pre-natal classes: week two

Another Thursday night rolls around, and we’re back at the hospital. The group of people around the room is starting to get slightly more familiar, and we even make a few attempts at conversation over the free food (mm.. individually wrapped tim tams).

This week, we’re talking about pain management strategies, both natural, and medical. We split into dads (eep) and mums, and talk about what our different options are. The men haven’t thought about this all that much, even having done the homework in the lead-up, but it seems that the key to getting through the labour as a good support person is to come up with ways to distract the wife from what’s going on.

Kel and I run through a few things that won’t be helpful: it looks like she’s not going to buy into the “you’re doing a great job” rhetoric, but that I might just have a chance with “look, I managed to get us to the right hospital!” or something similar.

There are a *lot* of different ways to distract someone who’s in labour, and the general impression I get is that none of them will be terribly successful for very long, but that its worth a try anyway.

We then look at the medical coping strategies: basically, in increasing order, that’s gas (a mix of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen), pethidine (which can give the baby some trouble breathing if it arrives too soon after you’re given the drug), and the epidural, which looks even more fiddly than I thought it was, and can – if messed up – give migraines and other unpleasantness.

Is there any other situation in life where you have options of what pain-killers to take? The whole thing is surreal. We stick to our original thinking, which is to hold out from using the pain killers for as long as possible.

From there, we go to the labour ward for a quick tour. The whole place looks like a hotel that has been converted to a hospital: the delivery suite has an ensuite bathroom with a spa bath, and even has fake wood lino, not just scary hospital grey lino.

And then we’re done. Another week closer to the birth. Looks like we’ll at least be comfortable for this whole experience, whenever it happens: there’s a bit of a drive to get from our place to the hospital, so I’m a bit anxious that we’ll be stuck in peak-hour traffic, but I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

pre-natal classes: week one

A late booking means that instead of getting all the pre-natal classes out of the way in a single weekend, we are turning up on 5 consecutive Thursday nights. We arrive – a little late – for the 7pm start, and sit awkwardly around the edge of a room: all the girls are at least 28 weeks pregnant, and all of the guys look uncomfortable, in varying degrees.

We learn later that it’s not easy being the support person: you’re not quite sure what you are meant to do, and whatever it is that you choose to do, it will doubtless feel ineffective.

I’m struck by the conviction that
– I’m not likely to get much sympathy for this during the actual event
– I wouldn’t swap places with Kel for quids.

After a get-to-know you game (everyone here is having their first baby), we start learning about the physiology of the baby: some diagrams explain why it is that as you head towards the big day, there are a lot more trips to the bathroom. It turns out that everything else in a pregnant lady’s body is pushed out of the way to make room for the baby: who knew.

Only a few of us seem to have done much reading, and know the technical names for the various bits that are pointed out to us. For an eerie moment, it feels like being on a gameshow, but the moment passes.

After that, we learn about the different phases of labour, how to tell them apart, and – thanks to some small group work after the break – what kinds of symptoms demand a trip to the hospital, in case something should be wrong. Highly useful stuff.

Chatting to some of the guys during the break, where we drink tea, fruit juice, water or – for the brave, instant coffee, I don’t hear of anyone who thinks that having the wife stay at home full-time after the baby is born would be a bad thing. Neither do I hear from anyone who is in the financial position to afford it. This is not surprising: just to be at these classes is a few hundred dollars (like the other baby expenses, I’m trying not to dwell on it to much), and between the obstetrician and the hospital stay, it’s not a cheap proposition.

After the break, we practice changing nappies, and wrapping a doll the size of a six month old baby: it it pretty easy, but – based on my own limited experience – a poor substitute for the real thing: it will be unusual for the baby to lie perfectly still for the whole time, and for the nappy changing experience to be an exclusively visual activity.

And then, suddenly, it’s over: we’re left trying to remember what we’ve learned, and we have some homework for the next week to see if our own expectations of the birth match up with those of our partner. I’ll be surprised if we’re even remotely close, but that would indeed be a pleasant surprise.

the magic baby

puff the magic baby

A friend has generously provided us with a baby capsule and some kind of baby-rocking contraption whose correct name I’m unfamiliar with. I had a sudden rush of impending responsibility when I started loading these items into the boot of the car: more than I’ve felt up to this point.

Thanks to everyone who contributed time, effort, and even presents to the cause. Much appreciated.

up the duff

up the duff

Though not as comprehensive as what to expect when you’re expecting, this book is a much more entertaining read. We’ve found it a useful one to read together week-by-week, so that we know what dramas are coming that week.

By keeping a sense of humour, it’s easier to assimilate the information, and makes it an easier book to keep coming back to. This is the book that we’ve bought a number of people, as soon as we hear they’re pregnant. Indeed, I bought this one the day after we found out about puff.

dvd: being dad

being dad

Ok, not really a book, but this DVD was given to me by a friend – another expectant father. There are a lot of tips, including lengthy interviews with an Obstetrician to get the technical information right, but the whole thing (except perhaps the footage of a birth) has the feel of a conversation down the pub amongst blokes.

Perhaps the one drawback is the lack of mention of God; the impression is that no-one in the DVD is really religious (the doctor talks a lot about the way that “mother nature” designed things) except briefly, in the lead-up to the birth. Not surprising, but worth pointing out.

As you’d expect from conversations in a pub, the language is at times coarse, but this does give a pretty good cross-section of blokey opinions in the lead-up to fatherhood, and in life after birth.

book: From Here to Paternity

From Here to Paternity – Sacha Molitorisz

From Here to Paternity book cover

The third book on this subject I’ve read, but the first one to drift further beyond the birth, and into the realms of fatherhood proper. As a SMH journalist, Molitorisz has a particular writing style that will be familiar to readers of that broadsheet.

Not the definitive guide to the subject, nor does it set out to be, but useful as far as it raises topics to consider, and starts the prospective father thinking about what life will be like during and after pregnancy.

book: whatever

Whatever, by William Bee

When I saw this picture book in Better Read than Dead in Newtown, it had a “staff pick” sticker on it, and so I read through it. It has such a dark sense of humour that I knew it would make a perfect gift for kel. Perhaps not suitable for the smallest children, this reminds me of the best of the darkly comic works mum used to read to me when I was small.

what they don’t teach in schools

I spoke today to a friend who is from a previous generation – he’s already a grandfather – about how much he knew about kids when he was growing up. In fact, he didn’t know much about babies, except that they were annoying some of the time. As it turns out, nothing much has changed between generations.

One of the things I’ve learned through this pregnancy is that my schooling hasn’t taught me _anything_ about what happens to someone who is pregnant.

A few things I’ve picked up in my reading and observation on the subject:

The first trimester is a rough time. The mum is tired all the time, often feels nauseous, but often has to pretend nothing is wrong, because she won’t have told people she’s expecting. Why will she not have told anyone? Because if something is going to go wrong with a pregnancy, it will happen (most likely) in the first trimester.

All kinds of crazy things happen to a pregnant body: it’s not nearly as much fun as the TV ads might make it look.

With all of the changes, the one thing that hasn’t happened yet is any sensation at all that there might be a baby inside you: the baby is in fact far too small to feel yet (except in the way that you get nausea and the beginning of a change in shape).