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Our Birthing Class Denouement

There was a twinge of sadness in the air as we arrived for our fifth and final birthing class. We’d come to look forward to our weekly download of “pregknowledge” from our helpful instructors, Lois, Faith and Sue. This was to be the highlight of the whole “pregmester,” a tour of the hospital birthing facilities where Chi-Baba would be dragged from the pool and thrust into society.

Before our tour, there was still a few subjects left to cover. Last class, we spent most of the time talking about the actual birth, and the medical interventions we could possibly encounter during that process. This day, the topic du jour was what happens immediately after birth, beyond the “unclenching”, euphoric relief, cigar smoking, and football spiking and customary victory dance.

The protocol these days, following the expungement, is to take the baby, still soaked in the amniotic sauce (with a hint of lime), and place it right on the mother’s bare chest. Apparently, the newly birthed child can, in some cases, immediately breastfeed, which seems silly because if I entered the world after sitting in a pool for nine months, I’d probably head for the bathroom. Or at least take a shower to get this goo off of me.

As the baby sits on Mom’s chest, the uterus contracts a few more times and out comes the polenta, which, if prepared correctly, goes great with sausage and cabbage. What’s that? Oh. Placenta. This oozing sac of blood vessels served as the filter between Mom and baby, and is apparently quite fascinating to look at. Our instructor encouraged the husbands to inquire about inspecting the placenta, as it is “pretty cool.” Instead, I’m pretty sure it’s “pretty gross.” She also mentioned that the placenta, being once a part of my wife’s uterus, was therefore our property and that we could take it home if we wanted to, ostensibly to plant a new tree with, or put in a shadow box and hang over the mantle. I quickly raised my eyebrows and turned at the idea, but Kim was already shaking her head no.

Within the first hour of birth, the state mandates that two things occur. The first is that the wriggling bundle of joy get jabbed with a needle that contains Vitamin K, which is given to help prevent clots from forming. Apparently having no teeth or the impulse to chew prevents them from taking Flintstones Newborn Vitamins, thus the syringe. The second thing that this new member of humanity gets is an unceremonious gob of ointment pushed into its eyes. Welcome to the planet – plop – good luck seeing it – this’ll teach you to trust adults.

Parents also have the option (recommended of course) to have their hour old child given the Hepatitis B vaccine shortly after birth. Hepatitis B is generally contracted one of two ways, either through sexual intercourse, or sharing intravenous needles, both of which must be rampant occurences in the hospital’s newborn nursery. Why else would you vaccinate a baby that just entered the world, encountered bright lights, loud noises, smiling giants, been pricked with vitamins and bleary eyed with ointment? Makes sense to me.

We were also told that some babies come out jaundiced, which means that they appear to have rolled around extensively in the dandelion patch. This is not a serious issue, and is solved by them sleeping under bili lights, which I have since learned share no relation with billy clubs.

After a lengthly discussion of what to expect in the hospital, we talked about the first few weeks at home. It turns out that during these first few weeks, Mom is a seeping, bloody mess. Seriously. Rubber sheet messy. Bloody adult diapers messy. Not only that, she can’t do a heckuva lot. No stairs. No driving. No cleaning. No badminton. Basically all she can do is sleep, eat, feed the baby, and bleed. This is the father’s “time to shine,” pitching in to clean the house, prepare meals, unclog the toilet, learn trigonometry, etc. I, of course, will do none of these things. That’s what visiting relatives are for. :)

To wrap up our final lecture, the instructors passed around a bag full of various items. Each couple took two items from the bag, and then we went around the room explaining what the items represented in terms of initial baby care. For example, a water bottle represented that mom needs to remain hydrated. A collection of balls of various sizes represented the growing size of baby’s stomach. A child’s diaper represented the unbelievable amount and variety of poop our child will generate. A set of keys and a passport represented “Dad’s last resort.” Our item was a pair of baby shoes, that had a delightful poem about the joys of parenting, and served as the end of our formal lectures.

After a short food break, it was time for the main event. We were led out of the building and across the street to Crouse Hospital, where the “magic” will happen. We came in via the main entrance, and took the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor. In a non emergency situation, we would proceed to admitting first, and then take the elevator up to the delivery center. Since we live close to the hospital however, our plan is to wait until the last possible minute, so we most likely won’t make it to admitting – delivering the baby in the elevator on the way up will probably preclude it.

Our first stop on the labor and delivery floor was one of the birthing suites.  The room looks benign enough – a bathroom, hospital bed, sink and tv.  A nice landscape painting adorned the wall, and a rustic clock ticked serenely on the wall.  It was sterile, but idyllic, a place of serenity and comfort.

