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Retro Fail, Lamaze Edition

Welcome to Backdate Quaints, where every weekend I post a lost entry from the old FTK site (R.I.P. 2004 – 2010 R.I.P.) At the bottom you can find my updated 2014 WHAT I READ list.

I plan to post archives in ORDER, but since I declared that it was FAIL WEEK almost two weeks ago and have utterly failed to finish the topic of failing in the state week, here is a retro fail.

August 4, 2006

heap house When I was pregnant with Sam, we had a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE Lamaze Teacher. She wore no base or powder or lipstick or blush or mascara, NONE, but then, inexplicably, she painted her eyelids with iridescent powders to look like tropical fish. She’d stripe her eyes in turquoise and gold and purple from the lash line up to her eyebrows, and fan the colors out WAY to the side, far beyond the eyelid…Make-up like that should be listed along with hallucinations and cannibalism as a clear sign of mental illness.

At EVERY SINGLE STINKING LAMAZE CLASS! Without Fail! She would show us a birth film. So we could, you know, see some birth.

I hated it. I REALLY don’t like to see birth. If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know I have odd notions about biological functions and manners and what’s proper. I had this horrid feeling that the ladies that agreed to have their births filmed had no idea that they would be rocking around stark naked and moaning like animals and spurting blood and other moist horrors and calling out, “I HATE YOU, YOU _$^^@@&(#)$#^*$$%!*!!” to their husbands when they agreed to let the camera crew in.

Watching the films, I imagined that right before the class, the featured birth mother had CALLED up the Tropical Fish Eyed Lamaze Lady and said, “Please don’t show any more people that video. I feel, in retrospect, that I behaved with…impropriety. And I don’t want people other than my husband and my doctor and the 45 nurses and interns that were in the room to see me in that primal and extremely private state.”


I talked to Scott about it, and it was making me so UNHAPPY with sympathetic embarrassment that we decided I should not watch any more of them. BUT! I never knew when the films were coming! She sometimes played the film at the beginning, sometimes at the end, sometimes in the middle. THE ONLY consistent thing about the class was that we WOULD be watching a graphic birth. With screaming. And episiotomies. And sometimes poo.

So I went to her privately and calmly and sweetly and asked her to please begin showing the films at a consistent time, either at the beginning or at the end, so I could either come late or come early and NOT see them. I explained my reasoning and my reactions to her just as I have explained it to you, except I left out the part about her make-up causing her to look like an escaped mental patient. She was VERY displeased and was NOT open to me leaving and I started to get a little bit ticked and she got shirty and belligerent and I got defensive and retreated, as I generally do, into humor, and she would NOT hear what I was trying to say.

Her: But you are going to GIVE birth in five months. How can you GIVE birth if you can’t even WATCH it?

Me: When the contractions start, I think I’ll give birth whether I’ve watched a bunch of poor women I do not know cry and scream and bleed and heave or not.

Her: But YOU will be doing it. You NEED to see it.

Me: Okay, but I won’t have this “straight up between the legs” sort of ANGLE. Because my head is at the top, see. And I feel very embarrassed watching total strangers from that angle. It seems a little…personal.


Me: Right. Well, I have a pretty good handle on what comes out of where. Can’t I please just learn breathing and not watch the films? Think of it like sex. I’m pregnant, so you can guess I don’t have any qualms about HAVING some sex myself, but trust me when I tell you, I have NO desire to watch OTHER people have some. Unless the other people are Johnny Depp and Someone Pretty, and the LIGHTING is good and the director is careful about angles, you know?

She didn’t think that was funny. But eventually she agreed to start showing the films at the end of class, and Scott and I would quietly slip out early.

Except that was not how it happened. THAT VERY NIGHT! At the end of the class, she ANNOUNCED in patronizing and mournful tone, “JOSHILYN AND SCOTT ARE LEAVING NOW. We are going to watch our BIRTH FILM, and JOSHILYN is having PROBLEMS with witnessing this completely natural and beautiful act. SO, we will let JOSHILYN leave, and we will all hope she will soon EVOLVE to a place where she accepts the process.”

house of mirth Scott and I got up, took our pillows and left, me fervently hoping that she would soon evolve to a place where her leg was broken in the wilderness and wolves ate her.

We never went back.


The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla
Help for the Haunted by John Searles
Southern Sin Edited by Lee Gutkind and Beth Ann Fennelly
Heap House by Edward Carey


Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Audio)

What should I read (and listen to) next?

24 comments to Retro Fail, Lamaze Edition

  • Therese

    I’ve just started The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston & so far it’s quite good. (Of course, I’m only on p.10, but still…) I’ve got Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in the queue, as well as The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry; The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown; House of Earth by Woodie Guthrie; and Life After Life by Jill McCorkle. I guess I got a little behind on my reading over the holidays.

    Hey, House of Mirth is free for Kindles today (Saturday) at amazon…coincidence? That’s another classic I haven’t read. I’ll have to add it to the queue.

  • Therese

    p.s. crazy-eye lamaze lady would have lost me after the FIRST class, so good on ya for hanging in as far as you did! Moral superiority is a deal-breaker for me on anything. Walking out on her doesn’t seem like a fail, to me.

  • tassie

    I don’t know what you should read, but please include in Backseat Quaints the story about you getting arrested for being a terrorist.
    Oh, have you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane?

