While our out-of-town weekend activities started to slow down, our weekdays in the month of July were filled with baby preparation. Last month we squeezed in a four-week childbirth class, an infant CPR class, and the tour of our hospital. All that along with a holiday weekend, a birthday, a wedding, three baby showers, and all the rest of the we-better-do-this-while-we-still-can activities left us feeling overwhelmed and overbooked. I think we are both glad to leave the month of July behind us.
When we walked out of the final childbirth class last week Zach said it felt like the last day of school. I was not so enthusiastic about leaving the class for good. There was something comforting about being in a room full of women who had never given birth before and were just as close to going through it as me. Now we start the final phase of preparation: waiting. We gained some helpful tidbits from our classes, though, which has given me some topics to dwell on while waiting.
WEEK ONE. By the time we stopped for a break halfway through our first childbirth class I was convinced I had been experiencing all the signs of preterm labor that very day and was ready for Zach to check me in to the hospital immediately. At 34 weeks it was unlikely and unwanted, but I was sure we had mere hours left before meeting our son. We made it through the rest of the class, along with the five other expectant couples, without anyone having to check into the hospital and given the assignment to fill out a worksheet about the different stages of labor.
I was most surprised by the diversity of the couples in our class. Somehow I imagined that we all would be about the same demographic, but there was one couple who had to be teenagers and appeared to be texting each other throughout the class. Zach was most surprised that our instructor was able to fill a full two and a half hours and not completely finish explaining the miracle of birth to us.
WEEK TWO. As class started week two we had lost two couples, the teenagers and another pair. We speculated that they could have had their babies already, but Zach was not convinced. We spent the rest of the night talking through the experience of a labor and delivery without medication. During the birth video for the night the father-to-be sitting next to us shouted something like “oh, damn!” over and over when the baby began to crown. At the close of the video he spent about 10 minutes telling us how the video had changed his life and he couldn’t believe how beautiful and amazing birth was. Nice try, guy.
Zach learned that I was going to try to micromanage his counting during my relaxation breathing and I learned that Zach considered the pregnant woman in our class who made it through the second week of class without wearing a bra and was planning on a home birth a hippie. Fair enough.
The following evening we had a tour of our hospital with about 10 other expectant couples. As the nurse showed us how quickly she could rip off the bottom third of the hospital bed to reveal stirrups and how handily the dim room can be illuminated by lowering high-powered spotlights from the ceiling, Zach whispered loudly that she reminded him of the Target Lady from Saturday Night Live. Ignoring him did not make him stop suggesting it and he only let up after I agreed that, in fact, her enthusiasm for birthing suites was a bit like that of Kristen Wiig’s character. As we left I felt like crossing my legs very tightly and Zach announced that this was going to be a piece of cake. Or something like that. I was busy sending my baby telepathic messages to stay put.
WEEK THREE. Week three was rough. Our class was the night of Zach’s birthday and we didn’t even have time to go out to eat. We ate drive through in the hospital parking lot where I finished off a root beer float without giving him a taste after supposedly promising him some. The topic for the night was childbirth with “interventions” which includes medications, inductions, etc. and we had lost one more couple. As our instructor started passing around fetal scalp monitors, forceps, and catheters to the three remaining couples I felt my breathing become shallow and my lips start to tingle. During our relaxation practice I yelled at Zach as he tried to massage my back and then I proceeded to choke on the stomach acid that hangs out high in my chest as a bent over a chair to practice different relaxation positions.
I left convinced that Zach was the worst birth coach ever and that I was going to have to do this all by myself and he spent the rest of his birthday night calming me down like the exemplary birth coach that he actually is.
WEEK FOUR. In the final week of our month of preparation we had an infant CPR class along with our last childbirth class. I took a CPR class once about five years ago, but don’t remember the infant portion being so terrifying. This time around it was awful. The instructors began by starting a video showing a set of grandparents trying to revive their CPR dummy granddaughter. It made no difference to my hormones that their grandchild was made of plastic — I had tears welling up and could feel my breath going shallow again. The other heart-wrenching part of the class was all the couples there who had preemies in the NICU. Apparently here parents of preemies must take the CPR class before being allowed to take their babies home. One couple had given birth to their baby girl 16 weeks early. She was up to 4 pounds from her 1 pound 4 ounce birth weight.
On the way home Zach reminded me that the odds were slim that we would ever have to use CPR on any baby and I again sent the baby messages to stay put for a few more weeks.
For our final childbirth class we discussed what would happen in the moments and hours following a baby’s deliver and practicing our breathing during pushing. The instructor gave the three husbands sandwich baggies of ice and told them to increase the amount of ice they pressed onto our skin to simulate the increasing intensity of a contraction. I learned that by looking at Zach and trusting him to count out my breathing the pain of the cold ice actually decreased. Major breakthrough. We all left with a sample pack of disposable breast pads and a promise to email our instructor when our babies arrived.
Overall Zach probably didn’t learn much that he hadn’t already learned from his own research, and I don’t know that I did either. But it was comforting to have all that time to talk with a labor and delivery nurse who has been assisting pregnant women through the birthing process for more than 20 years. And the breathing practice was indispensable. Who knows how exactly when our baby will end up making his entrance, but I learned to trust my husband in ways I hadn’t before and knowing that we can get through this together was certainly worth a month of classes.