So the first part of class...was...um...interesting? Terrifying? Enlightening? Informative? Stupid?
Yes. It was.
For starters, the couples in attendance represented a fantastic cross-section of Who Lives in Napa. There were the folks who'd clearly just come from office jobs, and folks who have possibly never set foot in an office building in their lives. Sitting on one side of us, we had a couple who each ran their own home businesses, and on the other side was a couple whose male half was wearing a RAIDER NATION t-shirt and who, as Ish said, "probably owns some kind of watercraft that's taking up most of his credit card balance."
White collar, blue collar, no collar, ankle collar...
Just to complete the visual, there was also one very young couple -- they were maaaaybe 18? -- who just seemed out of their depth and like perhaps the class was court-ordered? We wondered this because the young man seemed about half-interested at best. Like he'd rather be just about anywhere else. During the video segments, he didn't so much "watch" the movies as "check his cell phone." Meanwhile the girl, who wore a permanent scowl, was also sporting a fashionable ankle monitor. But despite their seeming disinterest in the class, both the boy and the girl had this fun little habit of shouting out answers to the instructor's rhetorical questions. Incorrectly!
When the class ended, I noticed the couple outside, calling for someone to come pick them up. That's when I also noticed that their "small blanket" (recommended for class) was actually a Spiderman towel. While they waited for their ride, the girl swung the towel around and fashioned it into a cape.
I make no judgments on their parenting abilities. For all I know, they could raise a perfectly amazing child. I just don't think the ankle-monitor/Spiderman towel bode especially well.
Overall the class was good and I'm glad we went. I know more than I did before. I look forward to Part Two. But best of all, I feel reassured. I feel reassured because I have chosen to view this class as a metaphor for parenting in general.
By which I mean: Wow. A lot of people are going to tell you a lot of things. And some of these people are going to claim to be "experts" but that doesn't mean they are 100% correct about everything. In the end, it's going to be up to YOU to distill the good advice from the bad. Trust yourself to know what will work.
Doesn't that seem all rational and good? Aren't you proud of me? Well, wait till we get to the part about the cocktail party.
The instructor began the class by leading intros and then telling us about herself. Turns out, she's been teaching childbirth prep for fifteen years. She's seen a lot of stuff. She knows her stuff. She came across as sweet and nice and caring and as someone whose heart is really in it. Expert!
But then as soon as we got going, despite the three minute discussion on how "there are no wrong questions," she refused to answer any. She clearly hated to be derailed from her spiel. Most of her answers were, therefore, either We haven't gotten to that yet or We don't talk about that until next week. Except for the time the woman asked, "So, do contractions ever last longer than one minute?" and the instructor smiled, gave a slight shake of her head, and laughed a bit, in a "haha, you have no idea what you're in for" kind of way. AND THAT WAS IT.
So no, not especially helpful. Mostly the instructor reeled off hospital-approved information. And I figured I couldn't really do anything but believe everything she says, because even if she doesn't answer questions well, she's got a whole helluva lot more experience than I do.
Until she pronounced "pelvis" as "pelvix."
Not one time. All the times. In diagrams, during the slide show, in discussions, and using the visual aid. Pelvix, pelvix, pelvix. Every time she said it, I'd look around the room just to see if anyone else noticed or cared. Every time, only Ish had a look for me that said, "What can you do?"
And just when I thought I was going to burst from wanting to scream something along the lines of "LADY, IT IS THE PELVIS. ISSSSSS. IT IS ONE OF ABOUT 4 BODY PARTS WE'RE DISCUSSING TONIGHT, AND YOU HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 15 YEARS AND I WANT TO HAVE FAITH THAT YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!" she started referring to the cervic.
So okay. I know in my heart-of-hearts that probably none of her points were less valid because she has difficulty with some words. Truth be told, English was not likely her first language, and who am I to judge?
Still, this whole childbirth thing is kind of scary and stressful, but there IS a way to answer questions from couples regardless of when that information comes up in the presentation, and also there is no such thing as a pelvix. Or a cervic. And while I want to believe that there is a black-and-white science to the whole thing, I think it just goes to show that even experts aren't maybe expert on everything.
* * * * * * * *But here's where we get to the point, really.
I'm not what anyone on the planet would call "spiritual." Nor am I "meditative." I do not discount these things, I recognize their virtues, I simply have never engaged in them successfully. At least not in a way that would be widely recognized.
