Alison’s Comment (on my Blog of 27th June) that she’d prefer her eggs to be fertilized while she was out to lunch (well, it has been known to happen; two bottles of bubbly and those comfortable couches at the Savoy Grill could easily promote friendship) reminded me of the difficulty I had as a first-year medical student in envisaging child-birth, a process whereby, as I understood it from the Anatomy textbooks, a thing the size and consistency of a coconut had to be gradually squeezed along a thing the size of a hosepipe, using little more than will-power and a mild laxative. As my training progressed, with the help of friends (ahem!) I gradually learnt more about the hosepipe side of things, but it was still difficult to put myself in the lady’s shoes, so to speak.
On witnessing my first delivery, things appeared to be much worse than I’d thought, judging by the imprecations of the Italian momma who was at the extruding end of things. My role as a student had been mainly to endure the screams, to regularly mop her fevered brow for 12 hours or so, and then allow my hand to be shredded by her fingernails during each contraction once things started to happen.
I was absolutely amazed when 10 minutes after the delivery, and a certain amount of mopping-up, her husband was allowed in and she greeted him with every sign of affection and happiness. If any man had put me through that I’d have killed the bastard.
Years later, when it became fashionable, even essential, to empathize with patients, instead of just looking after them, I decided that I ought to find out what it really felt like to have a baby. Its surprisingly difficult for men who’ve never been constipated for more than 5 days to really understand exactly what it must feel like down there, so I asked my wife if she could give me any inkling of the agony.
“Its fairly easy” she said “Just put each of your little fingers into the two corners of your mouth and pull gently” O.K.
“Now pull harder and harder” Ooh that hurts.
“Now pull as hard as you possibly can for an hour and when you can’t stand it any longer, use your two forefingers to peel back your upper lip from your face, and then push your entire head out through your mouth”