Baby Class

baby entering the birth canalThis whole life creation thing makes for an unpredictable voyage, and not just because Susanne and I have been coming at it from an alternative place—I get that not every baby started out with their parents combing through medical histories and sperm count data. And I hereby note, for what it’s worth, that I may hear some unusual rantings when our child is 14 or so about how they entered into this world, in the midst of their teenage angst. I’m okay with that. We’re still going to sit through the six-week course at St. Mary’s Hospital, with the pillows brought in from home clutched to our chests as we watch painfully accurate portrayals of live births on a wide screen in the training room. Vernix is a necessary substance, I’m sure, but it does not do wonders for anyone’s look.

I knew that the classes were held in the basement because I’d seen the joyful signs and red arrows pointing “THIS WAY!” every time I went to my knee rehabilitation sessions.

Unfortunately for me, and by extension, Susanne, the basement of the hospital is something like a corn maze, but using putty-colored walls and vinyl baseboards instead of plant stalks. It also won’t even admit to its labryinth-ness, which makes it somewhat less fun, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there [sic].

I got a little look from Susanne once we exited the elevator; the one that roughly translates to “this is your big plan?” Seeing a woman pushing a cart that held a peach-toned baby and yellow pelvis, I took what was a rather small chance and asked if she knew where the childbirth class was held. Not only did she nod, she told us she was the instructor. Fancy that! I dodged another expression from Susanne, the one known as “wow, did you luck out.”

We followed the teacher into the room, which was expansive, and only then did I realize we were supposed to bring pillows with us to the class. In the millions of years of human evolution, nothing has helped us make such great strides as pillows. Who has a good day after a poor night’s sleep, after all? With birthing new people, it’s still about the pillows. Or maybe it’s hot water, I can’t remember, as I’m only up to page 16 in our childbirth workbook. Come to think of it, how does anyone have babies without Catholic workbooks and pillows?

Except for one other couple, we were twice as old as the other parents in the room. There also was one rather young woman and her mother—the daughter looked to be on the edge of tears for most of the class, which broke my heart. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how I’d reach out to her or reassure her without coming off like a creepy middle-aged guy, so I’ll just smile like a dope and hope she comes into her own as we get through the six sessions.

Also sitting around the room were two unmarried couples, one of which sported a boyfriend who hid behind the flat rim of his baseball cap for the whole night. The other came off as introverted and somewhat terrified. Presenting as shy and scared apparently gets a lot more sympathy out of me than defensive, until I realize that defensive, in young men, is often a guise for shy and scared.

The prize for the most random assortment of people in class was a woman, her husband, and her identical twin sister, who we could all tell apart because she isn’t pregnant. Not being a twin myself, I wondered if she now secretly hates her sister because finally, something is happening to the one of their bodies but not the other. Or maybe she’ll know, even if they’re separated in space, when her sibling’s uterus begins its contractions, and then be there to run away with the baby, and NOBODY WILL BE ABLE TO TELL IT ISN’T HERS BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE SAME DNA. Wow. I think that was a Law & Order episode at some point, come to think of it.

I drifted back in to the lecture, or rather, the introductions. We went around the room giving our name, due date, and something we wanted to learn from the course. I wanted to raise my hand and ask why we also weren’t relaying our chosen gender marker/pronoun, but Susanne would have kicked me. I already had screwed up by forgetting our life-bestowing pillows. They were home, relaxing in bed and I was about to see a harrowing movie with hippie straight couples and the babies they scream into the world. The pillows won’t be so lucky come this week, damn it—I’m hauling them in with us.

Our instructor jumped right into labor. Say what? Don’t we get some “how we got here today” nonsense and I have the opportunity to wax philosophic on the differences between the 2011 Catholic conception of conception versus what I learned in those black & white films I watched in sixth grade (1982, but who’s counting)? We’re starting right at contractions?

It dawned on me, as slowly as is my usual practice, that some folks might never show up for classes 2-6; I’m looking at you, flat brim baseball hat boy. So in the first session they plan to cover the basics about labor. Okay, I can deal, I figured. It’s a beautiful thing, I’m sure.

And then, alarm. They expect the “labor coach” (apparently me) to tell the pregnant woman when and how to breathe through the process, and when to relax.

This is impossible. This is why people leave the class, lady. Susanne is not a person who takes well to any kind of bossing at all. Much less when a new human being is supposed to emerge from her in an imminent fashion? We couldn’t even make it through two minutes of the foxtrot without her trying to lead. She’s going to let me get in her face, push on pressure points and tell her to relax? RELAX?

I laughed, and looked over at Susanne. I got another expression, the one that denotes “oh just you try it, buster.” I shook my head but watched the video, and noted I was not the only one slack-jawed through much of it.

After the film we took a walk through the birthing center. The center of birthing for Walla Walla. Only one person was in there giving birth while we toured. Walla Walla is small. I took away two important pieces of information from the tour:

  1. They have WiFi.
  2. Room 61 has a private two-person jacuzzi tub.

Back to the elevator bay, about to head out to the car, I saw another to-be-papa looking as nervous as I felt, which for the record I didn’t feel before the darn class.

“I don’t know about telling my wife to relax in labor,” I said quietly to him.

“No kidding,” he said, shaking his head, “mine doesn’t uh, take commands like that.”

I am totally going to hang out with this guy at the next class.

