Over the years, our number one gripe about TV drama, scientifically measured by the number of times we roll our eyes and let out a big groan, is that you never get to see a child born without some terrible disaster taking place. One of our old favorites, the hospital drama E.R., was one of the worst offenders. Granted, it was an emergency room, but the number of times that seemingly healthy mothers were doomed by the very fact of being with child was ridiculously high. Cue the pregnancy alarm and turn on the ‘Oh no she’s dead’ music, STAT! … Fast forward to today, and NBC’s remake of the ultimate childbirth horror story, Rosemary’s Baby, is due in 10 days.
Why would anyone risk starting a family after watching a season of primetime TV? It’s terrifying. Our first child was born in a hospital, and we survived. Add that to the plus column. But we chose to have our second child at home, because, we reasoned, childbirth was not a disease that needs to be cured in an operating theater. Our midwife was an R.N., and we were glad for her experience, because we were happy to have someone who knew the signs of trouble, just-in-case. But, we did not want to treat the beginning of our child’s life like a medical emergency, because it wasn’t. Of course, there are times when giving birth in the hospital is the prudent thing to do, and these days, hospitals do their best to make the experience less clinical and cold. We hope parents get educated about the options available to them when their baby’s ready. And we know that some parents will feel more comfortable giving birth in a hospital setting, and not because they expect things to go wrong, but for good reasons that we wouldn’t dare second guess.
But the wider culture seems determined to equate birth with danger, even horror. On the science fiction blog io9, a recent article lists 10 science fiction and fantasy stories that editors are tired of seeing (some graphic imagery on this site), and there, among the usual suspects (zombies, parallel universes, time travel, etc.), is “pregnancy horror”, because apparently, that’s a thing. Think about it: science fiction editors alone receive enough story submissions that feature a mother’s body as an object of horror that the market is saturated. Even though we personally don’t read these stories, we are not surprised. Strange as it is to see pregnancy listed along with zombies, we know that in our weird culture, what happens inside mothers’ bodies is enough of a mystery to become a metaphor for all sorts of fears.
We were tired of it years ago. How about this for a story idea: a man and a woman love each other very much; they come together and in the mystery of their love-making the happy outcome is that a child begins to grow inside the woman; and at the fulness of time, this child is born, not without some pain, but with a far greater measure of joy. Does this sound like a story we might tell to children? And what if it is a childlike perspective on childbirth? Does that make it less true?
This post first appeared on the Parenting On The Peninsula Blog