Labor Daze

Maybe it was this scene from The Fly the filmmakers behind last year's Angie were thinking of when they cast Davis as the star of that film. She spends most of the movie pregnant, listening to her friends' stories about leaking breasts, water retention, and a woman who pushed so hard she took a crap on the delivery (able. (Which is a lot better than having to hear about the joys of natural childbirth in my opin-ion.) Angle's delivery is a nightmare. Her doctor is a midget and needs a step stool to see her vagina; she's screaming, "I'm dying... give me drugs!" while her friends and nurses urge her to sing "One" from A Chorus Line. Finally, she delivers a baby. Yes, it's a boy.

Remember Paula? Well, Paula isn't stupid, so she never saw most of the movies just discussed. She got pretty good at checking out what movies contained scenes that might cause her to regress to the days of Carol Lynley and Tom Tryon. But who on earth would guess she had any-thing to fear from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for chrissake? True, if it were just any movie starring Kevin Costner, you might consider the plot possibility of his fathering a baby whose head is too large. But he's playing Robin Hood! There's nothing around him but the Merry Men and Maid Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Paula called me up and told me she'd rather get another Dalkon shield than ever have to see this movie again. It turns out there are Merry Women in this Robin Hood. And one of them goes into labor in Sherwood Forest and the baby turns out to be in the breech position, Morgan Freeman, Robin's Moorish buddy, offers to help, and though the Merry People don't trust him, what's the alternative? Let Kevin Costner help? Freeman has apparently had some experience with mares in the Holy Land, and he brings the Merry Woman through the grueling experience. It's a boy, and they pass him around the crowd like he's a chocolate cake at Thanksgiving dinner.

I suppose the most appalling childbirth scene of all must be Arnold Schwarzenegger's in last year's Junior. But since I, like a lot of other people, it seems, know better than to see films about pregnant men, I wouldn't know.

For my money, the most appalling childbirth scene of all occurred in Bring On the Night. Michael Apted's documentary of that genius/humanitarian Sting, in which Sting and then girlfriend Trudie Slyter present us with the birth of the Son of a Rock Star. Since I wasn't so sure I even wanted to hear Sting's music, I found it amazing they were so sure I'd want to see his child born. Trudie wanders around, belly out to here, talking about how lighthearted Sting is now that he's grown up and left the Police (this was in '85). She points to her crotch and tells the director exactly where the baby's head has already "engaged." Right after Sting's first performance with his new band, Trudie goes into labor, and an exhausted Sting goes with her to the hospital. There, Sting nervously watches the fetal monitor as Trudie sweats in the stirrups. Finally, the doctor pulls the baby out and lays him (It's a boy!) on Trudie's belly while he washes away the slime. Sting is crying self-consciously, rubbing Trudie's thighs and head, for once in his life out of words. Later, he will say, "It was bloody and profound," but maybe he meant. "It was bloody profound." Is that just too precious for words? This is what the movies are really about: a private tender moment with the one you love.

I know there are many women out there who managed to overcome the trauma of seeing the same movies I saw as a preteen. Even so, I think that the whole trend of natural childbirth is the product of perverse psycho-logical denial of what women learned about childbirth from movies like The Cardinal, Instead of avoiding pregnancy like the plague so they'll never have to die giving birth to a baby bigger than they are, they embraced the whole excruciating process and pretended it was a deliriously beautiful experience to be in agony for hours and hours without resorting to any of modern medicine's painkillers. But surely some women out there identified with the sentiments of Look Who's Talking. Single mom Kirstie Alley quits her Lamaze class and is scared to death by the thought of giving birth. Her contractions are killers, her nurse thinks she's weak. Finally, she convinces the doctor to give her drugs ... lots and lots of drugs. My sentiments, exactly. Of course, when Kirstie finally makes it through her ordeal and the doctor hands her the baby, it's a boy.

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Martha Frankel interviewed Leonardo DiCaprio for the March Movieline.

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