Tom and Katie's scary Scientology birth plan.

TV and popular culture.
Oct. 13 2005 7:18 PM

Silent Night? Holy Crap!

Tom and Katie's scary Scientology birth plan.

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At first I thought it was a tossup which news item was scarier: the bombing of a peaceful Smurf village in a new UNICEF commercial, or the news that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are expecting a child. But after reading up on Scientological birth practices, the choice is clear. Even the loss of Smurfette to carpet bombs, and the subsequent abandonment of Baby Smurf, who ends the 20-second public service announcement alone and weeping amidst what one New York tabloid headline called "Smurfageddon," pales next to the ordeal awaiting Katie Holmes upon the emergence, sometime next spring, of the entity already known as "TomKitten."

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The Silence of the Kittens

Maybe it's just because (according to this handy online glossary of Dianetics jargon) I'm still one of the preclear, but upon reading about John Travolta and Kelly Preston's recommendations that their fellow Scientologists Cruise and Holmes try for an L. Ron Hubbard-recommended "silent birth," I couldn't help but become increasingly enturbulated. After all, the silent-birth doctrine holds that children should be delivered in an atmosphere of total quiet, without any groans, screams, or sounds of pain from the mother, or even the audible exchange of information among hospital personnel.

In his book Preventive Dianetics, Hubbard elaborates on the goal of this practice: Apparently pretending to all concerned that pushing a human being out your coochie is not only painless, but downright relaxing, will "save both the sanity of the mother and the child and safeguard the home to which they will go." Furthermore, L. Ron goes on to admonish, "the maintaining of silence does not mean a volley of 'sh's,' for those make stammerers." After a delivery that's "as calm and no-talk as possible," the baby should "be wrapped somewhat tightly in a warm blanket, very soft, and then left alone for a day or so." This strategy of non-care may be convenient for parents with promotional junkets and postpartum photo-ops to attend, but it sounds like a real can't-have for the poor kid stuck in the between-lives area.

According to Travolta and Preston's account of their own silent labor, somewhere around Hour 13, Preston got to feeling pretty banky, and ordered Travolta to drive her to the hospital for an epidural (even though L. Ron suggests that "the delivery itself should carry as little anaesthesic as possible"). But Vinnie Barbarino and his bride—who's best remembered for sexually terrorizing Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire but was equally unforgettable as the sultry alien "Chirk" in Battlefield Earth—were too late to fight the L.A. gridlock, and Preston wound up delivering their daughter, 9-pound Ella Blue, at home, without benefit of painkillers. Given that her own silent-birth story ended in what was presumably high-volume begging, Preston's advice to Holmes sounds about as useful as her character's diet tips to Kirstie Alley on HBO's Fat Actress (where, as the weight-loss guru Quinn Taylor Scott, Preston recommends her client try eating tissue paper or catching an intestinal parasite).

Dana Stevens Dana Stevens

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

The Cruise-Holmes pregnancy story raises so many questions: Why is Katie's aunt busily denying that the actress conceived through IVF? Where was Holmes during those 16 days in April in between meeting Cruise for the first time and emerging publicly as the "magnificent woman" with whom he was so madly and aggressively in love? (It's hard not to picture a Rosemary's Baby-style orgy, in which aliens from the planet Psychlo impregnate a comatose Holmes under the approving gaze of Ruth Gordon.) Why did Holmes fire her longtime publicist only days after the pregnancy announcement and sign on with Lee Anne Devette, Cruise's Scientologist sister? And weirdest of all, why are Katie and Tom apparently lying (excuse me, engaging in an alter-isness) about the actual date of conception?

The going rumor, which neither the couple nor Devette has denied, puts Holmes at about three months along. But for Holmes to be anywhere near as pregnant as she looks, Cruise would have had to sow his man-seed long before their engagement at the Eiffel Tower in mid-June. It's true that, according to this timeline of their whirlwind courtship, Cruise and Holmes have stayed out of the spotlight these past three months. But just look at the ample bump Holmes was sporting last week, complete with the inverted navel of mid-to-late pregnancy. As Jon Stewart joked on The Daily Show last week, Cruise must have jumped directly from his freakout on Oprah's couch (in his appearance last May 25) into Holmes' vagina. A paranoid conspiracy theorist—not that I know any of those—might even speculate that Holmes was already pregnant (by former boyfriend Chris Klein, a random donor, or—forgive me, reader—a syringe of Cruise-sperm) when she and Cruise first went public with their passion in April, and that the whole relationship has been jury-rigged around her due date to create a plausible timeline.

Has Katie, a good Catholic girl and longtime advocate of saving it for marriage, gone completely out of her engram bank? I'm not saying she should go for an AA or anything, but maybe it's time to deaberrate. Giving birth hurts; that's evident to any Operating Thetan through simple obnosis. According to some reports, Cruise actually succeeded in convincing the birth mothers of his two adopted children with Nicole Kidman into keeping their traps shut during labor and delivery. If Katie turns out to be a potential trouble source by daring to make a peep as she pushes out the TomKitten, she and Tom may be headed for an ARC break.

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