On what was to be our fourth and final Sunday afternoon learning the first facts of life in the company of a dozen other couples on the parental precipice, Hannah and I were at home. We had made a mutual decision to risk ignorance instead of spending another moment in childbirth class.
It should be mentioned that neither of us were particularly gung-ho about the class in the first place. As both Hannah and I are inveterate autodidacts, the past eight months have been an extended study curriculum roughly divided into two parts: The Miracle of Life and The Horrors of Birth. Our shared hope was that we would be able to add a few practical tips to our arsenal of book-learned pre-partum factoids and labor pain-coping strategies. Our joint fear was that we’d be spending the following four Sunday afternoons in the parenting equivalent of traffic school, being instructed on things we either knew innately or were so rudimentary to the matter at hand that their mere mention should be insulting to any self-respecting parent-to-be.
Our instructor began the first session by pointing to the vagina on an anatomical chart of a female’s reproductive region, then helpfully advising “That is where the baby comes out.”
Yep. It was going to be a long four weeks.
And it got much, much worse:
Our instructor used “moons” as the metric of the duration of pregnancy. I’m a former Deadhead who’s been to Burning Man, and this was too hippie by half for me.
She referred to our fetus and all other fetuses in attendance as “passengers.” To me, this was the most annoying facet of her complete reliance on the macro-analogy of pregnancy being “a journey.” I can take the “journey” references in small doses, but “passenger” evoked an image of my wife’s womb transmogrified into a municipal bus, or worse.
In our first lecture, she casually said that, “birth is not a science,” unaware that she was setting a rhetorical flame to her own nursing credentials (and the only reason we would be listening to her in the first place) in the doing.
Our instructor’s typical explanation of a biological phenomenon: “The mucous plug is like the mucous from your nose after you sneeze, except more mucousy. More … mucousy.” In case this vivid word picture wasn’t quite doing the job (it wasn’t), she enhanced the illustration by rubbing two of her fingers together in a gesture that usually connotes “money” as if to say, “Show me the mucous.”
I realize it sounds like I’m cruelly taking a hatchet to our instructor, making her a scapegoat to our indolence. True, her sudden vocal oscillations between a thick, nasal Long Island accent and high-pitched baby talk only enhanced her status as a person truly worthy of caricature. But Hannah and I never doubted that her heart was in the right place, or that she was being less-than-truthful when she proclaimed herself a “sister” to all in attendance. She wasn’t the reason why we stopped going to class.
Neither was it due to my intellectual objection to having to be further educated (really, I can’t stress how many books my wife has read) about the very act for which one’s body, if not entire existence, is purposed.
Nor was it the way our instructor, when posed with a question to which she didn’t know the answer, would shrug her shoulders, palms outstretched in a “These are the eternal mysteries of our time” way, but also one that tacitly suggested you should go fuck yourself for asking.
No, really, it wasn’t our instructor.
For me, the biggest disappointment about our childbirth class experience was the complete lack of socializing that went on with our classmates. Many of my friends claim that their childbirth class peers became actual friends over the course of the classes. Perhaps it was the Beverly Hills location, but no one in our group seemed remotely interested in lingering after class for conversation, which pretty much rules out going for (decaf) coffee or building a playdate network for the future.
Either everyone was just as sour on the class as Hannah and I had become, or our journeys toward parenthood were on paths too diverged to share a friendly word. And that, it could be said, made all the difference.
But then again, when our instructor explained during the third class that when Hannah begins pushing during labor, she’s going to “push the baby out her rectum,” any doubts about our inclination to cut our losses and drop out of class evaporated.
I’m no scientist, but even I know that mommies do not poop out babies; that I saw a few of my classmates dutifully taking notes made me want to run—far away—to a more informed place, and wait for the stork to arrive.
By Jeffrey Wachs
Photo courtesy of Offsprung