Tuesday, July 1, 2008

DCMM: Not Your Typical Birth Class

I don't think the childbirth class I took was typical. I know what Hollywood tells me childbirth classes are like. They involve dolls that fathers-to-be diaper badly, the room is filled with tolerance and relaxation, and the women all practice breathing like this: "hee, hee, hee..."

This was nothing like mine.

I have given birth to three kids and took a childbirth class for only the first one. (Because, frankly, if I didn't figure it out the first time, I didn't think a class was going to help me.)

My husband, Alex, and I lived in Oakland, California, when my oldest son was born more than six years ago.  Alex and I sort of randomly picked a six-week childbirth class out of the phonebook. This is probably not the best way to choose such a class.

We ended up in a class taught by a very typically SF-Bay Area new agey, hippie-type lady. Whatever woman you're dredging up in your mind, with the long gray hair and flowing clothes, you're right. That's her. I don't remember her name, so I'm going to call her Gaia.

Gaia gave us literature about how pitocin is the devil and strict instructions to not let the nurses give the baby a bath on his birthday. We were the only people in the class not planning to use cloth diapers and were group-interrogated about it. We also learned that pretty much anything the starts with an "E" (episiotomy, epidural) were not to be tolerated. The teacher was not so much preparing us to give birth, but preparing us to wage war on the hospital system. While in labor.

However, her demonstration about an episiotomy was very illustrative. She ripped a piece of paper and cut a piece of paper to demonstrate how the ripped paper seemed easier to repair. Although now that I think about it, I'm not so sure how much like a piece of paper my hoo-ha is.

As seems to be the case with all first time birth-givers, I was nervous. But my attitude was, "Well, the kid's comin' out one way or another, so I'll try not to stress too much about it." And then I watched the first childbirth video Gaia showed us and I immediately wanted a c-section.

Oh, I kid. Sort of.

Those videos are gruesome. To this day I can't watch  A Baby Story or any of those other childbirthing TV shows. I'm pretty good at giving birth, but I have absolutely no interest in ever seeing one.

We watched a lot of videos in that class, but I vividly remember the first one. I tore my eyes away from the horror onscreen and looked around the class. The expressions of dismay on every face amused me and were probably the only thing that kept me from crying at the reality of what was going to happen to me.

In the long run, that class gave me enough of what I needed to successfully delivery my baby the way I wanted: I was hopeful for the best, but prepared to demand what I needed if the best didn't happen. We were given enough information about what would happen to my body during labor and delivery so that I knew what to expect. We were given enough strategies for dealing with pain that I was able to find what worked for me when the day finally came.

But the most useful thing that came out of the class was that Gaia told us about doulas. She had a book full of contacts for them. Again, we sort of randomly chose one. This time it turned out to be a good choice. The name we picked turned out to be a prior neighbor of Alex's, and was a wonderful advocate and friend during my 21 hours of labor.

The happy result of all this: a healthy, 9-pound, 2-ounce little boy named Sam, who was delivered naturally, not bathed on his first day of life, and was promptly wrapped up in a disposable diaper.

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