Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Making It Work For Me And My Pelvix

Last Tuesday, Ish and I took our first "childbirth preparation" class at the local hospital. We decided it might be more helpful to take such a class prior to the baby being born, because we're totally on top of things that way. (She is due around June 25, btw.) (Also, we're going to Part Two of Two tonight, stay tuned!)

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.

Anyway!

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?

30 comments:

  1. I literally laughed out loud! Thanks!! -Healy

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  2. I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head about what will make you feel good on that day. I totally see your point- who can think of moonlit oceans or whispering pines when your room is like a Popes-in-a-Volkswagon joke come to life and you're in pain? Go with hopping martini lounge! Have your funniest friend with you as well as your hubby, above the drape! By the way, my boss pronounces "breakfast" as "BREFIX". I think she stole your cervic's X.

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  3. well i used to be a tap instructor, if you need me to shuffle off to buffalo...just lemme know

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  4. I'm with Healy. Laughed. Out. Loud. Over and over. You are one funny mama.

    You know, if labor were so terrifically awful, people wouldn't do it more than once. I know. I was in labor for two days.
    Two. Fucking. Days.
    Did it hurt? Yes. Would I volunteer to do it for you? Probably not. Is it what I remember most? No. And it wasn't what I remembered most even right after it ended in a C-section, so no blaming it on that momnesia crap (which actually isn't crap, but that's another post entirely).

    If you want to prepare yourself for how it hurts, practice holding an ice cube in your hand for as long as you can. Believe it or not, it helps build up your endurance for pain. I don't know why no one I know learned this in their birthing class. It was the single most important thing I did for myself.

    Another really helpful piece of advice I got: While you're in labor, do something active.
    If I got to pick for you, which of course I don't, I'd say SING. Every time it hurts, belt out your favorite part of a tune you love. Not only will it help you, imagine how your little one will feel hearing her mommy's voice beckoning her down the birth... oh wait, that's tinkling brook nonsense.

    Anyway. I think you're gonna be so much better at this than the Tinkling Brooks. You have a sense of humor and a set of pipes.

    Bring 'em both. You’ll need them for the next 18 years.

    Good luck, IIF. We're pulling for you.

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  5. Put me in the baby pool for June 23.

    It's my birthday. June 25 is as far away from Christmas as you can get and that's great for present getting.

    Good Luck!

    'nilla

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  6. I'm with bzh -- do something active. And don't freak out.

    I freaked out during childbirth class, and it did no good whatsoever. Labor's totally different for everyone, and I don't think you really need to "prepare yourself for the pain" by hurting yourself now (although if it works for you, then awesome! :) )

    My personal labor experience was completely positive -- even though it hurt. By the time it hurt enough for me to actually use any of the childbirth techniques, it was time to push -- and pushing feels AMAZING because you're finally doing something that helps with the pain. I didn't have an epidural, either, just Stadol, which I do not recommend because it just makes you feel drunk in between contractions. Not good drunk. Like, too-drunk-to-stand-up-at-a-frat-party-with-no-ride-home drunk.

    Anyway, I know you'll do a great job, and if you want to be surrounded by people, then you should be! Whatever makes it better for you.

    Honestly, I spent the great majority of my labor reading King Dork and watching TV in my hospital room with my husband.

    Luck! :)

    Elizabeth

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  7. Your post is hilarious...the parts about the ankle braclet nearly had me in the floor, except I was worrying about the baby.

    It, the labor and delivery, was different with each of my three children. With the last one I finally said...ya know this really hurts and chose not to have any more...everyone was relieved. I did forget the pain. My doctor asked me the other day on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being childbirth how much do you hurt. I looked at him like he was demented...it has been way too long. My youngest is 44. I don't hold onto painful things that long.

    You will do fine and have some wonderful posts afterward if you ever get enough sleep again.

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  8. One word: epidrual. It will put you in a really great happy place.

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  9. Ish will wear a boa, right? And dance to Abba (which you will bring with you, of course) while he's not massaging you?

