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No Second Timers in...

No Second Timers in the Alternative Birthing Class

My husband and I arrived early and nervous to our “alternative birthing class.” We were there with about ten other couples. They seemed all somehow more adult, polished, and definitely more prepared than we felt. The instructor entered and we did a series of exercises and had conversations over the next few weeks about our “joyous, calm experience.”

The instructor, a middle-aged woman of seemingly vast experience showed us tapes of woman quietly birthing their babies to gentle music with minimal screaming and moaning. It seemed like we had struck gold! Each night we dutifully put in our “relaxation” CD and promptly were sent off into Snoreville … we thought wow, this must really work if we are lulled into sleep this easy. And yet, something in the back of my mind was nagging.

We went to each of our appointments, updating our practitioner and glowing in the way that soon-to-be parents often do. It was all going along so well. We flew to California at five and a half months and all was well. We flew to Jamaica for my best friend’s wedding before my seventh month and everyone commented on my glow and how well I was doing. Little did I know my stretch marks were showing and my large ankles were a preview of what was to come.

Suddenly at thirty-two weeks, the first visit my husband had ever missed, I had an elevated BP. They tested my urine and found protein (blood). It was a quick ride in a panicked state to the hospital a few miles away and a long day of testing to come. They monitored me to make sure the baby was okay and that preeclampsia was not setting in. I was put on bed rest and sent home. We returned to the birthing classes and were reassured that all would be well. That evening we envisioned our labor and were to determine the length of our birthing in our heads and minds … I chose two and half hours (the time it took me to be born at home, incidentally). Turns out, I was off by about … a full TWO DAYS and SEVERAL hours!
Let me just say that the birth I had envisioned was peaceful. It included warm baths, walking the halls, and my best friend flying in from Maryland to hold my hand while my husband attended the whole process. Instead, on a “routine” visit to the hospital for BP updates after only two and half weeks of bed rest, we were told to get ready. This was it. We were being induced. At this point we were packed and ready (in the loosest sense of the word).

Immediately I was told I would be put on the dreaded “pit” or pitocin to begin my labor. Oh boy, alt-birthing no-no number one! And next on the list, due to my elevated BP, I was NOT allowed to walk around unless it was to the bathroom. I made a lot of bathroom trips, necessary and unnecessary, that weekend. I’m sure the nurses will recall my overuse of that particular privilege.

It only gets better from there. We started on a Thursday evening and I will fast forward past a long sleepless night through an eventless Friday full of intense contractions (and a subsequent night off the pit) to a Saturday full of contractions and my mother and sister sitting by the bedside. I think my mother was somehow experiencing more anxiety than I was that day. It was better that she went home after a few hours … and that was when the fun really began. It was sometime around that evening, the mark of two days that an epiphany came to me … that niggling thought registered in a giant light bulb right before the nice man with the epidural arrived.

Here it is … there are no second time parents in the alternative birth class.

And it was at this point in the process that I understood why. As fully as I possibly could. So when that nice man, named Michael by the way, stuck a giant needle in my back—and it took readjusting and then a full redo to get it done—I greeted the drugs labeled “unnatural” with a reluctant but enlightened mind. Ah, yes. We had spent over two hundred dollars for a CD and class that put us to sleep. I did my best to use the techniques but mostly what I found useful, besides the epidural when it took, was the support of my husband and a wonderful female doctor who delivered my beautiful, premature daughter. The epidural was what relaxed me from three centimeters to ten. The epidural, not all the breathing and struggling to stay in my “calm, birthing room” was what finally got me through the transition. And then it was only joy and pure relief that got me through an hour or so of pushing to the part where my sweet girl was actually born. Oh, and by the way, you DO feel the delivery of the afterbirth (lying bastards).

As a first time mom I did tons of research, talked to seasoned pros, read every book available and relevant and yes, even joined a birthing class that told me to envision the length of time I would be in the “birth process.” What I learned was that no one can tell you what you need in that process but your body and your doctor. I learned I would do anything to see my healthy child safe in my arms. I learned my husband is more wonderful and forgiving than I could ever imagine. And I learned that I will never again waste money on a class that tells me birth can be orgasmic … maybe they mean if you are sadomasochistic!

I don’t mean in any way to detract from those who find the alternative path a kind one. To you few, be grateful to the powers that be that you have a high tolerance for pain and apparently pleasant labor.

To the rest of us, may I just say—save yourself the money and invest in a nice relaxing CD and some massages. You will be ahead of the game. But I guess that is coming from the voice of experience. Just count us as another couple you won’t find taking the alt-birthing class as second timers!

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