This is just a simulation of
our beloved essayist at work.
We really are not sure what
his creative process involves,
we just print the results.
The Water Birth: I hate flakes.
The first line of the card read: We would like you to be a
part of welcoming our little miracle into the world. This was not
an invitation to a wedding, a graduation or even a baptism. My
friends were having another baby, specifically a home water
birth, and I was invited to be a part of this joyous moment.
First off, no, no, no, you don’t want to invite me to such
things. It is not a miracle to me. A grown lion sprouting wings,
a silk purse made of a sow’s ear, the Vikings winning the Super
Bowl, or a meal at Taco John’s that does not have me running to
the bathroom, those are miracles to me.
The birth of your child is a miracle only to you. Still, after
two or three children, even for parents, the luster of that
miracle rubs off a little. No miracle comes into the world with
the words, “How are we going to pay for this?” I have read the
Bible several times. I have never found in its pages a miracle
originating at an all you can drink Tequila fundraiser for a
charity and the announcement being greeted by dear old dad
wondering how he is going to divide the loafs and fishes to
keep his kid in tennis shoes and braces.
Miracles are attended by wise men, a shepherd or two,
angels, and wonderful human being without hang-ups and
phobias. All of these individuals are not me. Giving birth should
be like enjoying the Police Academy movies, owning a
Nickelback CD, or being a Donald Trump voter, just for the eyes
of one or two loved ones and yourself, and the medical
personal there to take care of you. It is not a group event where
there is the potential of body painters showing up and the
crowd present doing the wave.
At first I thought this has to be a joke, a rib, but I knew my
friends. It wasn’t. Theirs is a world of no chemicals in the
laundry soap, trips to the chiropractors to take care of toddler’s
earaches, Bikram and only Bikram yoga, no other yoga will do,
big pharma is trying to give my kid autism, pasteurization of
milk is evil, and Whole Foods. All wonderful things, more
power to you, but don’t include me.
My friend and his wife are on the cutting edge of every
new fangled notion. They were the first people to go organic,
then became vegans, before segueing to a gluten-free lifestyle.
I am not sure what is left. Grazing on organic grass in the front
yard? Their home became chemical free before I knew you could
do that and feng shui’ed their home to harmonize the
environment. In other words, they are privileged flakes, the
people that will spend twenty minutes lecturing you on the evils
of processed sugar while you secretly hope the almond milk in
their Starbuck’s coffee gives them cancerous tumors the size of
baseballs. Again, they might be right and are clearly wonderful
It should have been an honor for my friend to invite me
(plus one) to attend the home water birth of his fourth child,
but it wasn’t. When the phone call came, I planned on letting
them know my regrets on not being able to attend due to an
extremely pressing matter that had just come up, a Pawn Stars
Even if it was my bailiwick, I don’t know the social
etiquette of such events. I had never seen a Miss Manners
newspaper column about the do’s and don’ts of attending a
home water birth. Since it was a “plus one,” how many dates do
you have to have been on before inviting a young lady to attend
this function with you? Do you bring a covered dish or a nice
bottle of wine? I cannot imagine the couple taking the time to
provide a nice buffet table for those in attendance. I know
births can take several hours. What if you get hungry?
What if you trip and drop your plate into the tub by
accident, what is the social etiquette in that situation? Do you
fish it out yourself or leave it for the couple to clean up? Is there
reserved seating or is it first come first serve? Are there chairs
or do you stand like it is a Mötley Crüe concert, complete with
Bic lighters? Do you yell things out like at a football game? I
discovered that there are soothing holistic chants and songs,
but, “Push it out, push it out, push it way out!” is not one of
Are selfies afterwards, when everyone is clothed, OK? I
need some “thumbs up” on my Facebook page. What do you
wear to such an event? Is it black tie or swim trunks? Blue jeans?
A nice t-shirt with a witty saying? I have major issues about
germs. I have no clue what happens at a water birth. I would
like to think it is set up like an infant water slide, but I know
that is not the case. Still, could I sport a face visor with
windshield wipers or is that going too far? I would think
splashguards would be passed out at the door like it is a
Gallagher “sledge-o-matic” show.
Still, I really had no plans on attending. I could not even
fathom how this became socially acceptable. I asked my friend,
“Why was I invited?” He told me that his wife and he loved me,
and that they wanted a room filled with love at the most loving
moment in their future child’s existence. I tried to explain that I
am Norwegian and that our love is implied usually over a great
distance and most often with just a firm handshake.
Plus, was I going to see parts of his wife that I really did
not want to see? Were they going to do one of those
magician/Penn & Teller things where they rotate the tub
around, a curtain goes down, there is a puff of smoke, and the
baby appears behind you in a little tuxedo. I would love that!
How could I look his wife in the eyes again? Not that it
matters. I am a Norwegian’s Norwegian, the embodiment of the
old joke, “How do you tell the difference between a Norwegian
introvert and extrovert?” Is he looking at his shoes or yours?
Still, I did not want to risk talking to the ten year old a decade
from now about how I was at their birth and snap into a Colonel
Kurtz Apocalypse Now “the horror, the horror” monologue, as I
admit I never looked up from my shoes.
The problem with flakes is they have an answer for
everything and they might be right. I was just being one of
those people that shame breastfeeding in public. There is
nothing sexual in a body part by itself. I was just being
narrow-minded and needed to overcome my problems and
hang-ups. All of these things are 100% true.
I like my problems and hang-ups. They have served me
wonderfully over the years and kept me out of trouble. The best
course of action in such situations is to act like you have been
invited to a party filled with soccer parents or a WNBA game.
Give in, say I’ll go, and then not show up.
My friend knows me and knew that is what I would do. So,
when the baby let it be known they were tired of the room they
had been renting for the last nine months, he sent his brother-
in-law, another good friend of mine, to get me. He did not want
to be a part of this function either, but, surprisingly, the
number one sign of a healthy marriage is fear of your wife. His
wife was someone you did not cross. All the whining in the
world was not going to get me out of this.
My friend greeted me at the door in swimming trunks and
ushered us upstairs to the bedroom where the water-birthing
tub was. A birthing tub looks like a giant inflatable blue kiddie
pool. I thought about pointing out the plastic had chemicals in
it, but I was on thin ice already.
I learned that you rent those things. Although to me
renting a birthing tub is like buying used underwear, I don’t
care how good the deal is or how often it has been cleaned; a
previous user is a deal breaker to me. The women quickly
disappeared into another room to be with the midwife and
mother. I am not going to describe the water birth itself. Lets
just say it was like John Carpenter’s The Thing meets the
musical Hair. There was a lot of very loving and supportive
women and every man looking like they would rather be
anywhere else in the world.
It was surreal. As everyone cooed and told the couple how
beautiful their new baby boy was, I noticed that the midwife
took the placenta and put it to the side. That was strange. So, a
few weeks later I asked my friend about it. I thought it was a
hippie “bury it under a tree” type of thing, all nature is one, cue
The Lion King theme song, flakiness.
No, my friend informed me the placenta is rich with
vitamins and minerals. The midwife was going to dry out the
placenta, grind it up, and turn it into supplement pills that they
would take. In some cultures it is a great honor to be offered
the placenta to eat. I informed him I was glad I did not live in
those cultures. Of course, I was reminded that I am narrow-
minded and I need to be more open to non-western ideas. He
even gave me a pamphlet to read on the subject. Again, they
might be 100% correct. More power to you. You are a better
person than me. Still, a few days later he called to see if I had
read the pamphlet. I had. He went on about health and ended
the conversation with, “I hope you learned something,”
“I did,” I replied. “I am never eating at your house again.”