Monday, June 1, 2009

Smackdown: Natural Childbirth vs. Reality

 Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for June 2009 is called, "Denmark Needs Rock Stars." If you don't love this song instantly, check your control panel to make sure that the speakers aren't on mute.

Our Childbirth Class
The brochure uses a restaurant analogy to highlight the difference between the two Lamaze courses. There is a six day course, for couples "who want and need a tablecloth, real napkins, and real silverware." Then there is the half-day "drive-through" version of childbirth classes. We agree, drive-through sounds good.

When we arrive, we sit in a circle with about ten other couples and our instructor, Gretchen. The first thing Gretchen does is apprise us of her credentials. She is a mother of three who spent over 10 years as a lactation consultant. She is also a registered doula, which I'm pretty sure means she knows how to lead explorers around the Himalayas and carry their camping gear for them. I miss the rest of her introduction, because I'm imagining Gretchen explaining to a team of British adventurers that the mules refuse to go down that pass, because they sense a great evil there.

When I start paying attention again, it is only because I note an inkling of hostility between Gretchen and my wife.

Gretchen: The Lamaze method is about promoting wellness. Many women find interventions like painkillers and epidurals to be superfluous and really invasive. Doctors may try to pressure you into a troubling intervention when you're at your most vulnerable. I will teach you how to make informed choices and be politely assertive.

Lauren: I want to have an epidural.

Gretchen: And that's perfectly... I mean, that's certainly a choice some women make. But you should know that it's your right as a mother to empower yourself to avoid the routine use of unnecessary interventions as part of your transition to parenthood if that's what your inner wisdom guides you to do.

Lauren: I'm definitely getting an epidural. Like, as soon as I possibly can.

Gretchen: (gritting her teeth) Fine.

We are then handed a workbook. There are five chapters, which I would summarize as follows:
Chapter 1: In through the nose, out through the mouth.
Chapter 2: Pain medication during labor preemptively annuls any natural bond between mother and baby.
Chapter 3: If your inner wisdom is trying to tell you to give birth while squatting on a large rubber ball in your bathtub at home, listen to it! If your inner wisdom sounds like it's telling you it prefers a sterile hospital bed, you're not listening close enough.
Chapter 4: The health benefits of breast-feeding are doubled when it is done in public.
Chapter 5:  Commercial baby formula has been linked to autism and pediatric gambling problems.

Gretchen then tells us that the next activity is called, "The Alphabet of Support." The men go to one side of the room and the women to the other. I am handed a blank sheet of paper and a Sharpie and asked to scribe for our team. Our charge is to come up with a list of things that the husbands or boyfriends can do to show support during labor. We need one item starting with each letter of the alphabet, and we have 45 minutes to do this. It went like this:

A. Let's see. Affection. Answer her questions - questions she might have.

Applicators. Do women use applicators when they're in labor?

For B we can do Be Nice or Be Supportive.

I like Be Nice. Put that down. And let's put Massage for M.

C. Considerate. Show consideration,  or Consider her feelings. Or just be there for her Considerably.

C could also be talk about Church. 

Let's put Lamaze for L!

No, L should be Love. 

How about Labor, comma, help with?

Labor... help with.... got it. But we're still at D.

Seriously, I've done this before when my sister had her son. The best right answer foris Love. Are you going to change it?


D... Dahhh... Dehhh....

Druhhhh...Drum... Darm... Denmark. Danish! Bring her a Danish! 

As the morning winds down, we hear from a woman in our class named Meredith, who I can only describe as huffy. Her husband is a heavy, balding man with swatches of thick black neck hair bursting out around his collar, narrowly set eyes, and a look of learned helplessness on his face. "Isn't it true," Meredith says, "That people should just leave you alone after you have the baby? That new parents shouldn't have any visitors at all, even family, for a good 8-10 weeks?" 

Gretchen pauses and then says something about every woman making the choices that are right for her.

I glance at Meredith's sad puppy staring-at-the-floor husband and imagine the two of them taking swimming lessons. "Isn't it true," she would say, "that it's best for a wife to hold her husband's head underwater for a good 2-3 minutes after he stops struggling? That she should, at the very least, throw away his personal mail without letting him read it?"

And I'm thinking, I am so grateful for the woman I married. When our big day comes, I will make sure that she gets her pain medicines. I will definitely Be Nice, and I will definitely bring her a Danish.

With warmest regards,