Known Johnson

June 12, 2005

Breathe with emphasis

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:17 am

We attended the first of four two-and-a-half hour long birth/labor classes at the hospital yesterday. This is the class all the parents want to take to learn about everything that goes on during labor, but mostly for the breathing techniques. Me, I’m more interested in the hospital tour, which I just knew was going to be yesterday because, in my world, that makes sense. To me, it makes more sense to tour the hospital in the first class, see where things are going to be happening, and when the teacher goes over things, I have an idea of what this place or that place is going to look like, smell like, feel like, etc. Without that, I don’t feel like I have a very good ground for anything – it’s all mysterious. I don’t hang out in hospitals, generally, so my one big experience with the hospital was last year for my gallbladder surgery, and all I saw of the hospital then was the waiting room, then a small half-room where I laid with an IV in my arm until my surgery, and then a 30 or so foot selection of ceiling tiles, flourescent lights, and a doorway threshold that all too quickly zoomed by as I was wheeled into the operating room. I’m also aware that most hospital nurses unfortunately do not look like ER’s Maura Tierney, Linda Cardellini, and Parminder Nagra. Alissa is not as bothered by that as I am.

Unfortunately, however, other people aren’t as sensible as I am, and it turns out that the hospital tour is in the third class. Third? Why third? Since I am sensible, it makes a lot more sense, if one were to insist on not having the tour in the first class, to finish out the final class with a big bang: the tour. You know, “You’ve heard about it for weeks and now here it is – your hospital!” But third? Isn’t the fourth class going to seem a little anticlimactic?

For people like us, this class is almost pointless. See, Alissa is addicted to those horrifying baby-disaster shows that Discovery Health likes to show, so she knows, and now I do too from being stuck on the couch watching this stuff with her, all about preeclampsia, breach births, c-sections, and millions of other traumatic labor problems, along with lots of the common medical terms – effacement, showing, dilation, and my personal most-nightmarish, but perfectly common birth issue, perineal tearing and episiotomies (you read about it and tell me if it doesn’t make you swirm. I’m not even giving birth and that scares the crap out of me.) So most of the class covers stuff we, for better or worse, already are very familiar with. After short introductions (in which we found out all but two of the 16 couples in our class found out the sex of the baby – we’re one of the two “old fashioned” couples,) drawings are passed around, and there’s always a good ooh-and-aah effect seeing the woman’s innards all compressed and moved around to make room for the baby, and there’s a lot of talk, and then, after the instructor assured us that we wouldn’t see anything any worse than Discovery channel shows, we watched a horrible movie.

It started out just fine – 3D videos of babies positioned inside skeletal mothers, sometimes moving out of the body as it eventually will. Just when you got kind of comfortable with seeing all the very fake looking images, suddenly there’s the top of a head, a real head, sticking out from between a woman’s legs, a real woman’s legs, and before you know it, she’s reaching down and feeling the baby’s head and her voiceover says something like “I could see the hair down there, so I just reached down and felt this furry thing between my legs.” I just made this one official today, but one of my now-general rules is that, if it’s still mostly inside your body, you don’t touch it. Just leave it, let the professionals deal with it, and when it’s out you can check it out.

Another rule is that, if it’s definitely going to happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it, then it’s best to just let it happen and not focus on it for long before hand. I really try to do that, but then things like this come along and I spend, in this case, the next two months with that image burned into my head. But it got worse . . . ranking right up there at the top of the list of “things I don’t need to see until they happen to me,” along with public executions, car accidents, and other horrible things, was the “passing of the placenta,” which looked like a giant wad of really soft gum emerging from the same place the woman felt the furry thing between her legs . . . and then the doctor was poking around and prodding it with his gloved hands, at which point the placenta looked less like something that had purposely come out of a human body and more looked like some ground beef mixed with red wine, and, to make things worse, he held up what looked like one of those giant latex balloons I used to see at the grocery store, all pink, shiny and floppy, which was the remains of the amniotic sac. “And here’s where the baby lived!” he proclaimed proudly. As Alissa said later, “I don’t want to see that afterwards.” I don’t either. Do whatever you need to with it, Doc, but get it out of here for now. Let’s focus on the cute baby and not the goopy innards.

And, yeah, I know, “it’s all different when it’s your child,” but I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel about the same on or around August 25th.

Oh, and as for those breathing exercises: if that’s all you’re going for, let me save you the money. As soon as a contraction hits, follow these directions:

Step one: breathe in deeply through your nose.
Step two: hold it for a bit.
Step three: let it out slowly through your mouth.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Unfortunately, the last 25 minutes of class were spent practicing this while listening to a small portable stereo played the “soothing” sounds of water flowing, muted reverb-laced bells, and annoyingly “gentle” piano, in the dark, while all the other parents-to-be got all in touch with their spiritual side, or whatever.

In through the nose, hold, let it out slowly through the mouth. Got it. What next? Oh, that again. Okay. In through the nose, hold, let it out slowly through the mouth. What next? More breathing . . . right, didn’t we already cover this? You know, we’re just going to sit this out and when we get to the next step we’ll pay attention again. What? There’s no next step? Okay, well, I think we got the concept of “breathing” down now. Let me just make sure again that this is it: In through the nose, hold, let it out slowly through the mouth. So, basically, breathe with emphasis.

Perhaps most entertaining during this segment of class was listening to the very young couple next to us whispering and giggling, which was occasionally interrupted by her unstifled belches.

The teacher reminded us repeatedly that each LDR (labor/delivery/recovery) room would be equipped with small boomboxes like she had and we were free to bring in music we would want to hear. I suggested to Alissa later that I couldn’t think of anything more motivating than Meshuggah. If the sound of something like “Perpetual Black Second” doesn’t give you tons of energy to push, I don’t know what would. Certainly not the sound of chimes and water.

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