Life was much easier when all my knowledge came from cartoons and I believed storks flew babies to parents’ doorsteps.
Last weekend we drove to the hospital. On the third floor was a conference room where ten other couples armed with two pillows and a yoga mat waited patiently for our birthing class teacher. “Happy Cinco De Mayo.” she came in with a spitfire of enthusiasm. Our teacher was a doula, a registered nurse, a college instructor, had a law degree, gave birth to five children and that was just what she accomplished last week. She was a squat Black woman excited about life, but most excited about it being Cinco de Mayo. “I know you ladies can’t drink, but I’m excited after this class to get my drink on.”
This did not endear her with the crowd, but God bless her, did she try. “I’d like you all to get to know the people around you.” Couples naturally pair off and are not the most social entities, but this was clearly not a place where new friends could be made. The women were all freaking out about a heavy item passing through their vagina in a short period of time and the guys were all fretting that just because they’re going to be a Dad doesn’t mean they’re going to be as dorky as that guy.
First a pediatrician came in, he seemed a competent fellow. Everything he said was spoken with enough confidence that I’m almost ready to sign myself up for vaccines. I understand the mortality rate of newborns is so much lower than it has ever been, but the science fiction government conspiracy part of my brain worries about what could go wrong with some serum that gives our kid a third arm and allows the Department of Homeland Security to always know where she is.
It had been a while since I sat in a class. Five hours was a long time and I drifted in and out of consciousness during the powerpoint presentation, but our instructor would throw in some racy statements that would always bring me back into the here and now just as I was about to start sketching doodles. Amongst her nuggets were…
“Ladies, let me tell you something, it’s a load of crock that your vagina loses it’s tightness after having a baby. You think my husband would have five children with me if I was all loosey-goosey after the first?”
“Fellows, during delivery if your partner asks you if she had a bowel movement, you better lie to her.”
“You know what limbers the pelvic bone for delivery? Male semen.”
After that statement we broke for lunch. They had a spread of tuna fish sandwiches, fruit, cheese and Pepperidge Farm cookies. Even though this was Mt. Sinai Hospital I could tell I was the only Jew in the room as I was the only one who touched the bagels.
After lunch we went into another room where we learned how to massage our partner in a way our instructor promised would shorten the time of labor. Then she wanted everyone to see what a contraction felt like. We were to grab several cubes of ice and hold them in our fist for a full minute. Those were not a pleasant sixty seconds. I was glad she didn’t next take out a toilet plunger and show the guys what giving birth was like.
The final part of the class we laid down on the yoga mat on the floor and she showed us three positions that will help the baby ease out of the mother. She ended the class by asking us to close our eyes while reciting positive affirmations. “This is going to be a beautiful experience, one that I will always remember. This is going to be a wonderful new beginning that I will cherish the rest of my days. And this Cinco de Mayo I will not drink watered down margaritas.”