, even though you'd swear they all sound identical (if you can stay awake long enough to listen to one). Birth stories are what moms want us to think about as we're lounging poolside or camping by a river or barbecuing this Labor Day weekend, so why not do just that? Besides, birth stories are so full of love and heartfelt emotion, and who doesn't need more love in their lives? If you've never been bombarded with a birth story, lemme tell ya, you are in for a real treat.
Granted, we've touched on birth stories before because some ladies like to publicly reflect on their "natural" births on a regular basis, and we all have a friend or five who have helpfully provided explicit details during labor and/or post-delivery, with some even going so far as to reminisce on said labor and delivery every.single.year. because...well, I'm still trying to figure out why. Which means that technically, some parents are devoting a considerable amount of time on Facebook to detailing a process that more than 10,000 women experience in the U.S. on a daily basis. We've got Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and now, of course, Labor Day, so if you're ever wondering when you might get another opportunity to appreciate the hard work women go through when they labor and deliver a baby, fear not! A new holiday is always just around the corner.
I won't burden you with the longest examples of birth stories I've received, because they all exceed the time it takes the average person to read a New Yorker feature, but here are a few excerpts from the submissions you're missing out on in today's column:
"I warned my friends attending the birth that I'd been given a laxative and would have the runs while in labor. I sure did. Not a fun time at all!"
"My husband was serving the children cottage cheese and melon for breakfast, but having had diarrhea so much that morning, I didn't want to put much more in my system."
"My amniotic sac broke into the water. If it had been a "land birth," there would have been a lake! I was later told there was a lot of vernix in the waters that broke. Well, that felt better!"
"I was concerned, because I felt like I was pushing through my butt, instead of the vagina. I could feel the roundness of my baby's head, separated from my hands by only the perineum. I felt the scar tissue of the perineum as I pushed with my hands to keep the baby IN! The only thought I had was, "If I let go, the baby will be out, but this whole skin will RIP OPEN."
"I had to wait patiently for a while for the placenta to be born. It came a full half-hour later, and made the pool quite red."
The thing about birth stories is that they're usually tales of great personal achievement, and it's normal for parents, especially moms, to want to share them. Many people agree that birth stories are beautiful and empowering. Many people also agree, however, that there's not really any good reason to share all the details unprompted on social media. What is it about some people that causes them to overshare on this subject, while others just post the baby's name, time of birth, weight, and a single cute photo? Why is there such a disparity with this subject? I don't think anyone is arguing that birth is one of the most transformative experiences a person can go through (it's kind of like 'Burning Man,' but bloodier), but there continues to be a divide between those of us who absolutely love reading (for some reason) long-winded and/or graphic birth stories versus those of us who don't. The only potential "solution" to this I've seen is the trend that calls for moms to share their stories using emoticons. I have to say, I don't hate this idea, so long as the stories aren't 50+ lines long and don't include the "chains" or the "swords" emoji.
Lau, you have won my affection, and those emoji do tell quite a story, indeed. Congratulations on your non-birth story. It's like visual poetry. Oh, and speaking of poetry...
Just beautiful. Possibly the worst poem I've ever read, but what does that matter? Let's check out some other parents' birth stories in honor of Labor Day -- because you can't have a laboring workforce without the "labor and delivery"....or something.
1. Wee Baby Lizzy
Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Larissa's bathroom the day she gave birth! I can *almost* picture her on all fours on her bathroom floor talking about feeling like she has to take a poo, but nothing compares to the real thing, you know? I'm sure Larissa's friends appreciated this rundown, one year after she gave birth. She really knows how to keep her Facebook friends in suspense!
2. Pee Sniffing Story
Sorry, Nick, but that Pee Sniffing ship has sailed. Anytime someone begins a story on Facebook with, "Anyone wanna hear the story about...", you know it's likely a story that no one actually wants to hear about. Not that we can't all be entertained by the mental image of a heavily pregnant school teacher "peeing herself" in front of her young students (I think?), but the "sniffing" part takes it just one step too far. Especially considering this child is now eight years old. I do hope you washed those pants, Sharon, and then bought Meg a bottle of whiskey to say 'thank you.' Pee doesn't smell good, but I'm not sure amniotic fluid smells much better?
3. The Memo
If you didn't get the memo, here is Erin's abridged birth story, to be followed, inexplicably, by a more detailed story to be posted later. Now that you know that, you have some time to imagine what else Erin could be leaving out, considering she's already reported her baby's name, weight, birth date, and height, as well as fun facts about her previously stuck placenta and her vaginal tearing. Aren't you excited about whatever's coming next? Maybe some photos of the two layers of stitches? A GIF of Erin's L&D nurses playing hacky sack with her giant placenta? Perhaps a descriptive account of her baby's meconium? Anything is possible! Stay tuned.
4. "You've been warned."
Ahh, remember 'Notes'? We don't seem to use them anymore like we used to, but for a couple of years if there was something BIG you wanted to share in a Next Level way on Facebook, Notes were the way to go. Notes allowed us to find out "25 Random Facts" about our friends, but it also allowed Amber's network to learn every detail of her labor and delivery. From the TKTK to the TKTK, her birth story has it all. Or, I assume it does, because every time I try to read it, I get bored and start taking pictures of myself as a giraffe on Snapchat. To be fair, Amber starts off her birth novel by saying that she's currently working as nursing assistant so her "filter" might function differently from other people's, but I think we all know that's nurse speak for, "I'm going to tell you a bunch of shit you don't care about, and y'all can just deal with it." If she truly didn't know "what's gross and what isn't," she wouldn't have included that caveat in the first place. And somehow pictures are "still to come," even though most of us know more about baby Caeli Rose than we do our own spouses. What would you rather learn after a friend's childbirth -- what her baby looks like, or how many vaginal tears she has? #justsayin'
5. So Magical I Might Barf
Ughhhhh. I might prefer stories about episiotomies to this "gorgeously worded" birth essay. No offense to all the parents reading this, but please believe me when I say that no one -- NO ONE -- over the age of 25 is unaware that "your heart is walking around outside your body" after you have a baby. Who has ever disputed this claim???!! No one! And yet parents, drunk on their own dopamine, still feel an urge to remind everyone they know that YES, "your heart cracks open," and YES, "your capacity to love breaks wide into an endless chasm," as if they must confirm what we've all heard to be true (but really though, WE KNOW it's true...we know.). And while I'm genuinely happy for everyone who's had a positive birth experience, I remain wholly convinced that it's unnecessary to post this sentimental claptrap on social media instead of in a diary. #SorryNotSorry, I don't give a shit about Lily's "tiny king" or her magical journey. I myself took a magical journey when I first tried acid back in high school, but I don't remember feeling the need to tell everyone about it. (But FYI, a variety of black light posters were involved and they looked sooooooo cool.)
6. Every "Piece" Of Information
Matt, you certainly did learn from the best! Except, even your own Mom was all, "Honey, STFU with that mess." Not that this is the worst birth story anyone's ever read; it's not! It's even from 2011, when times were so much simpler and Facebook Timeline hadn't yet launched. That said, I'm hoping that in the five years that have passed, you've modified this story and left out the part about the cervix swelling and the "little piece left." You may have also considered turning that "we" into "my wife," since she's the one who was on the "adventure." You were more of a bystander to that adventure, munching on snacks and playing Angry Birds and maybe even pounding a few beers to relieve some stress in the interim. But hey -- that's a topic for another column. Congrats on your adventure, Matt. I hope it's served you well so far, and you haven't posted any poop pictures. Unfortunately for some birth story oversharers, that's the logical next step.
(Originally published on: Sep 1, 2016B; Image: iStock / PHDG)