What I Learned in School Today

Over the past few weeks Sam and I have completed a series of classes that will supposedly render us Fit to Parent, although there was not, as I was hoping, a certificate with a gold seal presented at the end. But the instructor told us that some hospitals actually do that, which amused me sufficiently.

Childbirth Preparation was the first and longest class, an all-day affair. I got to bounce on a birthing ball and Sam learned some massage techniques. I think the most useful aspect of the class may have been the videos. There was something about just watching the women go through labor that helped to defuse my terror around the event. There was no screaming or flailing around like they do in the movies. Although one of the women was really whiny and pathetic, so I’ve resolved not to be like her. “I can’t dooooo it,” she’d moan, and I’d think, “Lady, what kind of alternative are you imagining here? That kid is not going to stay in your belly until he’s eighteen.”

I told my mom that story, and she answered me with one better: she actually knows a woman who, thirty-some hours into labor, decided it was for the birds. She lifted her feet from the stirrups, hopped off the table, and declared to all assembled that she was done, she was going home, and if her husband wanted the baby so much he could jolly well have it himself. I guess they talked her into staying and the baby was actually delivered shortly thereafter.

But anyway, I’m feeling tentatively okay about the process of labor. From what I can see the chief enemy is not pain but exhaustion. I have my little strategies all planned out; they’ll no doubt fall by the wayside immediately once I’m immersed in the real thing, but they make me feel better. I particularly liked learning about acupressure points, because they seem pleasingly like magic.

I didn’t make Sam go to the Breastfeeding class. I’ve remarked before that I find it a bit mystifying how breastfeeding is supposed to be this difficult thing requiring classes and “lactation consultants” and such—I mean, Neanderthals did it, how educated do you have to be? But the instructor reasonably pointed out that many of our most basic behaviors are taught and learned rather than “hardwired,” and breastfeeding is the same: if you grew up somewhere, like in a tribe, where all the women breastfed and you got to see how it was done from an early age, then it probably would come pretty natural, but since our society hides breastfeeding as this weird and slightly shameful thing, most women don’t know how it’s done.

So we learned the basics: what it looks like when a baby has a good latch, how to tell if the baby is hungry (besides crying, which obviously can mean a lot of things besides hunger too) and how to tell if the baby has gotten enough, how to avoid some of the most unpleasant pitfalls. Which, I have to say, are very unpleasant indeed: yeast infections on your nipples! Ew!

Sam did join me again for Newborn Parenting, which was only half as long as the childbirth class: I guess because the actual parenting is the easy part! Right? The instructor seemed to be trying to intimidate us by handing out this sheet titled “New Parent’s Time Requirements”, where activities like feeding and diapering were broken down with the length of time required for each and the number of each required in a day. The point of the sheet seems to be that time somehow bends for new infants, because the time alloted for these activities totals fourteen hours, and we were also told the baby needs to sleep for about twelve hours a day (sadly, most of those hours will not be contiguous). So, I dunno. I cling once again to the idea that taking care of an infant cannot be that hard, because if cave people did it then I can do it.

2 Responses to “What I Learned in School Today”

  • Dawn Says:

    I screamed. That said I’d been awake for over thirty-six hours and it was fast. Both twins were out in less than two hours from the first contraction.

  • Nina Says:

    Yeah, childbirth is a real “the only way out is through” situation. But when you look at the sheer number of people who successfully execute the maneuver, it can’t be that hard, right? erm?

    Also, I totally have faith in your ability to keep a baby alive.

    That is a good point wrt breastfeeding; I’ve thought the same thing — but that makes a lot of sense. It’s true that the best closeup I’ve seen of breastfeeding involves a baby’s head mashed near a mother’s breast, and that’s it. I’m sure there are subtleties to be learned.

    If any of your strategies are things that an attentive best friend could help with, do let me know! and should I have a character rolled up ahead of time?

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