When I was younger, I used to wonder what people meant by “fish stories”. It made no sense to me. I was little, so I honestly thought “fish stories” were all tales about fish.
When I got older, I became wise to what it meant and even concocted my own when I went fishing a few times- “I SWEAR- it was HUGE! I tried to get a picture but it practically broke my rod before flopping back into the water.” Sure, my fish had practically qualified as a minnow, but THEY didn't know that, and, in all honesty, my friends at the time probably wouldn't have cared anyways. They weren't those kinds of people. You know the kind- fish people.
Little did I know, “fish tales” aren't just for the fishermen. I encountered my first twist on them when I became a mom:
“How big was YOUR baby?”
And it began. The question and answer took a different route every time, always depending on the person and situation. Sometimes the answer was “He was THIS BIG!”, arms outstretched and head nodding in the direction of the biggest house around. Those are the times when you're comparing war stories and each mom is trying to one up the other. Its a badge of honor to have delivered the biggest baby, and you get points for if you were able to do it naturally.
Suddenly, by the way, the word “natural” had several different meanings. “Natural” to the die hard baby-wearing-organic crowd meant sweating and screaming it out without drugs of any kind- epidural included. When discussing my "natural" birth with them, there was an emphasis on how the epidural didn't take, and breathing techniques- always breathing techniques. Most of the time I was able to still get a respectful nod if I told them that I held off on the epidural until nearly the end, and I was applauded if I mentioned the fact that the anesthesiologist messed up twice before getting the epidural right.
Then, there were those of us that found a loophole to still get those points for going 'au naturel'- yes, I gave birth naturally- he had to come out sometime, so NATURALLY, I gave birth to him. Points for me- and since my first was 500 lbs, I came out the winner by a long shot.
Of course, there were always those people who looked at my 9 lb 1 oz son and asked how big he was, and it was then that I saw fit to use percentages- “He's in the 90th percentile.” I knew they were on a mission to bring up overweight babies and I knew they could be distracted easily. “90th percentile- wow, so what does that mean?” “He's bigger than 90% of babies his age.” The conversation usually dropped there since they had no idea what the average size was for babies his age.
Birth stories have always been fun. There's not a veteran on Earth that can outdo a mom: “Oh, really- you lost an arm? I GAVE BIRTH to an ANTELOPE sized infant. You got a purple heart- I got stretch marks AND stitches.” There's just no winning with moms. If Mom A went 24 hours, then Mom B added in the two weeks of pre-labor and suddenly she's shouting out “Oh, that's a lot- I know that when I went 125 hours, I was DYING.”
That's another thing, mom stories are always polite. Its rare that you'll hear a mom say, “Well, that's nothin'” to another mom. Maybe its out of respect, but I personally think it has to do with fear. Regardless of how long a mom went, you KNOW that she has seen pain and come out the other side, and for that, you should fear her. Any woman who has heard the stories and yet STILL put herself in a position to go through that pain is not only slightly masochistic but also a the tiniest bit crazy. You don't mess with crazy- you respect it and back away slowly.
Once we've compared baby sizes and birth stories, that's when things get interesting, because THEN we've hit “Baby Stories”, and THAT, my friends, is a tale for another day.