I’m a reader. If I don’t know about something, I look it up and source about 100 different pieces of information so I get a bit of the picture, or I do a course, and then I swim in a sea of bewildered information overload.
I read a bunch about childbirth in the middling months of this pregnancy caper and one month out from the big unveiling, I had forgotten everything. So Hubby and I signed up for an antenatal class at our hospital of choice, and I’m happy to say it was Hornsby in Sydney’s northern suburbs – because it was really good.
I liked the fact that the class gave me a sneak preview of just how clumsy and clueless I am with this whole parenting thing before I actually have a living, breathing infant in my hands. My expectations have been effectively managed on that score, which is a good thing: I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I get it right this way. It also helps to translate the nicely written step-by-steps books give you and put them into action…you know, before you actually go into action.
Our teacher was pretty human and open on the whole labour thing, and she was encouraging and funny. A good approach. It sounds to me like a sense of humour is needed.
Our group was told upfront not to bring the gory nightmare stories to table, and I think that’s fair enough. You don’t want anyone screaming and running from the class.
Mind you, there are some pretty messy questions you want to ask and I had no way of knowing what the scale was from ‘horrific’ to ‘informative and anatomically correct’. Kind of hard to guess. So you preface everything with: ‘not to alarm anyone’. Which, of course, immediately it does because you’ve set the tone. I’d welcome any suggestions on how best people can phrase their scary questions.
My question was related to what happens if you tear from A to B. I did the ‘preface thing’ and was advised not horrify people, so I didn’t ask. Reserved it for my OBY.
I have no idea what anyone else was thinking and if it was as gory, or even more so.
I also pretty much jumped in boots and all and wanted to know just how early I can ask for the drugs. There is a big focus on active labour – and with good reason. I’m in awe of those that go in with stoic dedication to unassisted birth. Respect. But allow me to speak plainly: I’m a chicken with pain. I wanted to know when and how I could make it stop if I just wasn’t coping. And you know what? I think that’s ok. And you get that information, so that’s a good thing.
I have heard tales of poor antenatal class etiquette. These include:
- Any stories of rare and possibly mythical phenomenon – including eyes popping out. And I don’t think this is limited to the antenatal class – this goes for general chit-chat with an expecting parent. You do not need to tell someone who is a month away from this process such frightening stories. I’m pretty sure if it happens to them, the pre-emptive yarn will be of no great help anyway.
- Telling incredibly sad stories of loss or near death experiences. It is tragic and terribly upsetting that this should happen to anyone, but it is also important to approach this experience in the hope that it won’t happen to you. Pollyanna though it may be: think good thoughts.
- Telling tales that give people a sense of mistrust in the hospital, birthing centre, medical practitioners or midwives they will need to trust to some extent. We’ve all heard these stories. I would say the reality is that most of these specialists are great, and some suck at their jobs – just like any other profession in the world. Giving people the benefit of the doubt and going in with an attitude of mutual decency – I am told – is your best bet. Of course, if someone is really rude and nasty to you when you’re at your most vulnerable – and without good reason – I say you, your significant other or birth partner have every right to set them straight. Fair’s fair.
Some good pointers
Among other things I quite liked that one’s hospital bag should include some sugary sweeties to give you an energy boost. I ate all my musk sticks from Kmart within a week of buying them, so I need to restock. I was reassured when I read Kaz Cooke’s ‘Up the Duff’ that she did pretty much the same thing.
Other tips included:
- Water is your friend. Drink it. Shower in it. Bath in it. Use it for sitz baths afterwards when your bits and pieces are tender.
- Tennis balls are great for lower back massage. Who knew?
- It’s not the best idea to try to drive yourself to the hospital. Also, have a few back-up plans for transport if your birth partner can’t get you there. Apparently cab companies aren’t too chuffed at the idea of shuttling ladies in labour to the hospital. Though, I can imagine the cliché cabbie debate on Alan Jones, the footy, immigration and election results would take an interesting turn when the contractions came in thick and fast.
- You can tear disposable nappies. I did. It’s ok and it doesn’t make you a substandard human being. Get another one.
- There’s a bit of a trick to holding a little body at bath time. I dropped my practice Cabbage Patch Kid and also had too much pressure around its neck. It’s comforting to know that real life babies apparently have this cool thing called ‘dive reflex’. So you’ll freak out way more than they will if they do take a plunge. Fortunately for me, Hubby was a natural at the bath grip, so there’s one chore he now owns.
- You can dampen and freeze nappies to use as ice packs for when your milk comes in and your boobs hurt. A good cheeky trick.
- Your baby will look weird when it first comes out and for a couple of days thereafter. The films are telling us porky pies. They get cuter with time.
There was a bunch of other information on all sorts: breastfeeding, Caesarean birth, support if you suffer with post-natal depression and how to spot it, time management, what support to look for from family and friends, and the all-important baby sleeping, eating and pooing patterns.
Our hospital has a staggered programme over a number of weeks, or you can do the express course over two weekends (which we did). They also have a lactation consultant – which I may yet make use of. You can also do private courses, or a course that suits your particularly health or spiritual philosophy. They’re all out there.
In short, I recommend doing a class. As much as anything you can tell anyone with a horror story (which seems to have no benefit aside from scaring the living daylights out of you) to keep it to themselves because your teacher told you so.