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West Side Stories: Ignorance is Bliss

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WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Claire Hennesy was recorded live on June 6 at Sonoma Portworks, as part of West Side Stories, Petaluma’s popular monthly showcase of spoken word performances, hosted by Dave Pokorny. Each month, willing storytellers are randomly selected from the audience to tell a tale based on a theme – this month’s theme: “Ignorance is Bliss” – and the audience selects its favorite. The next West Side Stories show will be held on July 11. For tickets and information, visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

I’m going to talk about the first time I got pregnant.

I was completely ignorant. I didn’t know anything. None of my friends had had kids, and neither of my two sisters had had kids. My older sister was having way too much fun having way too many inappropriate men, and my youngest sister was a Buddhist nun, so she was celibate.

So they weren’t helping.

The first indication of my impending doom came when I was at the gym, pounding up and down on the stepper, but I couldn’t do it, because my boobs felt like Muhammad Ali had used them as a punching bag. A few days later, I was running to get to the theater on time in London, and I had to cradle my bosoms like I was some sort of fitness pervert, feeling myself up while exercising.

So I went out and bought a pregnancy test.

When the wretched blue line first appeared, I nearly died. I was 31 years old. A geriatric mother, according to my charming doctor. I felt like I could hear my ovaries going, “Yes! What the f—k took you so long?’ But the rest of me was not ready for motherhood. All I’d heard about motherhood was, you know, the sleepless nights, projectile vomiting, wearing clothes covered in sick, exploding diapers filled with poo, a nonexistent sex-life, endless crying - including the baby – and the complete and utter loss of your pelvic floor.

At that point, I didn’t actually know what a pelvic floor was. I wish I’d loved it, cherished it, and shored it up with load-bearing steel. So I could still laugh and sneeze now without it being an extreme sport.

Anyway, eventually, when I went into labor, I was at my local pub – much to the amusement of the other patrons. So I staggered home, and attempted to strap on my TENS machine. That’s not a marital aid, but an extremely complicated pain relief contraption, recommended by my bloody midwife. What it is, is like all of these wires that strap to the base of your spine, and they dangle down really dangerously … So you bloody trip over them every five minutes like a beached whale. And they connect to these handheld controls, and then you basically zapped yourself, giving yourself little electric shocks, which just distracted you from the labor pains. So that’s what they were.

And don’t get me started on going to loo every ten minutes and not peeing on them.

So, eventually, hours later, in agony, off I go to the hospital, thinking, “She’s going to be born any minute, my baby’s going to come.” I go up onto the examination table, and in comes this really tall, really severe, scary-looking doctor, and she shoves what feels like her entire arm up my vagina. Bloody hell, that’s worse that the labor pains. And she looks down her nose at me and says, “You’re not even one centimeter dilated,” as if I’m a complete bloody wimp to be even be in hospital.

I thought, “What have I been doing for the last ten hours?”

WEST SIDE STORIES

This true story by Claire Hennesy was recorded live on June 6 at Sonoma Portworks, as part of West Side Stories, Petaluma’s popular monthly showcase of spoken word performances, hosted by Dave Pokorny. Each month, willing storytellers are randomly selected from the audience to tell a tale based on a theme – this month’s theme: “Ignorance is Bliss” – and the audience selects its favorite. The next West Side Stories show will be held on July 11. For tickets and information, visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.

Another 24 hours goes past, before my daughter decides to grace us with her presence, during which time my husband finds a lovely, cozy little corner, lies down and has a sleep and snores through my contractions. When he wakes up he complains of an achy back, poor love.

Meantime I ripped up my neatly written birth plan, written on the advice of the Natural Childbirth Trust, which said I wanted little or no pain relief. F—k that. I said, “Give me pain relief now! Give me the epidural!”

Along comes the anesthetist, who says, “You’re too early on in labor. We can’t give you the epidural.” Oh Christ! Then he comes along a bit later and says, “You’re too far along in labor. We can’t give you the epidural.” So I asked, “What can I have, then?”

“We can give you Pethadine.”

The only bloody thing written on the stupid birth plan, that I didn’t want, really, because it makes you throw up.

“I don’t care if I’m projectile vomiting into next week. Give me that pain relief!”

So, when my daughter – she was a daughter – finally decides to come, she doesn’t hang about. It’s been 36 bloody hours. But I give two huge pushes, and she shoots out like a bloody bullet out of a gun. The poor midwife had to channel her inner Buster Posey to catch her before she hits the floor.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, who’ve ever had a kid before, but I think all your brain cells must get ejected with your afterbirth. Nothing’s left.

Otherwise, why the bloody hell would I go through the same awful process all over again … with my son?