When I find boredom creeping up through my limbs, I play what I call the alien game. To play, you look around and imagine how what ever is around you would look to aliens fresh out of the hatch. I imagine that it’s human procreation that would most baffle the aliens, assuming that they did’t happen to have a similar biological casing.
I imagine an alien returning home from an observation trip to Earth to give a lecture on what he/she/it/Zarlgdar learned and describing human mating rituals as he/she/it/Zarlgdar had understood them: “…and once they find a partner, they like to be alone to rub all their wet bits together.” The crown would gasp, or maybe just giggle and look at each other with raised eyebrows (unless of course they didn’t have vocal chords or faces or eyebrows). Think about any human custom long enough or describe it in an unfamiliar way, and suddenly everything we do starts to seem utterly strange and random.
Take leg shaving for example. Even though I did it myself for years, having given it up about six years ago has put enough space between me and the habit that I can no longer fathom what would inspire anyone to put so much time and money and effort into something that, to my eyes, looks so weird. I’m sure the aliens would be equally baffled. Which is why I sometimes find myself in situations where I feel like I might actually be the alien visiting Earth.
Like in my last birth class. Though I’ve been enjoying getting to know even more about my midwife’s philosophies and practicing relaxation and controlled breathing and positions on the yoga ball, classes have become a little boring. Conversations revolve around hospital issues — I am the only one in the class opting for a home birth — and I tend to keep my few questions about home birthing to myself knowing that they won’t interest anyone else and that I can talk about them with my midwife at a later appointment without wasting anyone else’s time. Not a big deal though; I figure the information could still be useful sometime and file it under “good to know.”
But during our last class and one of the many spontaneous question and answer sessions, leg shaving came up. A handful of women started chattering about how they wanted to make sure they had time to get their legs and bikini lines neatly shaved when the contractions started but before the birth really got rolling. Because they would feel uncomfortable being stubbly in front of the midwife/doctor/their partner. OK, weird priority from my perspective, I thought, but not surprising considering. Then came the topic of shit.
You see, when you’re pressing a baby out, there is pretty much no way to prevent a little bit of it coming along as well. It’s not the most pleasant thought, but hell, it’s not like anybody’s never dealt with the stuff before. And the way I imagine it, when you’re busy pushing an eight-nine pound baby out of your body, a little poop is the least of your worries.
More than a handful of my classmates were horrified. HORRIFIED. There were frantic questions and wide eyes. “Can you tell when it’s going to happen?” one woman wanted to know. “So that I could send everyone out of the room?” People nodded in agreement at the thought. “Or maybe I’ll just stop eating as soon as I go into pre-labor,” she went on. “If only there was some way to know when you were going to go into labor so you could fast for 24 hours beforehand.”
Great. Just before beginning one of the most energy-intense experiences of your life, something often equated with the exertion required to run a marathon, start fasting so you don’t end up pooping a little in front of your partner (who loves you no matter what, right?), your midwife (who frankly doesn’t give a shit, hardeeharhar), and some doctor (who you’ll never see again). In that moment I didn’t even need the alien game to find our customs — particularly the Western woman’s tendency to want to hide anything to do with her bowels or her body hair, though both tendencies I once harbored myself — pretty strange.