When I go to get massages, for example, I am fine with the fact that they play "relaxing" music and sounds of tinkling brooks and whales and nature. However, this does not do anything to quiet my mind. If I wanted my mind quieted, I'd listen to music that I knew -- perhaps ABBA? -- so that at least part of my brain could be actively engaged in something. "Listening" to streams and windchimes is boring and so my mind goes into overdrive and I spend massages internally dictating my next blog entry or singing songs or hatching book plots or, most commonly, chatting with the massage therapist.
Hey, it's just how I'm wired.
But ho-ho! I should have thought about this sooner!
Because all of a sudden I realized it. Of COURSE the "relaxation" and "breathing techniques" part of this prep class were allllll about tinkling music and centering one's mind. DUH. One second it's all business: lights on, pay attention to this next slide; the next second it's lights off, calming tones, pseudo-hypnotic "imagine you are somewhere peaceful..." routine while soothing music plays in the background.
I wasn't ready for it. I sat there, straddling the chair with my closed eyes and Ish massaging my back, and all I could think about was the episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent I'd just seen. And also maybe the burrito that was waiting for me post-class.
Meaning just like massage, this kind of setting doesn't help me do anything except think about the exact things I shouldn't be thinking about. I'm not distracted. I'm not relaxed. I'm searching desperately for something, anything, to pay attention to and focus on.
Oh, I tried to listen to the instructor. I tried to picture a peaceful place and think about the baby, but those thoughts take about 3 seconds to leap from the miracle of childbirth to wondering when Ish and I should put together the Pack 'n' Play and whether I'd order extra salsa later.
And honestly, this didn't bother me at first. I was sitting in the darkened room, content to be thinking about baby furniture and burritos and Law & Order...until it hit me like a ton of bricks: Uh, if I can't focus on something distracting when I'm in no pain whatsoever, what do I think I'm going to focus on when I'm experiencing labor pains?
My guess? LABOR PAINS.
Asking me to quiet my mind and experience silence and focus on peaceful settings and nature and beaches and tinkling brooks is all well and good, but I am positive that if that's all I've got, each contraction is going to feel like friggin' King Kong just stomped through my mind's pathetic little woodland area.
I realized that if the point is to ensure that I focus on nothing but exactly how much pain I'm in, this kind of meditative, "picture a quiet place" stuff is the way to go. If, however, I want to be distracted, if I want to focus on ANYTHING other than the worst pain I'll ever experience, we're gonna have to do better than windchimes.
I had to recalibrate. I had to be honest with myself.
How am I going to do this? I wondered.
You know what I've heard? I've heard that, for as peaceful and centered as anyone may (actually) want to be, hospital rooms end up feeling like Grand Central Station anyway. Nurses, doctors, husbands, well-wishers, and all kinds of other, gloved professionals will be in and out of the room constantly. I think, for me, trying to pretend otherwise is probably an exercise in futility.
But then, you know what my happy place really is? A hopping martini lounge. Somewhere all my friends are gathered. Like, say, a loft in San Francisco full of drunk, happy people I adore, wearing dresses and boas and singing their lungs out while someone tries to keep up on the piano.
And while I understand that for many reasons, I don't probably want a piano and a dozen people singing in my room while I'm in labor, I feel like I'm making progress towards figuring out what will work for me.
I kind of liken my sentiments to why some people love New York City. When you're in the middle of the hustle and bustle, you can feel free to get your crazy on and no one will notice or care. Over time, you don't even notice or care. So that's what I'm envisioning. Hustle and bustle -- music, something engaging on the tv, people chattering and doing stuff, Ish massaging anything he can get his hands on, energy, DISTRACTIONS -- going on all around me, so I can feel free to get my crazy screaming in-labor self ON.
The videos we saw of couples walking down the hospital corridors, holding hands, breathing, quietly meditating, helping mom picture mountainsides as she slowly rocks her body during another painful contraction...this just seems utterly horrifying to me.
I mean, I'm not crazy. I want touch and massage and probably a shower or 17. I want to be told I'm doing a good job. I want encouragement and help and deep breaths and rolls on the birthing ball and all that good stuff.
But if we're being really honest about what's going to make me feel better, I don't want to be told to picture the ocean, I want to picture a giant, ice-cold martini. I don't want to have calm lighting and whale sounds, I want Sex and the City on repeat and a tap-dancer Shuffling Off to Buffalo.
Hmm. Maybe I should pack a mirror ball in my hospital bag. What do you think?