Friday, June 05, 2009

The Beginning of the End

Last night Brett and I attended our first pre-natal class at the SwedishAmerican Family Birthplace.

We were both extremely excited to be there. When you’ve waited nearly ten years for a baby, every little thing is significant and momentous. The knowledge Sam is due next month (next month!) has made us apprehensive and in need of instruction and reassurance.

We were the second to last couple to arrive. There were nine couples already there. At this point, we were all strangers with nothing in common other than the fact we were 1.) all having our first baby and 2.) looked absolutely terrified.

I had already met our Registered Nurse instructor, since she taught my breastfeeding class. I warned Brett ahead of time that she was a younger, hotter version of the already smoking hot Dr. Cuddy on House.

Still, he was impressed enough to whisper, “Wow! She DOES look like Dr. Cuddy!”

About three times.

I get it. I GET it. She’s hot.

As we were seated, I looked around the room and took stock of my compatriots. There were eleven couples all together. I was pleased to see that many of the women looked to be about my age (whew! not an “old’ mom after all!), and several of the men looked even older than my nearly-40-year-old baby daddy.

Three of the women were quite young, still in their late teens, single, soon-to-be moms. I was encouraged by this, however, since they had all made the choice to keep their babies and obviously had a support system of family and friends to help them start their journey.

In a country where there is a murderous alternative to keeping your baby, these courageous young women stood out as examples of making the right - albeit tough - choice. I applauded them in my head.

The rest of us were married couples. Dr. Cuddy had us go around the room and share our names, due dates, and what we were looking to learn in the class. We were very surprised to learn that, out of the eleven couples there, ten of us are expecting boys!

Our lone girl-bearer joked she was going back to her OB to demand another ultrasound!

Dr. Cuddy took the floor and began to explain how the birthing process works. She had a table full of props, the most interesting of which was a stocking cap marked up to resemble a uterus.

I will never look at a stocking cap the same way again.

She took us through the process, at one point pulling a baby doll through the opening of an actual skeletal pelvic bone.


In the first hour, we learned about basic female anatomy and the changes our bodies go through in pregnancy. There was a great pictorial chart which showed the many changes to a pregnant female body enthralling even the men in the room.

When Cuddy asked us to list our pregnancy ailments, I was surprised to hear the men speak for their wives.

“Her back hurts.”
“She can’t sleep.”
“Her joints ache.”

These men were paying attention! Good for them.

I mentioned my swollen ankles. Dr. C picked though our complaints and listed causes and solutions. It was a relief to hear these women were experiencing many of the same things I have been.

We took a break about an hour into the class. As the eleven of us toddled off to the bathroom, we insisted our girl-bearer go first. “Ladies first,” we joked.

As we stood shoulder to shoulder in the little bathroom, another woman pointed to the “Maximum Capacity – 15 Persons” on the wall.

“We’re exceeding the limit,” she said laughing. “There’s 22 of us in here!”

After the break, we headed back for the second half of the class. Dr. Cuddy talked about the different kinds of pregnancy pain – what’s normal and what’s not.

At one point, she referred to our collective aching breasts as “the girls.” While the rest of the class was mature enough to take this in stride, my husband nearly spit his Sprite out through his nose.

Embarrassed, I leaned over and whispered viciously, “Grow up! You’re nearly 40, not 14!” Then, I rolled my eyes as he continued to smirk into his soda for the next five minutes.

Why does the rest of the world get George Clooney, and I get Seth Rogen? Huh? Why?

A few minutes later, he topped himself. Dr. Cuddy was talking about what she referred to as the “grossness of pregnancy” which included a discussion on hemorrhoids.

Brett leaned over and whispered, “You should ask about that.”

“Why? I don’t have hemorrhoids,” I pointed out.

So, I was shocked a split-second later, as he raised his hand and asked about the best way to treat the oh-so-nasty ailment. Twenty pairs of eyes honed in on me, as Dr. Cuddy talked earnestly to ME about treating them.

It took everything I had not to scream, “I DON’T HAVE HEMORRHOIDS! He’s just trying to get free medical advice from you, a hot nurse.”

Instead, I held my tongue and let the whole room look at me and think, “Oh, that poor fat lady and her hemorrhoid problem!”

I think it says a lot about my love for my husband that I was willing to fake being a poster child for Preparation H in front of a roomful of strangers I will have to see every week for four more weeks.

I’m pretty sure that is what the Proverbs 31 woman would have done.

Dr. Cuddy showed us the various positions that can ease the weight off our aching joints and back muscles. At one point, she hauled out an exercise ball and bounced on it.

