The voice mail from the nurse said that you could bring a snack and a drink, so we found ourselves at the gas station five minutes before the birthing class was due to start grabbing distractionary nourishment. I chose M&M's and a Sprite. Paul chose an Almond Joy and a bottle of milk. Milk? I was already laughing imagining precarious times during a birthing class to be drinking milk.
All of the seats in the back row were taken, so we got stuck in the middle row next to a large married couple that brought a bag of Arby's with them. The husband had on a maroon shirt and sported a head of thick black hair that jutted up in places. His heavy eye-brows hung over the rest of his facial hair and large features. The wife had her long brown hair pulled up in a lobster clip and rested her thick muled feet on the back of the chair in front of her. Looking around the room, there was a diverse mix of couples. Mostly young people, a mennonite couple, and a mother and daughter. Nurse Ratched took her place at the front of the room and the class began. I started the M&M game about a half-hour into the information to stay alert. (I put a single M&M under my tongue and pretend that the candy shell is poison and the antidote is the chocolate inside, but you have to live long enough for it to melt.....Repeat until bag of M&M's is gone). Paul sang the music to Mission Impossible when I opened the bag.
We were informed that the sound system and dvd player weren't working, so we would be watching the 'Old' birthing video on a tv at the front of the room. The 'Old' birthing video was filmed in Boston in the 1980's and NONE of the women opted to wear hospital gowns. During the first birth a woman sucked on ice chips that fell out of her mouth in chunks as she pushed through a contraction. The next birth showed a head crowing and the woman saying, "It's...it's....it doesn't look like a baby!" while something resembling a powdered dough-nut emerged from her birth canal. I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. The next part of the video discussed Stage 3 of birth....the placenta. We watched in horror as a woman pushed out the placenta and the doctor put it into a large bowl and examined it. He stretched it out and moved it around and explained how it had been attached to the mother and baby. I felt like I needed to puke, or be hooked up to a Clockwork Orange chair so that I could keep watching. I turned my face away, and noticed that the large man sitting next to us was staring at the screen and shoving his mouth full of greasy Arby's chicken kickers. The video ended with a proud 1980's father beaming over his wife and baby. Paul leaned over and asked if I thought the video father had a Queen cover band? The next shot showed his turquoise blue short-shorts, and I immediately agreed. The large man with the chicken kickers said, "I hope he doesn't get any of that in his mustache."
We began to cover breathing techniques, and I was completely lost. I couldn't figure out when I was supposed to breathe in, and I looked around the room somewhat frantically thinking that will be the one person in the room to pass out during labor. Luckily Paul noticed that I was confused and showed me what I was supposed to be doing. Nurse Ratched passed around the tool used for circumcision, the fetal head monitor, and the suction device that they use to 'guide the baby out'. I attached the suction cup to my arm and pumped the handle until it pulled my skin up and left a suction mark. I promptly decided that I didn't want that to be attached to the baby's head ever.
Dr. T was supposed to be the guest speaker and we waited excitedly for him to arrive. Once, I asked Dr. T why I wasn't supposed to lay on my back to sleep and he gave me a long explanation about cavemen and never answered my question. As we waited, the nurse explained pushing and counting during contractions. Again I was lost. Apparently things involving breathing and counting are too hard for me. Paul held up his fingers and counted so I would understand. Then the nurse talked about the thing that no-one ever talks about that happens during labor. Pooping. Now I was alert and listening intently. She explained that it was no big deal, and they clean it up before you even know it happened. I immediately raised my hand and asked if there was anything that could be done to avoid pooping during delivery. They used to give enemas at the onset of labor, but the hospital doesn't do it anymore. Awesome.
The class was almost over, and Dr. T was still delivering a baby at the hospital. We covered the 'support person's' role as we read from an orange script of suggested things to say. Nurse Ratched had us all stand and demonstrate how to rub the pregnant woman's back, and Paul was singled out for doing a good job. She suggested that someone other than the support person run the video camera during the birth, so the support person could just focus on the delivery. I decided that I wanted David Lynch to run camera. The video would be all close-up shots of my face writhing in pain and a final shot of the placenta being thrown against the wall (according to Paul). Then the nurse brought up birth control for after delivery. Most people in the room laughed because they never planned on having sex again. Nurse Ratched explained that it's possible to go to your follow-up appointment six weeks after delivery and find out that you are pregnant again. Oh no no no. Is there any problem if I start birth control now just to be sure I'm covered?
I left the class feeling squeamish. Babies turning down birth canals and fitting through hips, episiotomy, suction cups, pooping, placenta, complicated breathing techniques, Freddy Mercury, chicken kickers....there was a lot more involved in childbirth than I was prepared for. My new birthing plan is to try to not think about it until it's time.