This 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:
- They have WiFi.
- 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.