“I am offended you have not finished that book yet,” Erin told me the other day. “It’s like you’re willfully not reading it.”
The book she was referring to is Randi Hutter Epstein’s Get Me Out; A History of Childbirth. Erin tore through it in three days. I have dabbled in it for three weeks.
What Erin believes, I suspect, is that by not reading the book with the same urgency that she did, I am communicating that I do not care about our unborn child or the miracle of pregnancy that she herself is, today, now halfway through. This is simply not true.
I like the book. It’s funny, accessible, informative and thought-provoking. It’s just that I’ve been busy, distracted, I tell her.
“Un-huh. If you put half as much time into finishing that book as you do ‘Lost’ posts, you’d have finished a week ago.”
This, Dear Reader, is probably the truth.
So today’s recap of last night’s episode will incorporate fascinating, sometimes revolting, facts about childbirth down through the ages. We will alternate between a comment about “Lost” and a tidbit about birth. Any coincidences or parallels will be completely accidental. Enjoy.
LOST FACT: Sayid was, is, and will always be a killer. We complained recently that the reason we dislike Kate episodes so much is because she never changes. She’s always been on the run. Well, to be fair, she’s not the only one in a rut. If last night’s Sayid episode looked familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it before — specifically season 5, episode 10, “He’s Our You.” Quick recap of that episode: Sayid, sick and tired of being Ben’s hired hitman, decides that he will start a new life building homes in the Dominican Republic. Ben finds him there and tells him he must return to the island. Sayid, back in L.A., makes an ill-advised pass at Ilana, a bounty hunter employed by the family of a man Sayid shot in season 4, episode 3, “The Economist.” (The plot of that episode? Oh, yeah, Sayid was Ben’s hired assassin and he killed a woman he loved named Elsa who was a counter-spy.) Back on the island in “He’s Our You,” Sayid shoots young Ben. Moral of any Sayid episode: He really wants to stop killing people but there are just too many people in the world who need to be killed. Hey, we’ve all got our cross to bear.
CHILDBIRTH FACT: The Chamberlen family are credited with the invention of modern forceps, and rivals hated them (the Chamberlens, not forceps). Beginning in the sixteenth century, several generations of Chamberlen men claimed to know the secret of safe childbirth by concealing their use of primitive forceps during delivery. How did they conceal such a tool? By importing it into the woman’s home via a large, coffin-like box. To preserve the woman’s dignity, the Chamberlens tied the bed sheet covering the mother around their necks, obscuring the forceps. This also meant the Chamberlens had to deliver the baby essentially blind. (According to Epstein, one doctor during this time named William Smellie “dressed up like a woman with a frilly cap and dress just so he could see what he was doing.”) Because of their well-kept secret, colleagues “loathed the Chamberlens.” Hugh Chamberlen got back at one of his enemies, Dr. Francis Mauriceau, by translating Mauriceau’s book Diseases of Women with Child into English and adding “derogatory comments” about the author. Copyright laws were a bit different back then.
LOST FACT: Keamy makes good eggs. We last saw Martin Keamy in season 4, killing Ben’s daughter and nearly killing Sayid before Richard Alpert shot him. In the Sideways world, Keamy is the loan shark who Sayid’s brother Omer borrowed money from to open a second dry-cleaning store. Apparently you rub shoulders with some pretty shady figures in the dry-cleaning business. Even though Omer tells Sayid he repaid his debt, Keamy wants interest — monthly, as long as the store is open. Omer ends up in the hospital (where we spot Jack in scrubs), no doubt thanks to Keamy’s henchmen. The same henchmen bring Sayid in to meet Keamy, who is busy wrapping his Food Network spin-off for the time slot following Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals. Sayid senses he’ll have to do some killing and promptly takes out all three. He then hears muffled cries from the meat locker, where we find Jin, last seen with a bag full of cash at LAX. Second moral of any Sayid episode: If you are Keamy, Sayid or his buddy Richard Alpert will kill you, parallel worlds be damned.
CHILDBIRTH FACT: It took a long time for doctors to catch on that germs and childbirth didn’t mix. This seems obvious in our modern, antiseptic age, but in 1836, one doctor blamed “rotten breast milk that leaked downward rather than out the nipples” for any sickness because “dead mothers smelled like rotten milk.” In the late nineteenth century, doctors took sick women to the roof of maternity hospitals “to air out their genitals.”
LOST FACT: Something about Dogen was keeping Nemesis out of the temple. Sayid’s killing spree ended (for now) with him drowning Dogen after a poolside heart-to-heart (we learned the significance of Dogen’s baseball, and of his own pact with Jacob) in the temple. Then hippie sidekick Lennon ran in and Sayid dispatched him as well. At which point Nemesis roared in to the temple in Smoke form, bashing, killing and generally obliterating everything in sight. When he resumed the form of John Locke, Nemesis seemed surprised to find Kate among his followers. Kate, for her part, was awfully friendly to a crazy woman who probably wants to claw Kate’s eyeballs out. Ben is somewhere in the temple too, while Ilana, Miles, Lapidus and Sun escaped through the secret passage. Third moral of any Sayid episode, which also happens to be a Neko Case lyric: It will end again in bullets, friend.
LOST THEORY: Jacob and Nemesis are not God and the Devil, or even good and evil, but the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. This theory is straight from Doc Jensen (link below), who argues convincingly that while Jacob is only capable of giving life (he promised he could heal Dogen’s son if and only if Dogen came to the island), Nemesis is only capable of taking it (as evidenced in graphic form last night), and that the two must live in coexistence to maintain balance, like the scale that was in the Numerology Cave. It’s an interesting argument, and it also lends credence to a theory from one Tad Smith, who wonders if we’ve got it backwards when it comes to deciding who is good and who is evil between Jacob and his rival. They’re employing the same manipulative tactics, Tad notes. Even though it’s hard at this point to make the case that Nemesis is good after what he did last night, the Alpha & Omega theory fits in nicely with “Lost’s” aversion to anything resembling clear-cut certainty.
CHILDBIRTH FACT: Dammerschlaf, or twilight sleep, was a fad in the early 20th century in which women wore a gown with a continuous sleeve and blindfold that looks an awful lot like a straitjacket. As evidenced by this photo:
Looks fun, huh?
Twilight sleep was a drug-induced sleep intended to keep women from remembering anything about delivering a child. The twilight sleep cocktail was a mixture of morphine and scopolamine, a combination that produced not anesthesia (complete pain relief) but analgesia and amnesia (partial pain relief and memory loss). The gown shown above was needed because, although twilight sleep advocates claimed an easy, pain-free delivery, women actually “writhed and hollered during delivery,” then suffered the side effects of toxic drugs.
IN CONCLUSION: As we close the door on the first third of season six, we’re left, as always, with more questions: Had Sayid stabbed Nemesis before he said “Hello Sayid,” would it have made any difference? Will Kate choose Nemesis? Can Nemesis really deliver Sayid’s wish for a peaceful, non-killing life with Nadia? Will Sun ever reunite with Jin now that they’re actually in the same place in the same decade? Did anyone really believe that Sayid ever had the hots for Shannon?
Regarding the history of childbirth, Erin said after finishing Let Me Out, “I am so glad I did not have to give birth before 1983.” Like “Lost,” to be continued.
Recaps from Zap2It, Doc Jensen, and Scott Guldin’s newest favorite, the hilarious Videogum, which skillfully utilizes numerous screen shots in its recap, including one with a speech bubble above Dogen’s Magic Baseball showing how it prevented Dogen and Sayid from killing each other. Thank you, Mr. Guldin.