When a recent study revealed that expectant mothers want more empathy from their spouses, the executives at Aima maternity hospital in eastern China came up with a wonderful idea – ‘Pain Experience Camp’. The camp offers fathers-to-be the chance to experience the pain of childbirth by giving them electric shocks through special pads placed on their bellies. The shocks simulate labor pains by causing muscles to spasm.
The painful service was started in November and over 300 men have signed up for it since then. In fact, the response has been so overwhelming that in addition to free sessions twice a week at the hospital, Aima has opened a pop-up booth at the local Shi Mao shopping mall. Each session lasts about five minutes, during which a nurse gradually raises the intensity of the shocks between a scale of one to ten.
“By the time you get to 10, you really can’t even tell the difference between the pain of 9 and 10,” said Mr. Ning, who recently put himself through the camp to express solidarity with his pregnant wife, 28-year-old Gao Yingjing. Her husband’s obvious discomfort didn’t seem to bother her one bit. In fact, she was spotted nodding her head in approval.
According to Aima general manager Wu Ningxing, several pregnant women are actually quite pleased with the camp’s services. “Why do women hate their husbands so much?” he jokingly asked. But the simulation does seem to be relevant in China, where men have long been favored in society. Chinese women say that although they are encouraged to enter the workforce, their share of workload at home continues to be the same.
So the sessions provide men a glimpse into the pain that women go through during childbirth. Wu Jianlong, who dared to withstand the pain right up to level 10, actually yelled out in pain and clenched his fists, finally begging the nurse to stop. Later, he said that the experience had altered his perception of childbirth. “Because all women have children and it usually takes quite a long time, I had thought of it as something really natural, something really normal that they can get through,” he explained.
Not all men were as strong as Wu, though. “It felt like my heart and lungs were being ripped apart,” said Song Silong, who made it to level 7 before asking for the system to be turned off.
“It felt like my bones were being broken,” one guy said. Another man described the experience as a three-part sensation – hot steel balls dropping on his stomach and then a hook gouged into him, followed by the ripping of his innards.”
Several men dropped out within minutes, at levels 4 or 5, unable to tolerate the pain.
But nurses on duty say that the simulations don’t actually match the torment of actual childbirth that often goes on for several hours. A woman in labour could experience pains up to level 12, they explained. “Still, if men can experience this pain, then they’ll be more loving and caring to their wives,” said nurse Lou Dezhu.
And it seems to be working – Physics teacher Zheng Weitao said that before the simulation, he would only help his pregnant wife if she asked. But then she heard about the simulations and suggested he go through the experience, believing that it would create a stronger bond between them. The session had a profound effect on Zheng – he developed a new appreciation for his wife. He now comes home right after work rather than spending time with his friends. “Now, even before she wakes up, or even thinks of it, I have water – even honey water – waiting for her,” he happily declared.
“Before, he would only do the housework out of courtesy,” said Ren Yiqun, Zheng’s wife. “But after he did the pain camp, I feel that he really can’t bear to let me do any work.” Mission accomplished!