My fear of childbirth was appeased by a 1983 horror film

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Some people are guided by astrology while others find meaning in the scriptures, but to help make sense of the world, I have always turned to movies and television. My first spiritual leader was Punky Brewster. I loved her clothes and her bedroom, but beyond that she helped me understand the otherwise complex dynamics of adoption. Robin Hood (the cartoon fox, of course) taught me to love, and Katherine Hepburn taught me to be “yar” in The History of Philadelphia. I’ve had my share of fake idols (Woody Allen; Aunt Becky), yet I’ve always looked to Hollywood characters to help shape my own life.

However, I encountered an unexpected obstacle during my pregnancy. I had assumed that I would tune in to a primitive motherly energy that would intimidate while seducing anyone I met, and my ambivalence about motherhood would subside. In fact, I’ve spent most of my days complaining that everything tastes like a dime and counting the days until I can take pleasure in peeing again.

I felt like I was having a bad pregnancy, so I turned to movies about nervous mom-to-be like Waitress and Rosemary baby to help allay my anxieties. As one movie ends with a woman finding the strength to cope on her own and the other with a woman succumbing to the will of a satanic cult, they both reach a point where every mother is transformed by an instinctive love at the same time. first glimpse of their newborn baby. Fearing that I would not go through this transformation, my fears for the future escalated – my mind was not quieted.

Rosemary titular, not so soothing. United Archives / Hulton Archives / Getty Images

Six months into my pregnancy I celebrated Halloween with Indian takeout and John Carpenter’s The thing. I thought it would be hard to feel sorry for myself watching Kurt Russell fire a flamethrower. Between Ennio Morricone’s synth score and the sight of Wilfred Brimley without a mustache, I felt an insignificant dread as I swung my bowl of lamb vindaloo on my stomach. Yet a clean-shaven Brimley was just a prelude to the horrors that lay ahead.

The Thing, if you’re not familiar, is an alien creature capable of disguising itself as any living organism it encounters. He terrorizes an Antarctic research team who, no longer knowing which team members have been subsumed by them, turn on each other. If let loose, he could assimilate, and ultimately destroy, the entire planet in a matter of years. But before he takes the form of a beautiful snow dog or Keith David in his prime, he undergoes a disgusting, secretion-heavy transformation that Carpenter spent about 10% of his budget on despite less than 10 minutes of spending time. screen time. And that’s what I was watching, in the dark, completely alone, with only a bowl of half-eaten takeout to comfort me. Unfortunately, most foods quickly lose their appeal when you watch a contorting creature made up of equal parts of an alien, a dog, and Wilford Brimley.

I had been looking for a promise that everything would be fine, but I actually needed to accept the uncertainty and be confident that when I faced the unknown, I could handle it.

I had my hand on the remote the whole time, my mind screaming, I can not handle this ! And I really believed that I couldn’t. But the horror was over in a matter of moments, and I wanted to see what would happen next. That’s when I thought, This is what motherhood must feel. I wasn’t Keri Russell baking pies, I was Kurt Russell ready to pick up that flamethrower. I had been looking for a promise that everything would be fine, but I actually needed to accept the uncertainty and be confident that when I faced the unknown, I could handle it. It was enough to get me through the next three months.

Which was good, because in the end I didn’t get my first transformative glimpse. My first moment of motherhood was waking up from general anesthesia for an emergency cesarean, completely disoriented, with a baby in my arms. The pain I was in outweighed any maternal instincts I had. When the nurse asked me if I wanted to try breastfeeding my daughter, I looked at her like she asked if I wanted to install drywall.

As the research team of The thing, my body had been subsumed by an unknowable creature. It was soaked in blood and profuse secretions. It would fundamentally change who I was and how I saw everyone around me.

After leaving the hospital, I found myself playing down the details of my own childbirth, especially for pregnant women. I didn’t want my own spooky reality to be the thing disrupting their idyllic fantasies. But then I thought about the way my daughter’s cord had been wrapped around her neck, and the horror movie that was my birth experience was the thing that saved her life. Would Kurt Russell think, “Of course I tried to save humanity, but I’m disappointed that I had to use a flamethrower to do so?”

My body had been subsumed by an unknowable creature. It was soaked in blood and profuse secretions. It would fundamentally change who I was and how I saw everyone around me.

And even the sweetest pregnancy looks a lot more like a horror movie than a Hallmark movie. After all, the life I knew was completely destroyed. I was assimilated into a new world, riddled with capless markers and Lego bricks. I have encountered unimaginable terrors, from brawls in playgrounds to fundraisers for preschoolers. Beside me is a 7-year-old maverick, determined to run head first into danger. With every first we face, whether it’s driving her home from the hospital or dropping her off at a birthday party, I go through these moments accepting how little control I have over. what’s going to happen. Some of the greatest experiences in life happen when you don’t know the outcome.

The trusty flamethrower


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