Typical Mother’s Day gifts might include flowers, a card or even dinner at a nice restaurant. In a thinking-out-of-the-box moment, though, two brave husbands decided to experience labor as a way to show their wives that, despite what women might say, birthing really isn’t that bad. Or is it?
A video of the experiment, posted by Kensington Church in Troy, Michigan, has since gone viral. And it features two unnamed husbands who have absolutely no idea what they’re letting themselves in for. At first, though, they’re all bravado. “Did you know that, according to men, women exaggerate everything?” says one. “That’s why we decided to make an appointment with Dr. Julie Masters.”
Dr. Masters is waiting at the hospital with a special labor-pain simulator. This sends electrodes pulsing through the abdomen to mimic the contractions of childbirth, and is something to which the two brave – and, some might say, naïve – souls have allowed themselves to be hooked up.
The American Pregnancy Association identifies three distinct stages of labor: early labor, active labor and delivery of the placenta. And while childbirth is different for every woman, a first-time mom can typically expect to endure around 16 fairly uncomfortable hours before the newborn makes an appearance. During that time, painful contractions of the muscles in the pelvis and cervix occur at varying intervals.
Back in the hospital room, meanwhile, husband number one lies down on the bed enthusiastically, ready to have the electrodes attached. “I’m gonna have a six-pack after this,” he says jokingly. His friend, however, is a little less optimistic about what lies ahead. “You’re basically gonna electrocute us for an hour?” he asks Dr. Masters. “Yes, in a very small way,” she confirms.
Then the men’s wives enter with coffee in hand and take their seats for the show. Dr. Masters turns on the machine, and there’s some nervous laughter as the first electric impulses begin to simulate the early signs of labor. “I gotta remember my breathing,” says husband number two as the electrodes begin to do their job. “Well that’s different…,” remarks his friend.
In the early throws of labor, the cervix starts to stretch and the womb begins to contract – which is when the pain starts. This first stage – sometimes called “early labor” – can last anything from eight to 12 hours. Pain in this phase has been likened to period cramps and is primarily felt in the back and abdomen.
“Look at me, right here,” one wife jokingly tells her husband, as the simulated contractions begin to take hold. “Don’t talk to me right now,” he replies. Unfortunately for him, however, the machine is just warming up. “We’re almost getting to the active stage of labor where it’s really getting good,” says an excited Dr. Masters.
“Active labor” begins when the cervix has stretched to around four inches and ends when the baby is born. During this second stage, the pain intensifies, moving to the pelvic and genital regions. Contractions will worsen, sometimes with only three minutes in between. During this stage, moreover, the perineum may tear, while muscle strain and exhaustion may be felt in the arms and legs.
And as the machine is cranked up another notch, the two men begin to get a proper sense of what labor is like. “Smile!” says one wife, as her husband writhes around in pain. Dr. Masters also seems to be enjoying things. “Awesome, awesome, guys!” she says supportively, as one husband bites down onto his pillow in agony.
One of the men has now curled into a fetal position, while his wife strokes his hair and offers up a bedpan in case he vomits from the pain. He manages to catch his breath in between contractions and asks, “That had to be at least a – I’m hoping it’s a seven?” “No, you’re at a four,” one of the team tells him.
Eventually, husband two manages to put the sensation into words. “It feels like someone’s taking a saw and just carving up my abdomen.” It’s not long before the contractions begin again, and so does the yelling. “Stop smiling,” he shouts at his wife, as he literally doubles over in pain.
“I need you to calm down now, you’re doing really great,” says Dr. Masters, somewhat untruthfully. “I’m going to throw up,” warns one of the men. At this point, both husbands are only barely holding back tears, while their wives are doing an even worse job of holding back their laughter.
In real labor, the second stage peaks at the “transition phase”, when the pain is at its maximum. As well as intensified contractions that may last up to 90 minutes in duration, transitioning can bring on fever, sickness and flatulence. During this phase, the American Pregnancy Association advises, “Don’t think that there is something wrong if she seems to be angry – it is a normal part of transition.”
And as the baby’s head emerges in what is often referred to as “crowning”, many women describe a burning feeling in the pelvic region. It’s a sensation the abdominal machine isn’t able to simulate – probably just as well, too.
It’s now clear to everyone in the room that the two men, now fully in the throes of simulated labor, are not having fun at all. Both appear to have reached their limit and gone way above their pain threshold. Actually, they look like they’re regretting not going to the florist’s after all.
Their wives, on the other hand, are having the best Mother’s Day ever. In fact, as the contractions intensify, the two women actually lean over their groaning husbands to high-five one another.
After the machine is switched off, then, the men struggle to get their breath and their dignity back. By now, they’ve had time to reflect on the miracle of childbirth. “It sucked,” says one. “That was not good,” his friend agrees.
“Better than you thought or worse?” asks the interviewer. The two don’t hesitate. “A lot worse,” they say unanimously.
“I felt like I was having a baby,” husband one says. Many women, however, might argue how realistic a childbirth experience the simulation machine can provide – especially since a typical labor lasts for around 16 hours, and these two barely braved it for 60 minutes.
There’s no doubt, however, that this simulated experience has given the two men a new respect for women everywhere. Indeed, as the video ends, husband two offers a heartfelt message to his own mom on Mother’s Day. “Mom, if anything that I just experienced is anywhere close to what I did to you all those years ago, I’m sorry,” he says. “You’re like a superhero.”