On our first day of childbirth class, all the pregnant women and dads-to-be were given a large circle of paper to write our names on. We dutifully pinned them to our shirts and took our seats, at which point the instructor informed us that we should all take a good, hard look at those nametags.
"That piece of paper is the exact circumference of a fully dilated cervix," she announced. As one, we all turned to stare open-mouthed at each other's shirts, and the room fell silent. In the midst of what should have been a quiet, contemplative moment, a helpless snickering began in the back of the room. From where my husband and I sat, waggling our circles at each other. "MONSTER VAGINAAAAA," I whispered.
In terms of treating our childbirthing classes with respect and maturity, it all just went downhill from there.
In particular, I remember how impossible it was for us to take things seriously during our second class. We'd gone around the room discussing what we'd learned last week (Husband: "I thought the knitted hat thing was real interesting as far as understanding how the contractions work." Instructor: "That was supposed to be a uterus, not a hat!" Husband, to me later: "Well, you totally could have worn it as a hat."), we'd reviewed some relaxation techniques, and we'd discussed what to pack in our labor bags.
Then the instructor began talking about using pressure to ease pain during labor, and she pulled out a large collection of massage devices. "This one works really well on the back," she told the class, wielding a vaguely bone-shaped pink plastic doohickey with tiny spines all over it. I slid my gaze to my husband, who was raising his eyebrows at me suggestively. "And this one is great for the neck," she went on, and out came a rounded object with bulbous protuberances. A tiny snort escaped from my husband, and I bit my tongue.
When she showed us a sock filled with tennis balls, I squeezed my eyes shut. I couldn't begin to tell you what was so porny about the way it looked, except that it just WAS, somehow, and also maybe it was the term "balls in a sock."
I repeatedly tried to remind myself that we were being taught how to manage the BIRTH OF OUR FIRSTBORN CHILD, but as soon as I had myself under control, we were instructed to try out a labor position. Specifically, a position that required my husband to sit in a chair, and for me to kneel in front of him on a pillow, my head buried in his lap.
"This is a wonderful position to massage her back and shoulders, dads!" sang out the instructor.
"It's also a wonderful position to smoke some pole," I whispered to my husband, who camouflaged a bark of laughter with a brisk coughing fit.
I won't even go into the details of the second labor position, the one that had me kneeling and leaning on the chair while my husband knelt directly behind me and, oh my god, lifted my hips (to alleviate back pain, apparently), except that he murmured some very bad things in my ear while doing so, including the word "pile-driver," and I was extremely grateful for the pillow under my face, because it did a bang-up job of muffling the fact that I was pretty much laughing like a deranged hyena at that point, and thank GOD that was the last part of class.
Anal-probe-massagers and Kama Sutra labor positions aside, I did eventually end up feeling like our class was really useful. The more I understood about the birth process, the less fearful I felt about things. Since fear and pain together during labor was what seemed unmanageable to me, the classes made me hopeful that if I could minimize one, I could handle the other.
Of course I ended up having a C-section, so I didn't really get to put those newfound labor-management skills to the test. Still, I'll always have the memories ... of paper circles and pile-drivers.
Did you go to childbirth classes? What did you think about them?
Image via Flickr/nateone