As many of you are no doubt aware, my wife is pregnant (with a child). The kid’s definitely going to be out by the end of next week, if not sooner, so sayeth my wife. I believe her. I believe her because people keep telling me all sorts of stories about The Power of Maternal Instinct And Also Its Accuracy, so I’m going to just go with it.
For women, pregnancy is a big deal. A lot of human beings on the planet are women and I bet they agree with me here. There are countless things that a woman has to worry about. For example, she is gaining weight and has to deal with her changing body image and how she feels about it, as well as how she will adapt to being a mother and whether she will be good at it, and how she feels about that. Also, she needs to come to terms with her own mother, with how she will bring values into her child’s life, with what sort of decorations to have in the baby’s room, what sort of clothes to buy for the baby, whether to breast feed or use formula (which, it is hammered into you in medical places, is the devil’s preferred baby feed). She has a lot of feelings about all these things.
Guys, mostly, are trying to be quiet and nice because we’re afraid, deep down, that someone will point out that this is all our fault.
Thankfully, nobody really points this out. Well, your pregnant partner will as she is trying to get a kid the size of an engine block through a space the size of indoor pipes, but no one else points it out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten.
Pregnancy classes, which I have attended with my wife, are designed specifically to punish guys for their part in all of this. Of course, you are told by smiling people with name tags and worryingly large salaries that the classes are to prepare you for giving birth. Giving birth, they are quick to say, is an intricate and immensely complicated project. This is why men build space shuttles and telescopes, as opposed to give birth.
Well, I see through the clever charade. Pregnancy can’t actually require all of the things they say it does, because most of them were only invented in the past twenty years to give me something to spend money on (I had so few choices before). My heart goes out to the Cro-Magnon woman who had to give birth in a cave before the invention of birthing balls or encouraging phrases to be repeated during meditation. It’s a wonder the human race survived without the modern medical profession. (And when it comes to it, it’s a wonder we survive with it).
Anyway, the classes are there to torture people. Men, certainly, but they aren’t exactly blistering with excitement for pregnant women who mostly want to go home and not be upright anymore.
Our classes were begun with a very nice instructor, who was pregnant. She instructed us in what the classes would be about and what everyone’s names were. In future classes, we did not see her again, because she went into labor. This is the sort of thing pregnant people are always doing.
For the remainder of the classes, we had another lady, who was also pregnant. Since she didn’t normally run the class, her teaching method was to bring up a Powerpoint slide behind us, and then read what the big yellow letters said.
Mostly, they said things like “Pregnancy is a joyful experience.” and “The discomfort is okay, because at the end you get a bundle of joy!” and so on. It didn’t mention how the bundle of joy ends up in a position to be held, but never mind.
The bit I’m getting at is, they are very keen to tell the partners — that would be the non-pregnant men who are trying to vanish into their seats — that in the hip modern world of giving birth, we are very important. We are as important to the process as women. We have feelings and emotions and a role to play.
Unfortunately, we never find out what that is. This is because it doesn’t exist. Mostly, as I listened to her talk and read the little book they gave us (which showed people who were clearly on many drugs not available in the U.S., and were therefore happy to be in labor) I realized that the role of the man is to be supportive and encouraging and not leave the room and find a television. Or go to sleep. These are probably grounds for divorce.
The book and teacher always faltered on this subject. Mostly, they give men lists of things they can do for the women (who is pregnant) while she is in labor. What we can do mostly includes the above mentioned two items, as well as repeating inspiring phrases to the women.
This sounds like a good way to get punched in the face. One of the phrases, and I am not making this up, was Surrender to the pain, which I am supposed to recite as a mantra whenever my wife — who is pregnant and will be the one in labor — feels pain. My wife, who is a sane woman, made fun of this phrase with me. I do intend to say it. I just plan to do it in my best Darth Vader voice. And maybe I’ll only say it to the doctor.
The final piece of foolishness from the classes which I’ll discuss (because I’m tactfully not bringing up the bag of random baby junk, such as a hotel-shampoo sized bottle of baby shampoo, which they foisted on everybody at the start of every class) is the relaxing meditation.
We are supposed to sit on the ground. Who thinks of this? While it is funny to watch a lot of pregnant women try to sit on the ground, you wouldn’t dare laugh, else you find out how fast they can get up.
Then, while relaxing music is playing, we close our eyes and recite the following, which I am not making up.
“You are feeling a gentle breeze…” (here, the man rubs the woman’s shoulders lightly, to simulate a gentle breeze with fingers)
“Now, stormclouds approach and a light rain begins to fall…” (here, you drum your fingertips on the woman’s shoulders, who is probably ticklish and is now completely tense trying not to guffaw in class)
“The rain gets heavier…” (more of the same, but harder, and now your tense woman wants to make you dead, and would, except she needs you to tell her to surrender to the mind-blowing agony of labor, later on)
“A breeze comes and blows the storm away…” (back to breeze. How relaxing.)
This was the silliest thing. The second time she did this, she said it was optional. Amusingly, everyone busied themselves with getting up and getting ready and then, not wanting to abandon her, we all filed out and hoped someone else would stay. No one did.
This is probably why, next time, they will implement chaining the men to the tables, to help them surrender to the pain better.