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dilation pumpkins

'Tis the season to do weird things with pumpkins.

A few years ago, the midwives of the Royal Oldham hospital in England decided to illustrate the horrors of childbirth using the whimsy of Halloween pumpkin art. The maternity ward became a zone of terror, as the "dilation pumpkins" were lined up in ascendant order, matching how the cervix dilates during labor, from a harmless 1cm to a terrifying 10cm.

The first pumpkin looks adorably surprised. Nothing too scary about that, right? Kind of like it just had an unexpected visit from a cute puppy.

Then take a look at that last pumpkin, apparently at the optimum dilation for giving birth, mouth fully agape, with an expression that can't help but convey "OUCH!" No amount of fun googly eyes are gonna make that image less frightening. Yikes.

I think one twitterer put it best: "I like how they go from mildly surprised to utterly baffled," along with an appropriate yet disturbing GIF.

Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris, a medical historian at the University of Oxford, reposted the ghastly gourds on her Twitter, saying "I don't think I've ever seen anything scarier in my life." And now, with more than 10,000 likes and 1,500 retweets, the image is viral yet again.

This year, there were more pregnant pumpkin contributions. One twitterer shared an image of a pumpkin actually giving birth. Yep, this was from the same hospital. They really know how to express their creativity in a very acute way over there.

Another person commented on the original photo, observing that "3 and 9 appear to be wearing condoms for hats which I would suggest is a bit late to be thinking about!" By the look on the pumpkins' faces, I'd say they wish they had thought about using those condom hats.

Speaking of birth control, one suggestion was to show these pumpkins in a sex ed class, saying it would "stop the birth rate in no time!" So hey, if you're looking to kill two birds—scare teenagers and promote the use of contraceptives—there's a way to do it!

Apparently it had a visceral effect on mothers and non-mothers alike. One person wrote "23 years ago I went from 2 to 10 centimeters in 45 minutes, without anesthetic. Those pumpkins don't look nearly terrified enough," while another replied, "I'm assuredly not pregnant and this is still distressing."

Many were at a loss for words and resorted to using memes that sent a clear message. I think this one pretty much sums the general group reaction:

But at least it made some a little more appreciative of mom. One daughter is gonna go bake some "thanks for enduring incredible pain to birth me" brownies. That almost makes it worth it, right?

Kudos to the dark humor of the Royal Oldham midwives. When it comes to conveying the nightmare otherwise known as the miracle of life, they've really squashed it.