Over the weekend Benjamin and I attended a 2-day long chilbirth class. Me? I’m a junky for learning (GEEK alert!), and I was looking forward to the weekend, notebook and pen in hand. Benjamin, however, has never really been a fan of sitting in a classroom for hours on end, and not surprisingly, he was NOT really looking forward to 2 full days of talking about babies and vaginas and breathing techniques. But being the wonderful husband that he is, he humored me, and we packed our pillows in the car and headed for class early on Saturday morning.
We were one of only 4 couples in the class, so it was very small, which was nice. The class was taught by a labor and delivery nurse who had three kids, so she really knew her stuff! She was verging on a little too enthusiastic (even for me), but her information was good and her experience was vast. The first day we went through the mechanics/logistics of childbirth. The second day we went through interventions (c-sections, forceps, vacuums, pain management options, etc.) and worked on some relaxation techniques with our partners to practice getting through tough contractions and the physical/emotional stress of labor. Even though 90% of the material was not new information for me, I was still struck by just how amazing my body is. What it has already accomplished in creating a life and nurturing that child almost to full-term is unbelievable. And the process of getting that little baby OUT of my nurturing womb? Even more unbelievable.
I expected to see a movie akin to “The Miracle of Life” or whatever that movie is that everyone watches in 7th grade (the one I probably covered my eyes through at the time, since I don’t remember a second of it). But instead, we were shown an equally dated but far more interesting movie of three different births and how they played out. You see, when it comes down to it, I don’t need to know the biology behind the baby’s creation… I need to know what I need to do to get him out when the time comes. This movie showed three couples who each went into labor with a certain idea of how things were going to go, and all three of them ended up surprised by how they actually went. If there’s one thing I learned from this class, it’s that you cannot plan or control your birth story — the baby’s directing this show.
I went into the class thinking that I would like to try to manage my pain on my own for as long as possible once I go into labor, and then I would get an epidural and hopefully pop my baby out without too many medical interventions. That was my “plan”. To be honest, that’s probably still my “plan”. But the frank discussion of all the little things epidurals require (being pumped full of fluids, getting a catheter, not being able to walk around due to numb legs, possibly not being able to feel when/where to push if the epidural is too strong, getting a gigantic needle stuck in my back, etc.) scared me more than the thought of contractions. Believe me, I realize I may be singing a different tune when I actually feel what an active labor contraction feels like, but the class definitely opened my eyes up to some of the realities of the labor process that I wasn’t really aware of before and gave me some new things to think about.
When we first started class, our instructor asked us what we were most scared/nervous about. Everyone in the class mentioned something about labor (the pain, not getting to the hospital in time, the pain, having something wrong with the baby, and oh did I mention the pain?). Except me. I am mostly worried about the recovery. I’m nervous about bleeding for weeks on end and recovering from tears and stitches. I’m nervous about not being able to walk my dog or lift my baby or be active again. Maybe I have some mental block that has kept me from being scared of the actual birth? Or maybe I just figure that is a finite period of time and I can get through it? Not sure why I still feel so calm and serene about that part.
All in all I think the class was definitely worth attending. It was a little long, and it took up an entire weekend that we might have preferred to spend doing other things, but it certainly helped me begin to grasp the reality of what my body is about to go through, and what Benjamin and I can do to make it easier/better. And hey, the deep breathing and massage techniques we practiced weren’t so bad either.