Back to School

At the end of one of our appointments with the midwife she asks us “Have you signed up to do the birthing classes?”

D and I of course hadn’t and so after getting the sales pitch from the midwife that they were a ‘good thing’ we mustered as much enthusiasm as we could, shrugged our shoulders and said ‘we suppose we should’.

As we’re lining up to make our booking D turns to me and says “If they show a video of a birth I am not watching it” I say “ok” knowing that a birthing video in a birthing class would no doubt be mandatory viewing.

At that point I have a flashback to my high school Human Development class and remember the video of a birth they made us watch then. The horrific image of that baby crowning is burned into my subconscious and triggers mild PTSD symptoms whenever I go back there.

I remember at the time thinking about all that time in school they wasted trying to educate us on ‘safe sex’. They could have just shown that moment of crowning on a continuous loop and we would have all signed iron-clad vows of chastity.

We booked our classes, a series of four Wednesday nights with the last class being four days before our due date, kind of like last minute cramming for the world’s most painful exam.

Hollywood has taught me enough about birthing classes for me to know that they are not going to be my sort of thing.

A group of couples sitting around in a circle panting and pretending to push out babies while talking about their feelings is my idea of a slow, torturous hell.

Not being a big one for class participation I was dreading the arrival of that first Wednesday night, but dreading it did not prevent its arrival (much like the baby itself).

All of my fears were realised when walking into the classroom the chairs were arranged into a semi-circle pattern. This could only mean that we were going to be called upon to answer questions and address the whole group…class participation.

Nothing gets me looking at my shoes faster than a presenter asking for some volunteer to do an improv demonstration in front of the class.

I’ve been like that since school, I continue to be like that at work training days and these classes were going to be no different.

Just teach me what you have to teach me and let me get out.

D is not a fan of participation either, in fact as we take our places she says to me “if they ask us to introduce ourselves you’re doing it”.

And that was that.

Name tags were handed out and sure enough we went round the room and each couple introduced themselves.

Name, how far along we were and if we knew what we were having.

I was the only guy to speak in the intros and I could see around the room the other men were relieved that their partners had taken the lead and they didn’t have to join in, the women looked at me cautiously, thinking I may be one of those domineering type husbands that doesn’t allow his wife to speak in public.

At the time of this first class we were 36 weeks and 2 days along. Thankfully the final couple to introduce themselves were four days further along than we were, so they took the heat of follow-up questions and any further focus throughout the rest of the class.

After intros the presenting midwife informed us that the classes would be going for the next four weeks, which we were all aware of, and that each class would be three hours long.

D and I turned to look at each other so quickly that we almost got whiplash. D’s mouth hung open and tears started to well in my eyes as on driving to the class we were confident that each class was only going to be two hours.

On the drive there I also said to D that I bet there would be one of those people that you get at every training course or seminar. The one that asks a question after every point the presenter makes, the one that raises their hand or shouts out so consistently that every time they do audible groans can be heard from the rest of the audience.

These are the worst kind of people at these things, and quite possibly in life itself.

That was until the actual teaching part of the class started and a worse type of person reared their ugly head.

The know it all.

This woman in the class would not stop talking, so enamoured was she with the sound of her own voice, I’m confident she spoke more than the presenter did.

My building annoyance rose every time this woman opened her mouth, D who has become an expert at sensing when I’m about to openly criticise someone in public grabbed my leg and gave it a hard squeeze to warn me to bite my tongue.

So, not wanting to cause D any stress, I begrudgingly bit my tongue and the three hours groaned painfully on.

We watched the video of a birth and D stayed for it which I was proud of her for. It wasn’t too bad but the woman’s constant moaning throughout annoyed both of us.

As we discussed later though that was a worst-case scenario video with a woman who had, in my opinion, crazily decided to go through the whole ordeal without the wonderful, medical-miracle that is drugs.

The final part of the first class was a tour of the hospital. This to me seemed unnecessary. I don’t need to know the layout of the hospital, I’m assuming that when I get to the hospital with D screaming with labour pains that someone will actually be there to tell us which way to go.

