Learning what comes naturally

For three weeks we’ve been attending childbirth classes – two-hour sessions that serve to both reassure and frighten. I mean, it’s perfectly split between “look at how horrible birth is” and “don’t worry – it’s not as bad as it looks.” Between easy and difficult. Yin and yang. The best possible and the worst possible. Either way, it’s quite the process. And we’re learning how to handle it.

It’s an interesting concept – we are taking a class to learn what has come naturally to humans for thousands of years. I doubt that medieval families were practicing their breathing, and I know that Renaissance era damsels weren’t concerned about electronic heart monitors and other modern conveniences. The rules have changed. Just 20 years ago, the standard method was legs up, stirrups at the ready. It’s a lot better now.

We’re doing it through a series of classes that, at 12 hours total, may last longer than the hardest part of labor. But as long as it seems, it really boils down to a quick briefing, a class without studying, a series of facts that we will barely remember when the time comes. For now, we sit at desks and learn the worst case scenarios – the 24-hour labors and the cutting of nether regions and the massaging and constricting and nearly impossible pushing that goes along with a difficult birth.

In the long run, we’ll feel prepared. We leave knowing more of what we’re going to be up against. For now, we find ourselves easily distracted. We were promised Lamaze but haven’t encountered it yet, instead relying on relaxation methods that Kerrie has already known for years, thanks to yoga classes. We’re looking around and gauging the reactions of the other couples. We’re preparing for birth by cramming for birth.

We find it informative, sure. However, my favorite thing to do is couple watch. We have two couples that barely take it seriously, snickering and goofing and giggling to each other. We have couples that hold hands through the videos. Half of the group shows up with fast food – a late, 7 PM dinner – and eats it during the first 15 minutes. Some couples are older, some seemingly freshly married. Every stereotype is covered – from young professional couples to blue collar. There’s even one cynical, snarky couple that dreads going to class and listening to chipper, cheesy birthing recollections and methods.

(That’s us.)

I sometimes can’t believe we’re going to go through the entire ordeal – that we’re going to enter the hospital one day and leave a few days later with a child – with a bundle of responsibility and love and all of those other clichés. But going through these classes force me to place myself in their shoes. I watch the videos and imagine – yes, that’s me.

Which is much better than before, where I saw myself standing hopelessly in the corner, unable to do anything, forced to consider my place in life as Kerrie gave birth and cursed my name the entire time.

I’m past that now. Now, I know, when she curses my name, I’ll be right there beside her, consulting my notes, glancing at my crib sheets, and attempting to be some kind of birthing partner.

I hope the cramming pays off.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 9th, 2007