Riddle me this: If women have been birthing babies since the dawn of time, why did I have to spend all day in a birthing class? Tis true that this is my wife’s first pregnancy and therefore the first time I will be on the receving end of a slippery newborn, but won’t our daughter come regardless of whether we’ve taken this class? If after my wife’s water breaks (and I knew of water breaking before ever going to this class, thank you) are we going to show up at the delivery ward and be quizzed on what we were supposed to have learned in this class? I can just see it happening this way:
Me: (approaching the check-in desk) Hi, my wife’s water just broke and our contractions are 10 minutes apart.
Receptionist: (typing furiously on an outdated PC) Your name, sir?
Me: Kevin Black
Her: And your wife’s name?
Me: Elaine Black.
Her: How do you spell that?
Her: Did you say V as in Victor or C as in Charlie?
Me: B as in baby. We’re having one. Can we go in now?
Her: Just one moment, Mr. Clack . . . (more typing) Sir, I’m afraid because you failed your birthing class we’re going to have to ask you to return once you’ve received a passing grade. You can sign up for a retake at the next window.
Me: Wait a minute. What do you mean “failed my birthing class?” We were in there all day.
Her: (more typing) I see here you didn’t actively participate in the rythmic breathing exercise and instead preferred to feed on the complimentary snacks. Is that correct?
Me: Look Lady, first of all the snacks were lousy. Secondly I don’t need a class to teach me how to breathe. I can do that just fine on my own. I can even do your stupid rythmic breathing. See? (performing the rythmic breath with exaggerated head bobbing) Hee hee hee hooooo hee hee hee hooooo.
Her: You for got your cleansing breath, Sir. Now would you please either move to the next window for a retake or join the other non-birthing fathers outside the door. (She points to a group of jovial men chatting it up outside the hospital door smoking cigars and drinking scotch on the rocks.)
Me: Well, what about my wife? She is having a baby after all.
Her: (More typing) Wow! We don’t generally see birthing scores this high. Ma’am, would you like one of the ultra-posh birthing suites complete with sitting area and mini-fridge? We can find you another birthing partner if you’d like.
Elaine and I stepped into the waiting room of her obstetrician’s office at 9:00 Saturday morning with two pillows, a blanket and a packed lunch in tow. After signing in for our class, pinning on our nametags and setting down our birthing class accoutrements, we chose two seats near the door. At that point we sat down and half-heartedly watched a movie on baby’s development immediately after birth. The movie served as background noise while we waited for fellow birthers to file in.
Once everyone was present and accounted for we went around the room introducing ourselves. I forgot people’s names almost as soon as they said them. I could care less about who they are. I wanted to know things like how old people were, who was married, who wasn’t, what pregnancies were planned, which ones weren’t. I’m catty that way. Sue me.
Next on the agenda was a game of charades in which men were assigned a pregnancy syndrome to act out in front of the group. I lucked up and got swollen ankles, but other blokes were less fortunate and had to pantomime things like sore nipples or frequent urination. The guy who picked constipation, after confirming he could use words, grabbed his stomach and said, “I can go number one, but I can’t go number two.” You know, game or not, this falls into the category of things you don’t need to hear a grown man say.
The bulk of the class was either listening to the instructor dish out candid information on the birthing process or watching a movie about it. She was informative enough. After all, birthing is one of those things you don’t do every day, so much of it remains a mystery until you do. The movie was not one I’d add to my Top Ten list however. I never thought I’d finish watching a movie and wish that it had contained less female nudity. That’s not to say I don’t find pregnant women attractive. It’s just that these were some really granola looking women. I’ll say little else for fear of stepping on toes, but let’s just say this movie could have served as corrective therapy for those pregnancy fetishists out there. You know who you are.
Next we broke for lunch. Elaine and I, along with what Elaine described as “the other old couple”, opted to stay and eat our packed lunch. All others filed out and returned with bags from Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A. I imagine these same women bragging about how they aren’t eating soft cheeses or drinking caffeinated beverages for the sake of their healthy unborn. For some reason however deep-fried fatty McFat sandwiches are still kosher. That’s like parents who when their child is 12 months old have all the cabinet locks and outlet plugs installed in the home and yet when the kid is twelve years old the parents drop him or her off at the mall alone in the midst of perfect strangers for hours at a time. Selective safety. Just as a quick aside on that nutrition note, have you ever compared the information your child gets at school regarding nutrition and then looked at what he buys in that school’s cafeteria and vending machines? OK, I’m rambling now.
Which brings me to the next segment of class. Once everyone was through eating, the instructor said, “OK, now the women are going to get down on all fours and the guys are going to get behind them.”
“Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?” I said. It got a chuckle from some of the couples around us. Others were too busy arranging their pillows and getting into the position of the Milch Cow to pay me the attention I crave.
I forget exactly why we were told to get in this position. I seem to recall having to squeeze my wife’s hips which she said felt good. We were also then given other squatting and squeezing positions to try out during the early labor period to alleviate discomfort. Early labor period is code for that time preceding delivery when the woman knows she’s about to give birth but it’s too early to show up at the hospital. The instructor discouraged us from showing up at the hospital too early because they don’t provide food from the time you show up until after you give birth. Factor in the eighteen-hour labor that some women experience and you figure that’s a hella long time to go without eating.
Eventually we reached the point in the course where we had to practice our breathing. This sounds as ridiculous as it looks. This is the famed birthing woman’s breathing technique popularized by movies and television that I predict is used by absolutely no one. Think about it. If panting like a puppy helped to reduce pain, wouldn’t we be taught to do it in the dentist’s chair? Regardless, we all watched and repeated this silly rythmic breathing technique ad nauseum until we all got the hang of it.
The class ended after another video and some Q and A. All in all it was relatively painless, not like I imagine labor and delivery will be. I won’t say I didn’t learn anything, but what I learned isn’t much more than I could have found via Google. As for the rhythmic breathing, I suppose if I ever find myself in the position of having to blow down the house of some pesky little pigs, I’ll be well prepared.