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  10. I watched TV during labor. I had an epidural pretty much right away because I came into the hospital with my water broken and it didn't hurt yet but I didn't want it to start hurting and have there be nothing I could do about it. So, I really didn't have a lot to think about for 23 hours, and I also had a little stadol too, so I was too stoned to read really.

    This sounds...ohmygod, totally batshit crazy, but I still remember watching Dr. Phil between pushes. It was fine. I got the job done.

    However you get through it is fine.

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  11. Hehe... With my first, I remember having more fun people watching than actually participating in the childbirth classes.

    Epidurals are fab. And so are hospitals with DVD players, so you can watch Sex and the City on repeat all you want =)

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  12. I think you answered your question already. Pack an iPod with a mix of high-energy, fun music with both headphones and mini-speakers (not sure what the hospital will allow) and as many friends to visit you who will chat and make you laugh.

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  13. I'll add to what most others are saying - take all the "expert" advice and instructions with a grain of salt. Your labor experience will be unique to YOU and, trust me, much of the stuff you're obsessing about now will be a total non-issue when the Big Day actually comes.
    For me, labor "pain" was different than any pain I'd ever had before. It's deeper, somehow, and more subtle. Not like getting a cut or a scrape, with pain in a sudden searing flash. Labor pain comes on slowly and just kinda rolls over you. Think low magnitude earthquake - mostly uncomfortable and scary. I would NOT call it the worst pain I ever had. It was just . . . strange.
    I've always found that the anticipation of something (like going to the dentist) is always MUCH worse than the actual event. I'm betting that, once you're actually in the middle of the experience, you'll be thinking, "Well, this isn't so bad. I can do this!"
    And by all means, pack the mirror ball!

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  14. Today is my daughter's 22nd birthday. It is a fond memory. The labor nurse was a total bitch. "No epidural for you." But I got through it. How? Telling her that she was a bitch. In retrospect, I know that I was in pain, but I only remember how satisfying it was to rip the nurse a new one. Waterfalls and wind chimes? Nah. Focus on something real. Something more interesting than labor pain. Maybe you'll be lucky and have a bitchy nurse, too.

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  15. If you want, I can gather a few people and we can have a cocktail party in the hospital room with you. Alcohol is sterile, right?

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  16. Shiny Disco Balls and sex & they city on repeat sounds good to me. I'm rooting for June 24th - that's my birthday!!

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  17. Ankle monitor on a pregnant teen? Ha - welcome to Napa. You shoulda stayed in the City.

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  18. My advice would be not to pick the one thing to focus on that will get you through this, but to have a whole list of things to try. My experience was that labor was so different from how I thought it would be, that about 80% of the things I thought would be great didn't work at all. Couldn't get in a shower or tub because I had fetal electrode monitors on. Hated (hated!) any "relaxing" aromatherapy scents. Loathed sitting on the birthing ball. Didn't want to look at a pretty picture.

    What worked for me was leaning over the foot of the bed and (I sh*t you not) mooing. I sounded like a very woeful cow. But it really made me feel better. Have a nice long list of things Ish can suggest for you to try ("How about mooing?") and you'll find something that works great. And remember: no one has ever been in labor forever. It always ends. Yay!

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  19. I think that the minute I heard "pelvix" or "cervic" I would have bolted out the door. I don't know how you were able to stay in there without laughing out loud every time she said it.

    Maybe when you are finished with the classes and you know you will never see this woman again you can ask her why she insists on consistantly mispronouncing two of the most important words that have to do with the subject at hand.

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  20. I didn't have any drugs AT ALL, not because I didn't want any but because by the time I got to the hospital I was too far along and nothing would have worked.

    Yeah, it hurt but here I am, unscathed. I feel like labor is an initiation into motherhood. You howl at the world as you bring your baby into it. The pain is different somehow, it has a function and a rhythm to it. I remember focusing on that rhythm. The breathing can help or not--it's your call. Your body goes on a roller coaster ride with a grand finale and your conciousness gets dragged along.