I had to laugh when the girl next me elbowed her husband as he watched the good doctor bounce energetically up and down on the ball.

“We’ve got to get one of those,” he said hypnotically, his eyes transfixed on Lisa Edelstein’s body double.

Eventually, it was the moment we had all been waiting for. Dr. Cuddy asked our “labor support person” to go get the mats in the back of the room. Soon, we were spread out all over the room, our partners behind us, as Dr. Cuddy prepared the room.

She dimmed the lights and put on what she referred to as “cheesy relaxation music.”

“You know, the kind that got you here,” she said.

She explained that we were going to practice rhythmic breathing techniques to help manage pain during labor. “Don’t worry,” she assured us. “Next week, we’ll talk about the drugs.”

As she took us through the different pain management options, I was impressed by her balanced viewpoint.

She told us every labor and delivery experience is unique. Some of us might end up delivering via C-section and not need to use any of the techniques; others would have a 45 minute labor and need very little pain management; even others would try for natural childbirth only to discover a low pain threshold or a danger to the baby present without using drugs.

The most important thing, she told us, was to possess as much information as possible. Then, we could walk into labor and delivery informed of our choices and possibilities. We were assured that having a wealth of knowledge would bring comfort and security to us through the whole process.

She encouraged us to be flexible and adaptable, no matter what the situation.

We settled in around the room to begin practicing the breathing techniques. We were in a crunched part of the room, and one of the men had to lean so far back, he was nearly in my lap.

For part of the time, I felt like I was practicing delivering him. Poor guy.

Dr. Cuddy taught us about cleansing breaths and then took us through 4, 2, and 3 count rhythmic breathing. It was amazing. Not only did it relax me, but Sam starting kicking vigorously.

Other women around the room commented on the same thing, and Dr. C informed us that the babies love all that extra oxygen.

The partners in the room were instructed on how to massage our shoulders and necks or - if was distracting us from our breathing - to NOT touch us. Most of the men looked extremely uncomfortable touching their wives in front of the crowd, but Dr. C reminded them most people are home alone when labor starts.

As we went through the breathing exercises, I felt a burst of nostalgia. My mom and dad went through Lamaze classes when they were pregnant with me. Mom made several good friends through the class. She often talked about the fun she had in Lamaze class, and I grew up hearing the stories.

Although, as our instructor had pointed out earlier, Mom didn’t get to use her class information, as I made a hasty entrance into this world on the frosty morning of August 20, 1978.

Still, I imagined that the women behind and beside me could have been – in another generation – my mom and dad’s friends. I was bristling with joy over repeating the positive cycle of shared experience.

After we were all breathed out, the class was over. Dr. Cuddy mentioned the Boot Camp for Dads, and when Brett exclaimed over how much he’d enjoyed it, three guys signed up on the spot!

Maybe Swedes will take a little off our bill for the referral?

Brett put away our mat while I packed up our pillows. We headed out to our car, talking about what we’d learned, and looking forward to our next class.

I was especially pleased because everything Dr. Cuddy said matched up perfectly with what my pregnancy books said, and I was glad Brett was finally learning what I’ve been reading about for the last seven months.

When we got to the car, Brett smiled at me. “I wonder why I’m suddenly in the mood to watch some House reruns?”

Then I did something the Proverbs 31 woman probably wouldn’t have done.

I threw my TUMS at him.


mom2mine said...

Hats off to you, I would have thrown my husband under the bus for the hemmoroids. You are obviously more spiritual than me.

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

Wow. Way to hold your tongue. I would have...ummm...crushed him under the weight of my pregnant body. But that's just me. I'm working on it!

Sounds like a fun class!! I'm especially happy to hear you commend the single young mamas on their choice for the baby. I have a dear friend who felt completely shunned when she was suddenly expecting, in college, unmarried. Her friends, church, everyone it seemed, thought she made the "wrong choice." There is ONLY one right choice, and these women are making it.

Just so you know, I vote for the epidural. And I've had four children. One natural and three with epidurals. No comparison. My uncle is an anesthesiologist and trust his advice. No pressure, just thought I'd add my two cents before your next class!! :-)

Jennittia said...

Such fun!!!! Just a note for Brett: in the nursing home, it is very common for us nurse aides to joke with the women we are helping about "making sure the girls are all tucked in proper." It somehow makes it seem not so bad that you are grabbing someone's chest and shoving it inside a bra!!

Juliet said...

WOW! My child a poster child!!