But one thing was achieved by the tour, D was suitably horrified by the water-birthing suite and its access crane system that any thought of giving birth that way was quickly disregarded.

So, three hours of our life were over, we’d never get them back, but life is full of lost time.

The next Wednesday rolled around and as the class started D and I sat on our couch at home, eating take out Chinese food and watching a movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I looked at my watch and said to D “Class is starting now” and we giggled like naughty children who were wagging school.

The classes we had mutually decided were not for us.

I guess we’ll just have to join the many millions of couples around the world and throughout time who have given birth without ever having completed birthing classes.

The Freshness of Cheeseburgers

It wasn’t long into the pregnancy before D began sending me on guilt trips.

D’s guilt trips consisted of sending me to the supermarket every day, sometimes multiple times, for whatever food craving was eating away at her at the time.

I often tried to suggest that maybe I could just stay in one night and she could enjoy one of the many things we had in our kitchen. Each time this was met with a look of disgust and three simple words ‘You don’t understand’ and apparently that was the end of any form of discussion on the topic.

And then there were the cheeseburgers, oh so many cheeseburgers!

Not just any cheeseburgers mind you, only McDonald’s cheeseburgers would do.

It would be a far stretch of the imagination to describe those things as ‘food’ in any circumstances, but I had to question whether having them as the main source of sustenance was giving both D and our growing child the best nutrients for development.

D’s only request regarding the cheeseburgers was that they be ‘fresh’. Now the concept of freshness at any of the major fast food chains is, to my knowledge and experience, a foreign one.

But, ever the obedient husband, I went to McDonalds and I spoke to the surly teenager behind the counter and asked for them to be made fresh. At that point I could tell we were both embarrassed to be there, he obligingly gave a nod that said a fresh cheeseburger was not even remotely possible but he would do his best.

Clutching my paper bag of freshness I deliver it triumphantly to D who finishes them off so quickly she barely bothers to chew.

Fortunately the cheeseburger obsession only lasted a week or two and so it wasn’t for long that I had to go hat in hand and beg fifteen year olds for their finest work.

Mostly the cravings took the shape of last minute requests for standard meals. Last minute requests for things that we didn’t have or hadn’t already started preparing.

My own distaste for wasting food or money saw to it that often we would be eating separate meals, or I would be eating two meals, or getting left overs spooned onto my plate in spite of any warring flavour contamination that I would have to suffer through.

The flavour combinations I was forced to ingest were not exactly a culinary delight. Mixing and matching D’s leftovers into a single bowl did lead to some interesting moments.

The tuna bake/Tuscan meatballs on a bed of rice, giving the appearance of some sort of Frankensteinian surf ’n’ turf dish, was certainly a highlight.

But eventually normalcy did return, I was no longer a daily supermarket shopper and meals were planned out again and not decided on fifteen minutes before dinnertime.

The only requests I got after that initial period of madness was for Lindt chocolate, but if that was a pregnancy craving then D must have been pregnant since the first day I met her.

Instant Expert

So, we’re pregnant…this is my new reality.

The shock has worn off and I’m no longer curled up in a ball, rocking in the shower.

But where to next? The doctor confirmed it and after shaking my hand and saying ‘congratulations’ he ushers me and D out of his consulting room and his next patient is called.

I consider myself to be an intelligent man and I think I know a little bit about a lot of topics, I’m certainly not quiet when a quiz show comes on the television, I give answers and occasionally the right ones.

I know where babies come from and it is knowledge I’ve carried with me for quite some time. But, as to how we get from here, ‘You’re Pregnant!’ to there, ‘Tiny Human’ I have no idea.

Vowing to stay off the internet for guidance because I see it as a place with far more opinions than medical degrees, D and I go to the local library to see if they have something that can fill this glaring gap in my knowledge.

After browsing through the shelves and making a few selections D decided she was going to go with the ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach to her pregnancy after seeing one too many graphic images in the pages.