But then our instructors began demonstrating the extended features of this ‘chamber.’  First off, the bed is actually ‘Pregatron,’ an alien transforming robot exiled on our planet, and with the press of a few buttons can actually tilt upright, grasp your wife with its mechanical claws, and literally shake the baby out of her. Everything else in the room has a similar secret purpose.  The landscape painting slides away to reveal a neonatal oxygen system.  The cabinets over the bed conceal emergency medical instruments.  The clock, when looked out properly, tells the nurse when to go on break.  The instructors also brought out a few of the birth assistance ‘devices’ – the birthing ball, the birthing stool, and th squat bar.  Who knew labor involved this much calisthenics.  I have a feeling Kim’s lats will be stellar when we’re through with this process.

After the birthing suite, we took a short around the floor to see a few other sites – the nutrition room, stocked with snacks for the laboring mothers, the blanket warmer, and the nurses station.  We turned the corner to head for the stairway and were detained for a moment as the instructors chatted with the nurses.

It was at this point that we noticed ‘them.’  A husband pushing his clearly in labor wife on a wheelchair. She was in a lot of pain, moaning and bobbing her head side to side.  Her husband looked ready to bolt.

I looked around at the other folks in the class.  All of the women had this indescribable, deer-in-the-headlights look of fear, and each was absently rubbing their stomachs as they stole furtive glances at this pair, their future.  The husbands were a mixed bag, some with a sympathetic look on their faces, nodding in encouragement to this imminent father, while others were stroking their wives hair, trying to help them hold onto their fragile psyche in the face of times to come.  And of course there was me, noting all of it for this blog entry.

We quickly were ushered into the staircase and down to the postpartum floor.  We were taken past the nursery, where a newborn was being ‘handled’ by a nurse.  The wives faces brightened at this sight – the goal of all this misery.  It was the husbands turn to wear the face of fear at this, the end of their Wii playing days.

We moved forward into a hospital room to see where we can expect to convalesce.  Unlike the “birthing lair” we saw before, this room is pretty much a plain old hospital room, with nothing special to note.  If we are lucky, we’ll have a room to ourselves.  If not, we’ll have to share with another couple and their screaming baby.  We were shuffled out of the room quickly – turns out it was earmarked for someone having a c-section upstairs.  I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear that 20 strangers traipsed through her room minutes before she came back from serious abdominal surgery.

And that was it.  We took the elevator down to the basement, followed a maze and emerged in a parking garage.  After a quick goodbye we headed to the car, diploma in hand and confident in the knowledge that we were now adequately prepared for all that lay ahead of us.

Yeah, right.

Posted in Birthing Class, Months 7-8, Uncategorized. Tagged with , , , .

  • http://billandjill.com billandjill.com

    Well written.

    I’ve done this three times since 2004, and I’ve always approached it with the same amount of trepidation and shakiness. By the time the placenta comes out, I’m almost finished sobbing uncontrollably in front of the roomful of strangers, and the doctor begins sewing my wife’s perineum back together with something that looks like a cross between a whale bone and an FM antenna.

    When our third son was born 5 months ago, I took a picture of that veiny bag of filtration and sent it out to a select few with the header “Sam’s Roommate”. I’d share it with you, but you don’t want to drink milk out of that dog. It’s much more meaningful when it spills out of your own wife.

    And as for a decrease in Wii-time, when our first was born in Oct 2004, I’d been playing ‘Crimson Skies’ on my X-Box for about two years, and was ranked #9 in THE WORLD. I’ve played it twice since then, and enough time had passed between those times to allow all my years of perfect games and stats to be reset due to inactivity. My Bulldog was no longer feared throughout Chicago. Dagger.

    “And of course there was me, noting all of it for this blog entry”

    Stay out of my mind!

    Good luck, my man. You’re on the edge of a great adventure.

  • http://www.myspace.com/phil_elmore Phil Elmore

    Hello. I am apparently the man you dubbed “sensitive guy” in the blog about…week four, was it? I have to say it’s an odd sensation to read a blog about something I participated in; your record of the various classes touches on things we, too, considered while attending. (More specifically, after you got dressed up and ‘gave birth’ during that one class, I asked Faith — I think you had left the room at that point — “Uh, what was the point of that exercise? To show us all the paraphernalia involved in giving birth, or just to humiliate that fellow?” In retrospect, I shouldn’t have supplied her with the answer.) Good luck with the birth.