Known Johnson

June 20, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:20 pm

Saturday morning was our second (of four!) birthing class, this time with a head nurse whose personality was like a more spiritual Nurse Ratched. Alissa thinks I’m crazy, but that’s only because her wrath wasn’t aimed at all the pretty, glowing mothers . . . no, she took aim at us fathers-to-be, dishing out her wisdom with snarled-teeth, like an unspoken but very clear message: “this is your fault and I’m here to make damn sure you don’t screw up what little you have left to do.” The first half-hour of the class was particularly brutal as she stared down each male in the class and, in not so many words, made us certain that she knew how jovially and lightly we were taking this whole pregnancy thing. It looked like it was going to be a long two and a half hours.

Closer to our break at 11:30, she began talking about things that will be happening during labor, and, having been a head nurse type for so long she’s seen it all. She also seemed to think it was her duty to make sure we all knew that birth wasn’t like popping a zit but was real work and involved real pain. As she described everything going on, I caught sight of a young mom-to-be on the other side of the room, a tiny blond girl who looked like her greatest struggles in life had likely revolved around which outfit to wear to the store. Each description by Nurse Ratched caused little ripples of fear to vibrate through her, eyes panicky, darting around looking for someone else as shocked by what she was hearing.

When the instructor began talking about . . . (ugh) . . . tearing, this mom’s eyes shot open for a moment – fear registered very obviously on her face that she had never heard of this unfortunately common occurence during birth. Nurse Ratched then went on to explain that most women will need an episiotomy, holding up her hand as a pair of scissors, then pointing them down as if diving into an imaginary patient in front of her. “Snip, snip,” the little sounds of imitiation rang through the room, and I caught the eye of the young mother across from me – still panicky, mouth open a bit, and skin quickly growing pale with each scissoring snip the instructor tossed out. Even her reassurance that you mothers wouldn’t feel a thing did little to calm her fears – I can’t say I blame her, it gives me shivers, too – and when she cued up another horror movie video of a birth, the blond mother quickly jumped up and left the room. We would see her still out there fifteen minutes later when we went on break, pale as paper, nursing a water bottle.

Maybe Nurse Ratched feels it’s her duty to make the gravity of the situation as real as possible, but I’d certainly have preferred the previous week’s instructor’s “gardening makes you dirty, but look at the pretty roses that you grow” delivery. I’m pretty sure that blond mom-to-be would have preferred that, too.


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