So, we (C & I) have spent our summer so far attending what we affectionately call “Baby College.” This is a series of evening “classes” put on by a local hospital that help prepare you for, well, having a tiny human that will be completely dependent upon your care. We’ve been through Baby Safety Class (3 hours), Breastfeeding Class (2.5 hours), and have been taking weekly Birthing Classes (2 hours weekly for 5 weeks).
The summary of these classes so far has largely been, “Hey, so, if you’ve been reading books about all of this, probably you’ve heard this before. So let’s go to the video!” And that’s been fine. I admit, I was kind of expecting more awkward attempts at pre-mother-to-mother bonding and chest-thumping amongst the dads, but our group of, say, 10 couples is all pretty chill. Well, all right, they’re intriguing, and C and I have bets going on the occupation of one guy who seems to have teleported in from the garage computer labs of the 1980s (he also refuses to sit in a chair usually, preferring to hover behind his mate), but hey. To each her own.
So the schedule has pretty much been this:
Week 1: HEY GIRLS, SERIOUSLY, THIS IS ALL SO BEAUTIFUL! YAY! It was basically a two-hour pep talk about not being too anxious about birth. The information mostly focused on the positive hormones that labor would release (Oxytocin in particular, which C adorably confuses with Oxycontin about once a week. I am really interested to find out the results of that particular confusion if it happens at the hospital). After week one, I think everyone was ready to sign up to try this birth thing, even the dudes, because the hormones were described as the intersection between transcendent meditation and meth.
Of course, no one mentioned that sometimes meth makes you kill and eat your children, so I was a bit suspicious at the end.
I’ll go ahead and admit that if I’m laughing during labor, there’s a fair to even chance that it will have a distinctly demonic edge to it, if past experiences of pain (toothache, reading Chekhov) are anything to go on.
Week 2: LAUGH THROUGH THE PAIN! NO, SERIOUSLY, FOR HOURS. We had a baby-voiced substitute who discussed the “beauty” of the first stages of early labor, the part where you’re mostly at home and, according to many of the diagrams I’ve seen out of class, should be baking and freezing things. We were told to start sitting on exercise balls RIGHT NOW in order to convince our pre-babies that they need to face backward for the labor experience, and we were told again and again that actually the babies were in charge and we just have to “sit back and experience it all!” Laughter was suggested as an antidote to pain.
In addition, we continued to follow the story of three different couples in a video presentation. We’ve nicknamed one of the women in the stories “Suffering Lady,” because she was in labor from approximately 1994-2003 with her only child and started having painful Braxton-Hicks contractions sometime before conception. Her face in the video is not one that I would have chosen to put on a video about how it’s really not so bad.
We ended the evening with partners giving each other hand massages. That really happened. It was possibly more traumatic for the 50 percent of my household that despises having thick lotions on his hands than the part of the evening where a small doll was head-butted through a despicably small pelvis after emerging from a knitted pink uterus.
P.S. to the world, if I’m in labor, I sincerely hope I can talk someone else into baking and freezing things for me, or perhaps into running to the store to just buy that shit, because labor.
Week 3: SHIT GETS REAL. Our regular instructor was back, and she led us through the next few parts of labor, which included “Active Labor,” the part where you’re at the hospital apparently enjoying pudding snacks between the “mild discomfort” of 90 second contractions, “Transition,” where you overcome pain through breathing, and then birth, where apparently after some kind of slight burning sensation your entire world is transformed. I’m just saying, this is how it was presented to us in the videos, and everything on the TV is always true.
A few times, the instructor slipped in a little information that seemed out of order with the rest of the cheerful encouragement, like for instance that these stages can last for hours and hours, and once she briefly held up a sign where the smiley-face from Early Labor had progressed into a crying face for Transition, but we were told that would happen only if we weren’t coping well. So then we practiced silent breathing for a while, which was very effective against keeping me from asking questions or making further snarky remarks to C about masochism and the general unfairness of the entire endeavor.
Part of the breathing exercises involved visualizing “something that you find calming.” Apparently, this was meant to be something like your baby’s face or a peaceful beach. My focal point is a 32 ounce Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen, but I did not mention this aloud. (Similarly, it’s what I think of when we’re told that Aromatherapy might be effective. Who wants to smell sandalwood or lavender? My associations with lavender in particular hover around polyester church clothing worn by women well past child-bearing years, who, yes, somewhat resemble the wrinkly faces of new born babies, but have 0 calming effect on my mental state). For the record, I’ve never eaten a 32 ounce Blizzard; it’s the Mount Everest of commercial desserts, so that’s enough like landscape that I think it’s OK to visualize.
Also in this class, we did some play-acting of labor, and I’ll go ahead and say that if I’m as good an actress as I believe I am, that shit will be so easy. I felt nothing at all. Or, possibly, I was the jerk who spent the whole time trying not to laugh and giving the evil eye to the couple in the corner that managed to get the exercise ball. We were stuck with the foot-long Pool Noodle as our helpful assistant, and before anyone gets too far ahead in visualizing what that’s used for, it’s a back-rub appliance. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, so at least we left Week 3 with something that can be practically applied.
The continuing saga of Suffering Lady came to an end this week, though not on camera. Interesting editing choices, Labor Video People. We instead focused on a new character, Cheerful Partner-less Doesn’t Speak English woman, whose moans were to be interpreted, I think, as her best ability to express joy.
We got Blizzards on the way home.
Next in Birth Class Blogging: Class #4, Medical Interventions.