“We have high performance cars, high performance careers and even chèvre, the high performance cheese. Now we have to have our babies in just the right way, too,” complains Denver-based writer Joy Overbeck. “I felt pushed into it, and I wanted to say to women, ‘Hey, lighten up. This thing doesn’t have to be that complicated.’ ”
Overbeck gets her message across with The Whole Birth Catalogue (Pocket Books, $6.95), a collection of imaginative and, alas, imaginary items geared, she says, to making pregnancy and child-rearing “lightweight, low-maintenance and wrinkle-free.” In addition to poking fun at the physical burdens imposed by pregnancy, Overbeck, who admits to being in her late 30s, also takes irreverent potshots at obstetricians, the Lamaze method and modern day parents’ mania for creating precocious kids from the moment of conception.
Much of Overbeck’s inspiration came from the experiences she and her husband, Jim Glynn, an advertising executive, had during the gestation, delivery and rearing of their daughter, Meredith, now 4. Overbeck met with assistant editor Bonnie Johnson and shared her tips about how to survive the pressures of being a new parent in the ’80s.
What made you write this book?
The idea came to me when I was in my fifth month. I’m a maniac about sleeping on my stomach, and I started longing for the Maternity Bed, one with a depression in the mattress where I could put my tummy. After that it was easy to come up with other bizarre stuff that the world really needs.
What surprised you most about pregnancy?
Being pregnant. Mine was an unplanned pregnancy, as they say, and at first I thought it had to be a mistake. That’s when I could have used the Rabbit Resuscitator, the latest in “bio-revival technology.” It helps a woman be absolutely sure that Thumper really died and wasn’t just snoozing or feeling despondent over personal problems. But then, I really got into being pregnant.
Even when it seemed that your body was no longer under your control?
It’s true, your body is constantly doing a lot of weird stuff without your permission. For example, I didn’t expect my belly button to pop out, but then one day there it was, and people were suddenly mistaking it for an elevator call button. The Belly Button Suppressant prevents that. It’s an elastic band that helps a woman retain a flawless abdominal contour. After the pregnancy it can be used as a luggage truss or a hamster hammock.
You hear about women having strange food cravings during pregnancy. Did that happen to you?
It’s definitely a time of culinary abandon. I had to have a double hot fudge sundae every night. My husband wasn’t too pleased. That inspired the Junk Food Slipcovers, zippered polyester covers designed to look like healthy foods. They let you camouflage nutritionally unacceptable edibles at a moment’s notice. You can conceal a bowl of potato chips with a tossed salad cover, for example, and still indulge in the empty calories right under the nose of disapproving relatives.
There’s hardly an expectant couple these days who doesn’t take Lamaze classes, yet you seem skeptical about them. Why?
Lamaze leads us to believe giving birth is going to be like a day at the beach. They say it’s going to be uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to me is when your shoes are too small. This is major pain. Then there’s all that stuff about breathing this way at this stage and that way at the next stage, but for a lot of people there’s no way to tell what stage you’re in. No gongs ring for the third round of labor.
Didn’t the exercises help you relax?
To relax is to put your feet up and have a drink, but how can you relax when this freight train is barreling through your innards? The Lamaze-Approved Relaxation Aid can help, though. It’s a sledgehammer. All you have to do is apply it to the head of the laboring woman to induce the ideal state of relaxation.
Was your obstetrician understanding?
I love him, but he was a bit cavalier in his attitude. I was fully dilated and ready to push for 45 minutes before he showed up. His first question was, “What do you think of the Broncos?” I created the Fool-the-Doctor Decoy for doctors like him. It’s a life-size billboard of a golf course that you erect in front of the hospital. It’s guaranteed to attract every golf-obsessed physician in town. It comes with a filtering device that screens out unnecessary cardiologists and urologists.
Your disdain for doctors is second only to that for flight attendants. What’s their problem?
Here you are struggling on board with your diaper bag, stroller, purse, change of clothes for you and the kid and, of course, the kid. The stewardess ignores you and lunges instead to aid the businessman behind you with his weighty briefcase. When they do help, it’s to take your stroller and store it in the very back of the plane. Once the plane lands, though, they refuse to get it because they have to assist in de-greeting the passengers. Hence, the Stewardess Prod. It will get her attention, but it’s not guaranteed to get her aid.
What prompted you to wear those unusual earrings?
Oh, you mean my Diaphragm Earrings. They’re sort of like my American Express Card; I don’t like to leave home without them. They’re designed to make a stunning fashion statement and at the same time reflect an enthusiasm for family planning. As for me, I’ve already got the two things I’ve always wanted: a little girl and a publisher.