The first childbirth class

Monday night, we went to our first childbirth class. Part of me had been wondering why I would need a class on something that my body already apparently knows how to do on its own, and also that women have been giving birth without hospitals or classes for hundreds of thousands of years and largely doing just fine.

But actually, I found it quite helpful. Your body will birth that baby on its own even if you don’t know anything about what to expect going into the process, but knowing what to expect can make things a lot easier and less stressful. THAT, I suppose, is what the class is for. Any type of coping technique will give me an emotional advantage.

Our instructor is great. I felt like Doc and I sorta “clicked” with her, which is a nice plus. Her philosophy is to focus a lot on the role of the men or support partner in birth (who I will refer to here as “the dad” since that is my particular situation), because dads have an extremely important job that tends to be generally overlooked and its importance diminished. The role of the dad is to be there while the mom is working very very hard and in a lot of pain, and to help keep her focused and confident, tell her she can do it, breathe with her, love her, calm her, believe in her. It’s a lot tougher job than men are ever given credit for. In that respect, I think that Doc and I are going to have fairly equally challenging roles in birthing our son. He’s very skilled at talking me out of panic and distracting me from physical pain, so I have no hesitation about going into this process with him.

We learned a lot about how all the anatomy fits together, which is fascinating. Two-dimensional illustrations, which is what you normally see, really don’t tell you the whole picture. Our instructor had a blue knit bag-like thing (or as I called it, a “uterus cozy”) containing a baby doll, that she used along with a full-size skeletal pelvis to demonstrate exactly where the baby is, how it’s situated in the abdomen, and how it will come out between the pelvic bones. She also had a soft fabric model of a placenta and cord to demonstrate how that fit in the uterus as well.

We learned about the different stages of labor, how long they last, how long and intense the contractions are in each of them, how you breathe differently in each of them, what your body is doing (as demonstrated on a balloon), how the cervix effaces (and what that means…. it thins out… imagine sucking on a lifesaver, how that gets thinner and thinner), what cervical dilation means and how it progresses, what “stations” mean (number of centimeters that the baby’s head is above or below the two spiny bones of your pelvis; a +3 generally means that the head is “crowning”), how to time contractions, when to call the doctor, when to go to the hospital, what “cord prolapse” means (it means you call 911 and put your butt up in the air, and go to the hospital in an ambulance with a paramedic’s fingers holding your insides in), what TACO stands for (it has to do with amniotic fluid when your water breaks…. time, amount, color, odor), and many other very useful and somewhat scary bits of information.

We learned that I should definitely eat and drink while I’m in early labor, and even in active labor if I’m hungry, to keep my strength up, but that I probably should not have a hot fudge sundae because my body might have a tough time keeping dairy and greasy foods in.

We learned that it’s OK to go out, go to the mall, go to the movies, etc., while I’m in early labor. I need to do something to pass the time and distract myself. Sleeping is a good option if I can do it.

We learned that the doctor can tell a lot about what’s going on with you by the sound of your voice on the phone when you talk to him, including how advanced your labor is and if it’s time for you to go to the hospital.

At the end of class we lay in the dark and practiced breathing rhythms (deep cleansing breaths — which are used to signal to your partner the beginning and end of a contraction so you don’t have to say “it’s starting…. it’s stopping” every few minutes), and also another type of breathing whose name I can’t remember right now, but it’s more like the normal-paced rhythmic everyday breathing. We lay on mats and blankets and the instructor put us through some guided-imagery meditation. I really enjoyed that; I think it could be extremely helpful for me. I’m going to try to find a CD of guided imagery that I like. The problem is going to be finding one that doesn’t seem too cheesy.

I really enjoyed the meditation session. Doc and I lay on our sides facing each other with our eyes closed and just breathed and listened to the instructor. I had some difficulty concentrating because Aquaman, who had been fairly quiet all day, decided that he was going to practice some very vigorous tumbling and karate moves. After a few minutes I took Doc’s hand and put it on my belly, so we lay there for a long time with our hands on my belly, feeling our son move together. It was rather awesome.

We stayed after to talk to the instructor a bit. She recommended a neurologist to Doc that she’d found success with, and I asked her if she thought that what I experienced with my miscarriage was similar to labor. She had had a couple of miscarriages of her own and also had some kids, and I haven’t talked to anyone else who’s experienced both before. I described how intense things were and how quickly they were over (5-6 hours, whereas it takes days or weeks with some women), and asked her if that was an appropriate analog to how labor might be. She said that it sounded a lot like the transition phase of labor, and that because I was familiar now with the sensations I would probably have no trouble handling it! That really made me feel a lot better. Knowing what to expect, what the pain might feel like, is going to make it not seem so scary when it actually happens.

Next week we meet down at Baylor hospital to take a tour (we’ve already done the tour on our own but I wouldn’t mind another) and have some Q&A with the doctors in our practice.


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