For months – years, even – the only thing we’ve been required to schedule are mealtimes. Although the thought of missing lunch fills me with a chill, clammy dread, in this instance my stomach is more reliable than a Swiss-precision timepiece.
However, I doubted I could rely on hunger to remind me of our first ante-natal class three weeks ago, so I made an entry in my diary along with a note the day before; and set two reminders on my phone supplemented with alarms.
OF COURSE I forgot. Early that afternoon, I brought the dog for a walk along Kakanui Beach and, after he swallowed most of the sea, some starfish and a piece of driftwood, Jed’s arse was a danger-zone. I didn’t want to drive back to Oamaru immediately in case he pebble-dashed the interior of the car, so I sat a while on the tailgate waiting for Jed to get it out of his system. I was reading an article on the importance of mulching and I’m not sure what nature of mental leap made me think, ‘THE ANTE-NATAL CLASS FUUUCK!’
I flung Jed and his volatile backside in the boot and stormed back into town. As I charged into the house, I roared up the stairs to Andrew, “The thingy! Class! The ante-natal class! It’s today! In fifteen minutes!” Whereupon we wasted a large portion of that time bumping into each other and swearing, until I leaped into the shower.
By 17:55, I was standing by the door waiting for Andrew, who was putting away some screwdrivers. Or whatever.
(In fact, we haven’t missed any of the classes so far – although not for want of trying.)
Naturally, we were the last couple to arrive, which meant we got the hard chairs. The other attendees were arrayed on an eclectic selection of furniture: a leaning lazy-boy, a sagging sofa, two pouffes with backs, and a number of hard chairs with no arms. The walls were decorated with some laminated posters depicting cross-sections of pregnant torsos and/or gimungous mammaries. While the prospective mothers sat around expectantly, the men sat and fidgeted and avoided eye-contact – or looking at the pictures.
I was immediately distracted by two plates of biscuits on the table – which basically meant I couldn’t concentrate on anything said during the first hour of the session.
I can only consider myself lucky, judging by the material presented in the remaining classes (six so far). Although I’m about twice as old as every other prospective mother there, I’m invariably the one slumped in her chair giggling helplessly whenever the instructor says ‘vagina’.
During a debrief the morning after the first class, still vaguely traumatised, I said to Andrew, “So we spend our entire lives trying to avoid saying the words ‘nipple’, ‘breast’, ‘penis’ or ‘perineum’ in polite company, and suddenly the conversation gets all pelvis-centric . . . and we’re expected not to laugh?
“Oh my god, I am WAY too immature to have a baby.”
“So be honest: when the instructor lay on her back on the floor with her legs in the air like Invasion of the Giant Alien Beetles, did you not choke back a chortle?”
“Not especially. No!”
“I see. How about when she drew two dots on the whiteboard and said, ‘This is the vagina and this is the anus’. Seriously: are you trying to tell me you didn’t feel even remotely like sniggering?”
“Ok, maybe just a little bit.”
Here’s the thing: when I drop the word ‘vagina’ into a conversation I’m aiming to shock – which, you’ll no doubt agree, is understandable; even worthy in select circumstances – but when Sandra the instructor does it she’s in ABSOLUTE EARNEST.
Frankly, it’s freaky.
Also, just plain wrong.
Sometimes Sandra kicks off the class by asking, “Right! Who’s been practicing their perineal massage?” and, while I’m busy trying to hide under my chair, some of the girls actually RAISE THEIR HANDS.
I should be marginally more resolute after being subjected to a barrage of horrifying birthing videos featuring a plethora of fanny flaps. Particularly noteworthy was the very first video, with footage of a woman’s waters breaking. The slow-mo was a nice touch.
By far the most disgusting, appalling birthing video was that featuring the mother with hairy armpits. I mean: if you know you’re going to be on camera, surely you’d make an effort to shave your pits? At times it was hard to tell which was her head, the baby’s head or her armpits. There’s simply no excuse for that degree of hirsute.
As far as I’m concerned, whoever goes on about the beauty and miracle of birth has obviously not observed one: the mucous, the sweat, the blood, the throbbing neck-veins, the labouring women trying to rip their husbands’ heads off with their bare hands.
Actually, I don’t see why I have to be pre-informed in graphic detail about what’s going on down there. It’s not as if I’ll SEE it; and anyway, I’ll be preoccupied wondering how to rip Andrew’s head off with my bare hands. And I hardly need persuading via visual evidence that pushing a fully-formed human being out the vaj will likely sting a bit.
Just to mix it up, Sandra showed us a video that wasn’t called ‘Mutant Babies’, but could have been. Instead, it was titled ‘What Newborns Look Like’. Bless her, the new mother made every effort to look thrilled with her purple, mustachioed baby, but she was obviously dejected. There followed a gallery of newborns with giant gentalia, cone-heads, bruised foreheads, rampant zits, club feet, and one that looked like Mussolini.
And then there are the practicals. During the first class, Sandra lectured us on the importance of pelvic floor exercises, demonstrating the pressure a baby’s head exerts on the perineum with a sack of salt. Then she had us all practice pelvic floor exercises. Thankfully, she didn’t check to see we were doing it right. I was very proud of Andrew who really put his back passage into the exercise – I could actually see him clenching. Also, his gums turned white.
Thank goodness there are only two more classes to go – I just- I don’t think I can take much more