Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fun in Childbirth Class

Yesterday was the 6.5 hour childbirth class. From 9am to 3:30 pm (minus 45 minutes for lunch), it was J and I, two pillows, a bunch of preggo ladies and their husbands, and a motherly nurse. Some things I learned about myself:

I cannot turn off my inner cat. I was evaluating people based on their pillow cases.

One couple brought bright pink pillow cases. I was jealous/curious. I love pink. J don't do pink. The couple in question was Muslim and spoke English with a thick accent. I wondered if pink just wasn't a big deal in non-Western society or if mama rules the roost. (Even if J were to agree to pink pillowcases, I can't see him walking out in public with them).

The couple with forest green pillowcases (who had also been on the hospital tour and had been quite funny) seemed like people we could be friends with. Simply based on the great color of their pillows.

Next to us was a couple with brown-and-red stripey pillow cases. I couldn't decide if the cases were boring or potentially very attractive. I decided I needed to see the entire bedroom ensemble to decide.

I was a little embarrassed by our plain white pillow cases. I once judged an ex-boyfriend based upon the boringness of his bridal registry. (Don't ask me how I happened to see the bridal registry. It was not my finest hour). And here I was in public, with plain white pillow cases. I hoped any other cats in the class assumed that we have much more color in the actual sheets and quilt. (Which we do!)

Inner cat, part two. I'm even less proud of this one. We went around the room and shared our due dates. I was pleased when I saw that women with later due dates seemed to have more belly than I do. Ooh, I'm such a terrible (and point-missing!) bitch. I've been somewhat concerned about my weight gain. 40 pounds so far. And I started off heavier than I like to be even before I got knocked up. My doc in Columbus went from telling me I was just fine and right on track to looking at J during our appointments and telling him he's obviously feeding me well. The woman who wouldn't believe that I was only carrying a single child didn't help my neuroses. I get conflicting information--on the one hand, What to Expect says that every pregnancy is different; on the other hand, I read that doctors tell women to gain too much weight. (And I've already exceeded what they told me to gain).

(Parenthetical side note--I do eat a fairly healthy diet. I'm a subscriber to a magazine called Nutrition Action Newsletter, affectionately known in our house as Nutrition Paranoia Quarterly. I read food labels. I try not to eat things with too many ingredients. I focus on my fruit and veggie intake, eat whole grains and lean proteins. Two things trip me up: my insatiable sweet tooth, and the fact that we moved and had a fairly stressful spring. [Okay, that was three things. I'm an English Teacher, remember?] So when I talk to my doctor about the weight gain and my diet, I get REALLY annoyed when they talk to me like I'm an idiot. They ask me if I know what I should be eating in the "I'm enlightening the darkness of the American diet morass" tone of voice. I would like very much to be able to show them some sort of credential card. Like an "I'm Not an Idiot" card that gets us past the lowest common denominator conversation. No, I'm not eating pop tarts and Mountain Dew for breakfast. Yes, I know the benefits of leafy greens. Let's move on!)

Oh, so anyway, I was being catty and disliking myself. I think I need a hobby.

Third thing (this post was about things I learned about myself, in case you've forgotten. It's okay. I had to go back to the top and reread to remind myself, too). I am inherently distrustful of Western Medicine. I capitalize it on purpose. There are individual doctors whom I trust (although it'll take me a few hours [or days] to come up with their names), but the institution of Medicine in America scares the crap out of me. Part of this is the reading I've been doing since I've been pregnant. Things are certainly changing, but for much of the 20th century--and to some extent in the last 10 years--Western Medicine has treated pregnancy like an illness, pregnant and laboring mothers like idiots, and labor like something that cannot occur without the greatest of technology. (Some of which, by the way, looked like broken transistor radio parts, at least to this untrained eye). I'm trying really hard not to let resentment get in my way. As J pointed out, childbirth often used to be fatal. He would not be here without medical interventions, as he was born via C-section. I also know that this distrust is heightened by recent incidents in the lives of people I love. Both my sister and one of my dearest friends have had to combat Western Medicine treating them like a specimen, rather than a person. Neither one of them has truly had doctors listen to them, in my humble opinion. (Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this). My friend's experience earlier this summer, which included a long hospitalization, scared me that doctors are no more competent than any of the rest of us.

Fourth thing: I trust myself. Now, granted, I have not yet experienced a single contraction, but going through the relaxation techniques and what to expect, I realized that I'm totally up for this challenge. I can distract myself. I can control my breathing. I can focus internally and externally. I have done all of these things when training for and running my long races. And all I got at the end of that was a completion medal, a banana and some Gatorade. At the end of this, I'll get a baby. (And apparently, they'll let me take him home, too!)

Fifth thing: I am ridiculously pretentious sometimes. When doing the internal focus, I, who am extremely language oriented, found it helped to recite memorized poems in my head. So while the other women in class were talking about visualizing a beach, I was too embarrassed to mention that I was saying "These violent delights have violent ends..," and "As virtuous men pass mildly away, and whisper to their souls to go..." in my head. Earlier this year, after rereading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock for the first time since college, I decided I wanted to memorize it. I thought it would be a good way to get closer to the poem, which I still find largely incomprehensible, despite its beauty. In class yesterday, I decided that would be a good project for the next 4(ish) weeks, and it would give me something to focus on during labor. I also decided I am the geekiest of all geeks. Then I was thinking it would be kind of cool if every time I have a kid (not that I"m planning on doing this on a regular basis), I memorized a different poem. I then decided that I am several shades of pretentious.

Part of me wanted to ask the other couples on their way out where they got their pillow cases.


  1. My experience was that nursing made me lose so much weight that I ended up 10 pounds lighter than my high school weight. Maybe you'll be so lucky? (Of course, I gained back the 10 and a little more after she stopped nursing.)

    Have you read Misconception by Naomi Wolf yet? Lots of reasons to distrust Western Med in that one. I don't necessarily recommend it during pregnancy, but as that's when I read it, so go ahead.

    What would be really terribly geeky would be to name your child related to the poem you memorized and focused on during childbirth, in which case I think I would chose something other than J. Alfred Prufrock.

  2. I'm hoping that post-partum weight loss won't be too tricky, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm basically tired of feeling so weighted down by the extra pounds. I miss running.

    I did read Misconceptions, early on in the pregnancy, and I'm really glad that I did. It sent me off in some alternative directions that I'm not sure I would have explored otherwise. It also really scared me. I'm hoping that things will continue to change. Just the 10 or 15 years since she wrote it, it seems as if hospitals are trying to make the birth experience more woman centric, although they're still not where I'd personally like them to be.

    Well, if I named him J. Alfred Prufrock, he'd probably just be grateful I didn't memorize Annabel Lee.