  • I read and REALLY liked both The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry; The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown—I have that peculiar children book and always MEAN to read it, and then I read something else. Not sure why. I think the cover off puts me? Though I hear good good things!

    I don’t read Neil Gaiman with my eyes—-if he does the audio, I prefer it is he reads it to me. We LOVED Ocean. my whole family.

  • My daughter and I both read and really loved a YA book, OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt. I think that MIZ Lamaze Gal is like many, MANY women who truly believe that THEIR way is the ONLY way. I was all good with going to Lamaze while knowing I was SO getting the epidural. Near my due date I asked my Dr. If I was a slacker for not having a birth plan other than showing up at the hospital and letting her and the WONDERFUL labor and delivery n nurses do their jobs. She assured me that I was not a slacker and that I was her favorite.

  • And I think you might not have been the only people to not come back after that. You may have “failed” at Lamaze, but you evidently SO SUPER WON at giving birth successfully. . .TWICE even.

  • Jill

    The Orchardist-amazing book!!

  • Jill

    Dystopian- Pure and Fuse by Julianna Baggott- Burn comes out soon- superb books!!!

  • Jill

    Anything by John Green- The Fault in our Stars is lovely.

  • Frances in England

    Oy. I haven’t done the Lamaze class experience, but I do remember (too vividly) the videos we were forced to watch in High School as part of our ‘education’ – 3 births and 2 abortions. I assume that they were carefully selected/toned down versions, but I do wonder what the ‘powers that be’ were thinking when they decided *that* was a good idea for a bunch of 14-15 year olds (regardless of ideas/stance on the subject, just the sheer trauma-factor!?). I’m now in my mid-thirties and am firmly of the belief that given the choice I would prefer to be unconscious for the process, and I blame those videos – there is such a thing as too much information!!!

    Book recs: I came very late to the party but really enjoyed ‘Gone Girl’.

  • For something serious but outstanding, Michael Gruber’s THE RETURN is fabulous. Ignore the cover. For something fun, Jasper Fforde’s THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER is grand, as is the sequel. You are far too busy to read Nicola Griffith’s HILD, but it’s incredible. A bit slow, perhaps, at the first, but wow.

  • DC in DC

    Birth class – hated it. We were having twins and the instructor constantly called ou the differences in front of whole class. Ugh.

    Help for the Haunted – great book; I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading more by this author!!

  • Martha

    We Are Water by Wally Lamb. Actually, anything by Wally Lamb.

  • JenniferG

    I had friends who almost got kicked out of their Lamaze class for laughing too much. My sister went to some class where the other mothers-to-be were all “I’m not having any drugs” and she was “I want ALL THE DRUGS!” Her kids are just fine.

    Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is really good. My teenage nephew enjoyed it. His Reading teacher was so intrigued by the cover that SHE read it (I love that my nephew’s school has a dedicated Reading class where the kids pick their own books to read). I just got the sequel but haven’t read it yet. Neil Gaiman could read the phone book and I would listen to it. I am working my way through the Reacher books with an occasional side trip to Nelson DeMille.

  • Corey

    And yet, Sam and Maisy Jane *were born* after all. Success!!

    Gillian Flynn’s took me to some very interesting mind-places.

  • Corey

    Blarg! Don’t know what happened with my html. Supposed to say “Gone Girl.”

  • Joshilyn: Thank you so much for putting The Patron Saint of Ugly on your 2014 to-read list. I’m honored. Truly.
    A thousand blessings,

  • DebR

    I’m another who liked Gone Girl a lot. The only one on your lists that I’ve already read is Stardust so this gives me some titles to consider. πŸ™‚

  • Jill

    Marie – Is The Patron Saint of Ugly out in hardback? I don’t do online reading – Amazon is saying that the paperback is out in June? Can’t wait until then!
    Thanks – J

  • Marie — That’s a list of what I already read, not what I am going to read. I very much enjoyed it; I am writing a blurb for it after I marinate about it for a couple three days.

    Jill, it is not out yet. SORRY! one problem with the reading list is I often read things BEFORE they pub. You can pre order at your favorite bookshop. πŸ™‚

  • Chelsey

    I’ve been a reader forever, I’ve worked and libraries and now a bookstore. I have a list of “to read” longer than my arm and my “reread” list is just as long. However, if you’re looking for suggestions here are my top listers so far.

    To Read:
    The Art Thief (I have an Art History degree, this is a must read)
    The Last Dragon Slayer
    Gone Girl
    and far too many others I’m behind on

    Currently Reading:
    Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins (I keep laughing out loud and scaring my cats and husband)
    Harry Potter #5 (audio- rereading)
    Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz (His whole series is awesome. I still love J fiction.)

    Just Finished:
    The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (ARC) -I LOVED IT!
    Harry Potter #1-#4 (reread on audio while cooking)
    I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Palmieri-Hayes (I couldn’t put it down!)

    I hope this helps!

  • Jill: It’s coming out in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook all in one fell swoop on June 16th. Hope you enjoy it!

  • cakeburnette

    I am not normally confrontational, but I was sort of…well…let’s just call it “testy”, during both pregnancies, and I probably would have just made retching sounds and run out at the first video and made a big old production every other time thereafter in escaping. I don’t know about you, but we PAID to take those dumb classes (which didn’t make me feel particularly better prepared, BTW), so I wouldn’t have paid to be grossed out week after week. However, I feel that you are nicer than I was…er…am.