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.