When we got the class material in the mail a few days earlier, including a book and information sheet outlining what to expect and when, it immediately reinforced all of my irrational insecurities. The sheet read:
9:30: Pain circle
Of course I freaked and yelled to Jerry who was in another room: "Did you see this? Pain circle? PAIN CIRCLE?! What the HELL is a PAIN CIRCLE? ... Is it my vagina? Is it some sort of torturous birthing device? Will we have to sit in a circle and share our feelings? ... Yeah, we're not going."
But Jerry convinced me to face the pain circle. In reality, it was a large poster with a big red felt circle labeled "PAIN." And over it, our instructor placed little white felt pie pieces labeled with ways to cope with that pain. When she was done, there was only one section of red remaining.
I was just relieved it wasn't some sick nickname for my lady parts.
The teacher, also much to my relief, was a friendly, knowledgeable, relatable, funny middle-aged woman with four children and lots of experience of her own. And appropriately named Eleanor.
Eleanor immediately picked up on the fact that Jerry and I were easy targets who would participate willingly, so a lot of the first day included good-intentioned jabs at our expense. And with Jerry, I guess nothing should surprise me anymore.
We took notes, got lots of handouts, watched videos, participated in group activities, discussed many important issues in-depth and came out with a better understanding of what to expect when my uterus starts saying, "It's time." Now, instead of complete panic, it will be controlled panic.
Plus I can say I know what a mucus plug is. Mmm ...
Here are a few other highlights:
- After flipping through a series of posters outlining the progression of birth that increased in graphic intensity, Eleanor asked, "You okay Jerry? Still hanging in there?" Jerry's response: "Yeah, but I'd like to point out that sixth grade sex ed really doesn't prepare you for this."
- Eleanor asked for a show of hands on who was exercising. Jerry, who has been running daily for a few months now, proudly raised his. The instructor just laughed. "Well, that's great Jerry, but I was mostly referring to the ladies on this one."
- While watching very graphic videos of two different births, the rest of the class nodded intently. Jerry and I were gagging and giggling like idiots. Yup. We're SO ready to be parents.
- When Eleanor asked us to get up and stand in stations about how we felt about receiving medication during labor, Jerry beelined for the neutral "I don't care either way" zone while I hung back in the "I'm going to try to go without because it's best for the baby" zone. Her point was that any couple who was unable to touch from their different locations needed to talk. And, of course, she used us as an example. Jerry, in his own defense said, "THIS WAS THE SAFE CHOICE AND NOW I'M IN TROUBLE!"
- In her post-partum discussion, Eleanor pulled out a 3-D model of a placenta and explained that if we wanted to see ours, we would have to request it, otherwise it would be whisked away. Then she went on to explain that we could take it home if we wanted to and that many cultures cook it and eat it to increase longevity. Jerry's comment: "I'd rather set myself on fire."
Jokes aside, Jerry and I really learned a lot. We feel much better prepared to handle the uncertainties of birth and are better informed about our options. After that, we'll just have to figure out how to keep our daughter alive.
But that can't be any more intimidating than the pain circle.