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9 Comments on “Baby Class”

  1. June 13, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Lol, lol, lol. Good luck. Those films are brutal. At least the woman doesn’t have to actually see the real deal. Trust me, feeling it is horrifying enough. 😉 Seriously though, good luck during these last few weeks. {hug}

  2. evmaroon
    June 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Thanks, kind missive lady! We’re acquiring things and knowledge and I started painting the nursery today, so it’s all coming along. I feel the support emanating from the coast!
    Meanwhile, how’s your sweet doggy?

  3. Nicoline
    June 14, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    Well, you know, the object of pregnancy is birth… It’s awesome, but I wouldn’t call it scary. Sure, there may be screaming (on the part of either parent), but so what? You’re dealing with some pretty elemental forces there! If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about the whole birthing coach thing. Chances are that Suzanne will figure it out by herself and if you try to tell her things, however kindly and lovingly you may do so, this may not make her very happy. Oh, and btw, vernix is great for your hands. My midwife said she made it a point to always rub some of the vernix that comes off the baby’s skin on her hands, because there’s nothing that will make them softer. And it’s true, I tried it myself and it works like a charm 🙂

    • evmaroon
      June 14, 2011 at 4:17 am #

      I’m not “really” scared, of course, although I will be on the lookout for medical staff not listening to our needs during the birth. And Susanne may want me to be right in her face with advice; I’ll have to just see how that goes. But the class was definitely facts-forward and left out no gruesome detail of the birth process. I’m guessing it was designed, in part, to wake up any person who had previously been dismissive about learning. I’d find it tough to get through that first class without having at least a couple moments of “wow, I didn’t know that” happening.

  4. Nicoline
    June 14, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    But it isn’t gruesome… or it shouldn’t be, unless they show you a movie involving all sorts of dire complications. It’s probably best to *read* about those once during a pregnancy and then try not to think about it. As for the “Wow, I didn’t know that:” You’re in for a good 20 years of it 🙂

  5. June 14, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Hm…maybe “gruesome” isn’t the right word, but most of the women I’ve talked to who have given birth have said it’s excruciatingly painful, and the recovery ain’t too great either. Sure, it’s natural, but natural things can also be scary, kind of gross, unpleasant, and, well, terrifying. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling those things when childbirth is imminent.

    I hope you and Susanne have an uncomplicated and awe-inspiring childbirth experience. And Susanne is lucky to have someone there on the lookout for medical staff not listening. My sister-in-law and my good friend both had a hard time getting nurses to give them what they wanted and not give them what they didn’t want. Medical staff tend to think they know best.

  6. Brenda
    June 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    I love reading your blog 🙂 we had our second child at the St. Mary birthing center and it was a great experience. Better nurses than we had at the birthing center in Salem. they were great about listening to me (especially when I was SURE I had gone from 4cm to complete in 5 minutes…..I had.) the birthing classes can have some good information, but don’t get too hung up on it. I’m sure you’ll be able to deliver whatever Susanne needs at the time. My birthing advice—epidurals rock!!

  7. Lauren Strebel
    June 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    You need a doula!!! I wish I were there to help (then again I am an ex-coworker, so that might be strange…) Keep in mind, hospital classes give you the hospital perspective. You may want that kind of experience, and that’s a-okay with me. A doula’s job is to support the laboring parents, no matter what kind of childbirth experience they are looking for. I just want you to know that you are in a wonderful area of the country in terms of alternatives to scary hospital childbirth classes. Check out Bradley or Brio Birth – both are excellent childbirth classes. Hypnobirthing was also very helpful for me, as well as taking a prenatal yoga class. SO relaxing and really helped me get into the zone when the time came.

    Check out Penny Simkin’s book, The Birth Partner. In some instances it’s better than any class you might take. Also The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. The Business of Being Born is a great documentary done by Ricki Lake… There are so many others!

    Amen Laura K.! Getting the hospital to listen to your wishes is the number one reason an advocate is so important. Watch that cascade of interventions. Stay at home, upright as long as possible. Use a birth ball (exercise ball) as much as possible (opens those hips!)

    Oh,… You know where to find me. Please email if there is anything I can do from Baltimore!! So happy for you both. You can do this!!!!

  8. Nicoline
    June 15, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    @Laura: Well, I guess I’ll be the odd woman out to say it wasn’t that bad to have a home birth (two of them, actually), with the assistance of a midwife and a doula and of course the baby’s father. Personally, I found the last few weeks of pregnancy, especially the second one, more exhausting than labor & delivery.

    It makes a big difference when you invite professionals into your home as opposed to you go into theirs (i.e. the hospital). It’s kind of hard for a midwife or anybody else for that matter to “chain” you to a bed if the bed in question happens to be your own or to give you meds you don’t want or what have you. Of course, I realize that home birth is not always feasible here, or even desirable in some cases. I do think, however, that it’s counterproductive for a hospital to show a birth movie featuring a home birth (presumably unmedicated) when they know full well that hospital births are generally quite different. It just sets the wrong expectations.

    Having a doula is a great idea for anyone having a baby, especially a first baby, and not only during birth. You’ll feel more comfortable bathing your newborn if a an experienced doula is standing at your elbow, presumably ready to safe the baby from drowning…. Not that that will happen, but new parents always seems most afraid of accidentally drowning their infant.

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