“In the third stage of labour, you might feel some discomfort.”
I glommed onto that one phrase with the hope and trust of the wide-eyed innocent. It was the 70s. I was pregnant. I read everything and anything I could get my hands on. This particular book was pithy and perky and I believed it.
And then I gave birth.
“Might feel some discomfort”. Don’t you love that word “might”? Not, I will feel, but I might. Like there’s a possibility I won’t. In the third stage of labour. Said with an absolutely straight face.
And discomfort. Another word that pooh-poohs reality. Discomfort. Discomfort is a hangnail. Discomfort is your leg falling asleep. Discomfort is an itch you can’t reach. Discomfort does not register on the Richter Scale of Stage Three Labour.
Did I mention that I believed this stuff? Did I mention that I entered battle blithely unaware? Did I mention that fairy tales and bedtime stories weren’t yet on my agenda?
It was the first time I realized that not everything I read was true. I’m not talking about National Enquirer here. This was a manual, a teaching tool, an aid aimed at educating the uninitiated.
Since that long-ago epiphany, my radar pings when I come across airy claims proliferating the media and promises of customer service reps – especially if followed by an exclamation mark, visual or implied. The cheque’s in the mail. Make it tonight and wear it tomorrow. Wash and go haircut. Restores tooth enamel. No more cellulite. No more deadheading petunias. And my personal favourite, One size fits all.
Good PR will continue to ensnare the unsuspecting naif, and I must admit there are times I’ve fallen prey to the siren’s lure of a miracle, swayed by an ad’s lofty declarations. Now, though, when I hear I’ve won a free trip to the Bahamas, I mutter, “Un-huh. And pigs fly.”
Back to the halcyon days of my pregnancy for a moment. I also recall the movies they ran for us in the parenting class. Old, scratchy films from the early 60s they were, played on one of those pull-up white screens that never seemed big enough to contain the movie without much fiddling and finagling and inching the projector back until, voila!, synchronization. This one featured bouffant hairdos and nervous husbands pacing. The mom-to-be in full make-up fluttered her false eyelashes. Brave little smiles earned her pats of encouragement from gallant hubby.
Then came the wee wince to signal her discomfort. Guess she was in the third stage of labour.
by Elaine Coish