Plot Tip #1: Woman-in-Labor Scene

16 11 2009

If you have a woman-in-labor scene in your writing and need to make it funny (you know, to lighten the mood of the too serious hospital delivery room), you might consider taking some lessons from Hollywood.  From my vast experience of watching movies and TV shows and my personal experience in knowing that the hospital delivery room is the most unfunny of situations, I have gathered 5 salient tips for anyone desperate to make a woman-in-labor scene less of a serious or spiritual event and more of a humorous one.




  1. I’ll start with the obvious: Take the delivery out of the hospital.  By making the scene take place outside the hospital, you get the freedom of deciding who gets to deliver the baby in the end.  In the case of Fools Rush In, the delivery is on the Hoover Dam, but the paramedics arrive in time to be the ones to deliver the baby.  If that isn’t far enough away from medical personnel for your tastes, you could rely on the more tried-and-true method of putting the woman in an elevator that inevitably stops just before the contractions begin.  In Saved By the Bell, Mr. Belding’s wife goes into labor in a stopped elevator, and voila! Zack gets to deliver the baby.  During the delivery process, there is a lot of yelling between the people outside the elevator and those on the inside, as Zack and Tory (the two with Mrs. Belding) have no idea what they are doing.  To top off the humor, Zack uses Slater’s varsity jersey to wrap up the baby once he is born.  Naturally, as soon as the baby is born and opens his mouth to let out a wail, the elevator magically kicks back into motion, letting the doors open and the three (now four) passengers get out.  The elevator is left in pristine condition, by the way.
  2. Have the woman surrounded by frantic/stupid people.  When Lucy said it was time to go to the hospital in I Love Lucy, the audience burst out laughing.  Why?  Because all her friends jumped into action at once, doing all the wrong things.  They ran around, not knowing where they were going or what was going on, and they ended up leaving Lucy behind as they rushed out the door to get to the hospital.  When Phoebe started having contractions in Friends, Monica yells to Rachel, “Get the book!”  Rachel comes back with a Bible in her hands.  Rachel ends up getting so frantic that she tries to boil water and tear up some sheets, not once thinking to call the doctor and get Phoebe to the hospital.  You may also remember an episode of The Cosby Show where a woman’s whistle-blowing-coach of a husband goes crazy when his wife goes into labor, and he has to be pushed in a wheelchair into the hospital as he hyperventilates into a brown paper bag with his in-labor wife walking behind him.  Frantic is funny when it’s not the mother-to-be who is frantic.  Furthermore, I think every humorous attempt at a woman-in-labor scene has someone (especially a man) asking, “How do you feel?”  The woman need not say anything–a glower will do.
  3. The woman in your story made it to the hospital.  Now what?  The next thing to consider is to have someone faint.  The obvious choice is to have the father-to-be as the one fainting.  The less obvious (and funnier) choice is to have the doctor fainting.  In Nine Months, Robin Williams plays a zany doctor who faints when he sees how large the epidural needle is.
  4. Another sure-fire method to make people laugh is to have a man tell the woman in labor, “You have no idea how this feels.”  When Rachel is having her baby, the father, Ross, is holding her hand.  She squeezes it so hard he falls, hitting his head on the way down.  When he stands back up, he tells Rachel, “You have no idea how bad that hurts.”  Rachel glared; the audience laughed hysterically.  In Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ellie is in labor while Diego fights off little demonic dinosaurs.  He turns to her and says, “You have no idea how this feels.”  Again, the woman just needed to glare as a response to get viewers to laugh.
  5. And finally, now that you’ve made it through the labor, there is one more trick you can pull out of Hollywood’s bag.  Make the baby a different race from either of his/her parents.  When Joy gives birth to her and Earl’s baby in My Name is Earl, the baby is black; both Joy and Earl are white.  Oops.


So if you’re writing a woman-in-labor scene and need to lighten it up, consider using one of those five methods.  Oh, and be sure to write me when you do and let me know how it goes, or leave me a comment here to tell me your method for adding humor to a woman-in-labor scene.