    Unless you get some good drugs! :)

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  21. I had two kids at home. Here are some thoughts from my experience.

    Trying to think about something else to distract you is one technique of pain management but it sounds like you might do better with focusing on the pain.

    You can practice with ice cubes, hold them til it hurts and have Ish time you for 30-60 seconds. Think about the sensations of pain you are feeling, is it sharp, throbbing etc. Explore the pain with your thoughts, try to describe it. Your mind will stay busy and the time will pass.

    Afterwords savor the absence of the pain and don't think about what is coming next. The whole trick to labor is being in the moment and not anticipating the next. The worry and fear of what is coming can sabotage you.

    Childbirth is uncomfortable but it is pain/discomfort with a purpose and not the worst I've ever felt. You'll do fine.

    Erin

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  22. Ditto Erin that childbirth is not the worst pain I've ever felt. Number one was a kidney infection and two was a giant ovarian cyst rupturing. Childbirth (drug-free for me, only because I hate needles, not because I judge drugs!) was practically fun compared with those, a distant third, on a par with a badly sprained ankle. Uncomfortable but bearable. And sprained ankles don't get you a baby (at least they never got *me* a baby.)

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  23. I totally agree with you on the tinkling water crap!
    My husband and I played Rummy and I pretended that my Diet Coke had rummy in it! The cards actually took my mind off it good for ahwile.
    Also TV medium sucks cause the commercials make you crave every sort of food item they are advertising and you CANT have it!
    I didn't go on any walks either--well once to the bathroom, and I about slipped and fell in my gushing water. Word to the wise--don't get out of bed after your water breaks! You end up flooding the floor and it is very slippery!

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  24. I've been out of town and am just catching up, but had to share this:
    My husband and I were told that if we couldn't stop laughing we would have to leave the birthing class.

    I'm also not meditative, and when everyone started their "hee hee hee, hoo hoo hoo" breathing, I started to giggle. Then Ward started to giggle. We couldn't even look at each other.

    It's probably no surprise that the same sort of thing happened during our wedding four years prior when the new, young Polish organist hijacked the ceremony with the long version of what sounded like her favorite native funeral dirge. Luckliy then, no one asked us to leave.

    Did our lack of seriousness affect the birth? Well, I freaked out and tensed up (oh and projectile vomited) when labor came on full blast, but the epidural made things all better.

    And frankly, we still laugh at things no one else finds funny, as do the girls (now 8 & 6) and I think we are a better family because of it.

    Lots of luck to you all.

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  25. We loved this post so much we named you BlogHer of the Week :)

    http://www.blogher.com/blogher-week-kristy-sammis

    Love,
    Elisa, Lisa and Jory

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  26. I thought the birthing class was pretty much a waste too. But so it goes.

    I went for the epidural straight away. Didn't need pain to remind me I was having the baby :-)

    Will miss you loads in Chicago! Hope all goes well this week.

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  27. If you can even picture martinis, you'll be that far ahead!

    This was a hilarious post. And yes, very wise, I think. You will be a great mom.

    Congrats on BlogHer of the week! And good luck with your birth. The after is AMAZING. When you hold your baby in your arms. :)

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  28. Love the court ordered teens. hilarious.

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  29. Definitely...pack the mirror ball! :) Find the birth that's best for you! Most hospital childbirth classes only teach only one thing- how to be a good patient for them, not how to assist you in what is helpful for you.

    I wish you all the best! With your sense of humor, you will do fantastic! I cannot wait to hear the birth story!!

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  30. That was funny. I like the way you think/write :-) I have to say, though, that I've never read your blog before and when I saw the word Pelvix in the title, I thought, "Who is this?" This is probably some uneducated person and the blog will probably make me roll my eyes...sorry, but that's what went through my head. Still, because it was recommended by someone I like, I read on. I'm glad I did. I needed a good giggle before bed. Thanks again! By now, you probably have your little precious one with you and you can look back and really see the humor in this..ha, ha.

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