Yesterday marked the completion of our birth class. This was something I never thought I would want to do, but the further along I got in this pregnancy, the more I realized I just plain didn’t know. So, what better way to learn it than to spend $90 and attend eight hours of classroom-setting talk-time with ten other couples, watching videos and asking the most basic of questions because, hey, none of us have done this before?
I admit that I was skeptical. Usually, being lectured at isn’t my most effective way of learning, but I was hoping this would be different. We walked in at 8 a.m., armed with our mandatory pillows and blanket, and got comfortable at our table. The couples continued to pour into the room, each one so unique but making the same face that Nate and I had, I’m sure. With every couple that walked through the door, I couldn’t help but think, “Weird…those two had sex and made a baby.” I’m mature, right? But, I found amazement in the diversity of these couples – the tall blonde wife with her short Italian husband, the couple that was probably nearing their 50s, the pudgy couple, the “model” couple, the interracial couple…it was all so interesting to watch. What were we to them? The cliche couple? The brunette couple? The couple that wears their pajamas to class? Who knows. Of course, I was probably the only person playing this game, so it doesn’t really matter.
We all got seated and our teacher introduced herself. Her name was Suzy and she was a fiery redhead from the UK with a gnarly British accent and a vocabulary of words I would LOVE to start using in my everyday life (knickers, mate, fanny, bum…). Her sense of humor started the class off on the right foot as we slowly got to know her better, including the ever-so-important fact that she got into nursing mostly because of her intense obsession with George Clooney (think the days of Dr. Ross).
With our round of introductions, we were asked to give our highs and lows of pregnancy so far, and our husbands were to say what has surprised them the most. “I love feeling my baby kick” and “I have a sore lower back” seemed to be the overall consensus of the room. We changed it up. Nate said he was surprised at how strong I’ve been and that I’m handling it better than he thought I would (oh boy…what was he expecting? I think I’ve been pretty intolerable thus far. Must…try…harder. Must…push…buttons). I explained that my high was telling my parents and my family because 28 years ago, having a child with diabetes didn’t guarantee a grandchild-filled Christmas, and I get to give that to them. How cool is that? That got little to no reaction, so I jumped on the bandwagon of typical “awwww”-responsive answers and quickly added, “And I love feeling my baby kick.” Awwwwwww…Yup. Just as I expected.
The class followed a nice outline of topics including the stages of labor, comfort measures (HA!), pain and medication options, C-sections, and breathing and relaxing methods. I listened closest to what I should pack in my hospital bag and sort of zoned out a lot of the medical talk, due to my weak stomach and jello-limb-syndrome.
The stages of labor were interesting. Early, active, and transition labor (which should just be called bad, worse, and the most-pain-you’ve-ever-felt-in-your-life labor) were discussed in quite some length, including what to look for when your water breaks (color is important – apparently your baby can poop inside of you! Wow, this just gets prettier and prettier). What I remember most from this discussion were the icons that accompanied it. Early labor was a smiley face with pretty eyelashes and an ear-to-ear grin. Yes, I understand this. You’re happy because the child you’ve nourished for nine months is finally going to be here! Active labor is when the contractions start becoming more prominent. This face was a straight-lined mouth and furrowed eyebrows. She was now distressed and thinking about the pain a little more than the baby. Finally, the face of transition labor was one of complete and utter horror, as if she had just found out her baby daddy is nicknamed “The Jigsaw Killer” just moments after sitting through the supposedly fictitious four-part SAW series. Yeah, THAT kind of horror!
Speaking of THAT kind of horror, I would like to take a moment to discuss “the video.” We watched three in total, but only one is permanently burned into my brain. A quick overview of the movie: Chubby husband does the voice over, narrating each situation as it is shown onscreen. He is obviously whipped and terribly afraid of his angry, beefy, bowl-haircut of a wife. Every time she moans in pain, it sounds like a herd of cows making whoopie, and when she orders him to get ice chips, it comes out in a voice that could’ve easily won her the main role in The Exorcist. The nurses and doctors were decked out with hair from the ’70s and I hope to God they were only acting that “articulate” because they were on camera. “OK, now we are going to check how dilated you are,” says Robot Doctor #1. “How many centimeters is she?” asks a Jan Brady-esque Doctor #2. “Seven,” they say in unison. Smile up at camera. Look away. Act serious. And…Scene!
This continued on for awhile, but the part that we all knew was coming finally came. Camera one – zoom in. Witness crowning baby head emerging from giant woman bush. Cow herds unite! We’ve got a live one! I had to look away or I actually felt that I may vomit right there in the classroom. Interesting as it may be to help understand what goes on downstairs through the whole process, I am not planning on standing on my head to see it on delivery day, so why, WHY must I see it now? I even caught iron-stomached Nate looking away every once in awhile. I don’t know if he was expecting an X-rated swimsuit model to present a peaceful, calm and well-trimmed delivery, but that was so far from what we got, I think it surprised us both! Ahhh, reality. God bless it.
The funny thing is, as nauseus as I was feeling and as much as I didn’t want to look directly at it, that baby came out and the cord was cut and he started to cry. The robot doctors held him up like Simba from the Lion King and, I don’t know if it was the hormones or what, but I was crying (and singing “The Circle of Life” in my head). What a miracle. Chubby Hubby and Exorcist Wife had just brought a little tiny miracle into this world and he was beautiful. He was an adorable, fragile little miracle. So, if I cry and immediately dismiss all the bad and blood I had witness 30 seconds earlier for THIS couple, I can’t imagine how I will feel when it’s OUR baby! OUR BABY!
We toured the hospital and got to stand in the room where each of our little angels would be born. Everything was clean and sterile and as comfortable as it can be in a hospital room. I hate hospitals, period. So, for me to be impressed and semi-comfortable while touring one was a BIG deal. The class ended with breathing and massage techniques. These are supposed to help clear your head of the pain and help you regain focus on something else. I’ve never been very good at mind over matter or “picturing myself in a happy place.” If there is something bad going on with my body and I can feel it, guess what? I’m going to focus on THE PAIN! I can’t help it. And, this was quickly justified when she had us each hold two icecubes in our hand for one minute while doing our breathing techniques to try to focus on something other than the excruciating frost bite developing on our palms. I got through it, but I’m not gonna lie – with each breath, I would picture the nerves in my hand getting black and numb. Breathing was NOT going to help THIS girl! An IV of vodka and pain medications? Now, THAT has possibilities!
I could see the look of anguish in each of the lady’s faces as they dropped their icecubes to the table. Looks of “holy crap, that was hard” filled the room and I knew I wasn’t the only one who wondered how I will get through 20 hours of labor if I can’t hold frozen water for ONE MINUTE! I was not alone. There was fear everywhere. We were all scared. Even if I was the only one looking away from the vagina video and plugging my ears during the epidural details, we were ALL scared. What first-time mother isn’t? If this class taught me anything, it was that fear is imminent. It’s going to be there until the bitter end. But, the tears that flooded the room after each video-baby was brought into the world, screaming nakedly and covered in slime, was a reassuring sign that it will all be worth it. The fear, the pain, the possibilities of emergency surgery, the needles, the pointless breathing…all to hear that baby’s scream. So, so, so, so worth it. In fact, I can’t wait. I never thought I would sit through an 8-hour lecture on blood, poop, and pain and say that I can’t wait to experience it all, but I CAN’T WAIT TO EXPERIENCE IT ALL! Bring it on, world! I came. I saw. I didn’t puke.