Not that I can blame her, I’m pretty sure if I saw a picture of something ‘crowning’ out of one of my openings, I’d put the books back, go home, and watch Disney films until that image had been removed from my psyche.

But we decided on four books. D’s contribution was called ‘Pregnant, Fit and Fabulous’ which was essentially a book comprised entirely of some smiling pregnant woman bouncing on an exercise ball doing a range of low-impact exercises.

I went with the more traditional, step by step, week by week, warts and all guides.

Getting home and picking up the first book, I’ll admit I didn’t make it through the first chapter. It had pretty loose views on smoking and drinking during pregnancy, which made it feel like I was reading a manual from the 1950’s written by a doctor still on the payroll of big tobacco, before the skeletons came out of their closets.

From the other two I learnt a few things mainly:

  1. What I found interesting, D found terrifying, to the point where she asked me to stop sharing with her,
  2. I am a horrible human being for doing this to her,
  3. As a man, I definitely got the best side of this whole ‘we’re pregnant’ experience, and
  4. I should be nicer and more grateful to my own mother.

As I finished the books, I turned to D and said “You know, I reckon I’m enough of an expert now that I could deliver this baby myself. It can’t be that hard.”

And at that point I’m sure a part of my brain, the part responsible for logic, just died a little.

It’s Not Just Gas

D (my wife) had been complaining for a couple of days. She was feeling tired, her breasts were sore and she was feeling bloated. It was flu season so I put it down to that. Also I’d teased D many times about her penchant for hypochondria so I generally listened to her complaints with scepticism.

D was insistent that it was her period coming on, a check of the free Period Tracker app she used said that she was currently eleven days overdue on that front. Though as she says “I’m always late”. Being the sensitive husband that I am I started googling ‘Early onset menopause’ (D is thirty seven) to see if her symptoms matched. My, mostly joking, suggestions that it could be this did not go down well at all.

“God, I could be pregnant” she said, quickly followed up with “No, I can’t be”.

“You’re probably just gassy” pointing to our nutritious breakfast of left over pizza and coke zero.

D gave me a look that I’d seen many times before, a look that suggests my attempts at humour are not appreciated, of course, they rarely are but I don’t give up that easily.

My ‘Gassy’ diagnosis was rejected.

“Why don’t you just pee on the stick?” I said, reminding D that we did have a pregnancy test in the bathroom drawer which was left-over from the last scare we had. A scare, I might add, which did in fact turn out to just be gas.

So D went to the bathroom and returned with a pregnancy test that was showing two bright, extremely defined, pink lines.

The box the test came in had a picture of three tests on the front that looked exactly like the one I held in my hand so I knew the result before I turned it over to check.

Two lines = Pregnant.

“Yep, that’s pregnant” I said. D’s eyes went as wide as I’d ever seen them and her mouth hung open.

“Holy shit” was all she said.

The box claimed that the test was 99% accurate, that remaining 1% left too much margin for error as far as I was concerned so I said to D “We’ll do another one”.

And we were off, we bundled into my little hatchback and I drove that thing like a rally car to the shops. Adrenaline was flooding my system at this stage and I was talking extremely quickly and a few octaves higher than usual, there was also some mild hyperventilating.

We arrived at the chemist and we became paranoid that we would run into someone we knew. Not wanting to have the awkward conversation for what could be a false alarm, I did a quick recce up and down the aisles to make sure the coast was clear.

Secure in the knowledge that we were safe inside the chemist we grabbed another pregnancy test (different brand and significantly more expensive).

Racing back home D downed a glass of water and shortly after went back into the toilet.

After the standard wait time D came to me, she was smiling but I could see terror in her eyes that gave away what she was going to say before the words even came out.

“I’m pregnant!” Two words. I thought of two words of my own, in fact many combinations of two words I could have added, but I said nothing.

Eventually I broke my silence. I said “Two tests were in that box, better pee on the other one to be sure”.

But my fate was already sealed.

D was pregnant.

We were pregnant.