Childbirth is just a draw to the button

When Rachel Homan and John Morris were named to represent Canada in mixed doubles curling at the Olympics in Beijing, it reminded me of this column that appeared in The Sault Star in April 2021. Can any athlete in any sport match the toughness Homan displayed at the Scotties?

I don’t know if you noticed, but curling whiz Rachel Homan led her team to a record 11th Grand Slam title Monday, just 25 days after giving birth to daughter Bowyn.

And just 50 days before that at eight months pregnant she curled in the Scotties, losing in the final.

Some beer league skips might have fingered Bowyn for the Scotties loss; Ms. Homan had the grace not to heap scorn on her unborn vice-skip. 

Photo of John Morris and Rachel Homan from the Team Homan page on Facebook

In return, infant Bowyn, out of the womb and into the crowd for Monday’s final, declined to criticized mom’s shot-calling decisions in the Grand Slam.

Homan’s remarkable ability to make her special delivery without missing a delivery on the ice has some men questioning why most other women make such a big fuss about childbirth.

Let me be crystal clear: I am not one of those men. No. No. No.

I enthusiastically agree that childbirth is an exhausting ordeal, sometimes agonizing but usually with a happy outcome.

After all, it took me weeks to recover from the birth of one of my kids. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been quicker and less painful had I not chosen to recover in a tavern. 

But that experience helped make me the empathetic (some would shorten that to pathetic) “woke” male that I am today.

Homan herself rushed to demur that her child-birthing experience was very far from the norm.

“I want to be clear that every pregnancy, delivery and recovery is different and you can’t compare from person to person,” she told CBC Sports. “I feel so fortunate to be able to play and I know that wouldn’t be the case for a lot of people.”

“A lot” being 99.975% of people.

Any comment less gracious might have resulted in curling brooms, and perhaps other sorts of brooms, being hurled Homan’s way.

Certainly, I don’t hear any other woman saying “hold my beer” and preparing to compete in Olympic weightlifting while sucking on crushed ice, doing rhythmic breathing exercises and cursing her spouse.

One wonders if Olympic drug rules would immediately disqualify a competitor who called for an epidural.

Still, Homan’s accomplishment, whether enabled by an incredibly low pain threshold or the overwhelming strength of her legendary competitive drive, brings to mind old stories of women working in the fields, giving birth and then returning immediately to hoeing duty with a newborn strapped to their backs.

I found an account online in which a 70-year-old tribeswoman from the Philippines recalls just such an experience, but not with any nostalgic fondness.

And forgive me, members of the “gentler” gender, but Homan’s heroics brought to my mind a memorable scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of the Life.

A woman, played by Terry Jones, gives birth to an infant while standing at the washtub doing the laundry.

“Oh get that would you, Deirdre,” she asks her daughter, not missing a beat at the washboard.

Shame, shame on those Pythons for making light of pre-twentieth-century childbirth. Shame, I say yet again, reluctant to wade through a bunch of scorching emails.

The reality is that childbirth in the olden days involved equal parts pain and death. Fully one in three women didn’t survive their child-bearing years.

Rich pregnant women would close themselves off from the world; no men were allowed into the laying-in chambers, which I am sure was a great hardship to all concerned.

Poor women often had to work right up until they gave birth, unless they had dodged death long enough to have a daughter old enough to cover their responsibilities.

Catholic women apparently called upon St. Margaret, the patron saint of childbirth. Margaret was eaten by a dragon but hacked back up because of a crucifix she was holding.

The idea of a dragon giving birth might resonate with a lot of men.

Childbirth is seldom as easy as spitting out a saint, but many women recover amazingly quickly. Perhaps not win-a-curling-grand-slam quickly, but quickly.

For that we can thank an overdose of endorphins, calming and pain-releasing hormones released near the end of pregnancy.

Without endorphins there would be so many one-child families you’d think you were in China.

Men don’t get endorphins during childbirth, which is why so many self-medicate.

And childbirth leaves men with permanent scars on their wrists that testify to their failure to convince a pregnant partner to pare her fingernails down to the quick.

But let’s all raise a glass, first to Rachel Homan and then to all of those women who for some reason can’t pull off a double-raise takeout while carrying a watermelon.

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