Prepared Childbirth Class, Week One
My husband, Justin, and I arrive at the hospital for the Prepared Childbirth Class almost half an hour early, which is great because the people at reception actually don't know where it is being taught. "Probably in the basement?" says a woman with chunky highlights and chunky layers. "I told someone else that, too, and they didn't come back up... So that's probably right."
She was—more than probably—right. After nervously walking through what feels like 40 closed doors (but was probably closer to three), we end up in a conference room that is currently being occupied by a woman in jewel-tones with wireframe glasses. She also has chunky highlights and chunky layers, but she is not the same woman as before. "Oh, good," she says to us. She points at the computer. "The speakers won't work. Do you think you can figure it out?"
Justin and I do figure it out, which the instructor (whose name we later learn is Sara with no h) says is a "lesson in flexibility." She seems extremely on edge, and she keeps asking us if we work with computers. "Sort of," Justin says, which is his nice way of saying, "No, we just opened the speaker settings."
When our job is complete, we then fill out nametags. I purposefully write "Hale" in order to avoid having people say my name wrong. Justin and I take a seat in the middle of the classroom, and as people start to fill in, no one sits down beside us. I wonder if it's because I dressed poorly and make a mental note to dress well for next class, because some people are wearing flats. I say to Justin, "We're not the cool kids," and he replies, "We never are." I am offended.
At 6:59, Sara says we'll start class a little early, and then we'll be able to get out early. (Class starts at 7:00.) She asks everyone to introduce themselves, state their due date, if they're having a BOY or a GIRL, and why we decided to take this class. When she calls my name, she does so from her clipboard and not the nametag, rendering my plan obsolete. "Holly?" she says, and I sheepishly reply, "Heh, it's, uh, Hey-Lee!" This causes me to sweat, and my plans on making a good first impression for the other moms are dashed as I say I signed up for the Prepared Childbirth Class to be... prepared. Justin introduces himself and says he has nothing to add, and the class erupts into laughter. I gawk.
The first thing I learn about this hospital is that they play a song every time someone has a baby and is being transferred to their room (they do not take requests, it's some lullaby shit). If someone has twins, they play it twice. I almost ask what's the record for how many times that song has played in a row, but I remember my last attempt to speak and decide to just smile and nod. Oooh, look, she's actively listening!!
While I'm taking notes, Sara says a word I do not recognize. I write "eflorage???" in my notebook, and Justin, who is reading everything I write down, writes "Effleurage" to correct me and then taps it twice with his finger. This is why you shouldn’t marry smart people.
I would say the most useful framing device taught in Prepared Childbirth Class, Week One is when Sara asks us how we can and do decrease our perception of pain. My methods usually involve making fun of myself, talking to Justin, and asking so many questions that people think I'm being hostile. I write these down, wondering how a doctor or nurse would respond if I started reading myself to filth. When I’m anxious or upset, I usually call myself “you stupid bitch.”
As she explains how our partners can help us, Sara clarifies, "We don't say 'husband' or 'boyfriend,' we say 'support partner.'" I wonder at this point in time if Sara knows anyone who is in a same-sex relationship. She tells us to communicate to our support partners what we need, where we want to be touched, and where we do not want to be touched. I whisper to Justin, "Not the asshole" and snort. He cannot look at me. Sara plays a video of couples who are very thin and attractive which she does not maximize, and she keeps the mouse set squarely in the center of the screen. I can't even look at the hot couples, because all I can see is that fucking arrow. It drowns them out as they talk about their pregnancy experiences.
After the video, Sara starts talking about eating healthy while one couple shares a bag of chips that I intently watch them eat. She says that we need to be drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day, and I nearly fall out of my fucking chair. SARA, NO! AT LEAST HALF OF YOUR BODY WEIGHT IN FLUID OUNCES!!! Speaking of these chairs, it feels odd to me that for a room full of pregnant people, they could only find glorified lawn chairs to put us in. Is this a test to see if we have the fortitude for childbirth? I move around a lot, and I wince with the occasional testy exhale, so I think maybe I failed that.
Sara tries desperately to inspire group participation with questions like, "Which way do you want the baby to go?" (what) and "Which way does gravity make the baby go?" (with her finger pointed at the ground). Every time someone asks a question of her, she says, "You should ask your doctor." I say nothing, I ask nothing. I sit in my chair and pretend like I have no idea what the signs of labor are, sometimes looking around at other people as if searching them for the answers. Hmmm, hmmm. Do you know? Who knows! Why have I turned into this? Why am I so afraid of being my truest self, an insufferable know-it-all? I think part of this is me being so tired at 8:00 PM and still having almost an hour and a half left of class, but maybe also it's because Sara keeps saying things like, "The internet is not up to date." Which? I mean, like, it is! I know these answers from the internet!
Justin says he doesn't feel like he learned anything new (same), but we're both optimistic about the next class because she’s going to be talking more about the birthing process, and I really wanna watch some tier one videos of c-sections. While we are driving home in the car discussing the class, the weirdest thing Justin says to me has nothing to do with childbirth at all. He says, "I heard the girl next to you opening a snack, but I didn't look over at her. When she bit down and I didn't hear a crunch, I knew it was a cheese stick." (It was a cheese stick! I watched her eat it!!)
I have three classes left, and already I'm dreading how a) hungry and b) tired I will be during them. I can't fall flat again like I did in Week One, so I'm planning a dramatic look for my next class, like maybe a black lip or one of my many cape-like items of clothing. I need to paint my nails and make at least one good joke, so everyone else will be like, "Wow, who is she?" This is no longer a Prepared Childbirth Class. This is a competition.