Friday, September 17, 2010

The Childbirth Class From Hell

I have childbirthing class again tomorrow. I opted for the two long Saturday sessions which are four hours each. My other option was four sets of two hour classes on a Tuesday, but that didn't work with Husband's schedule and we're too busy.

I'd been dreading these classes. My doctor bugged me and bugged me about them and finally I decided I had to get it over with before it was too late. At my hospital you can't have an epidural if you don't take the class and watch a video from 1988 about a woman who had an epidural and it was wonderful, a woman who chose not to have one and it was still wonderful and then a doctor who comes on and tells you that if you do have one you could end up with the following outcomes: a baby, a splitting migraine for three days, a wheelchair or a coffin. It was less than encouraging.

Probably suffering from ADD, I find it nearly impossible to sit still for four hours in a room full of other people. I can't go to church or lectures. I fidgeted my way through college and meetings and for most of my life I have successfully avoided most circumstances that require me to sit still and be quiet for any period of time around other people. I just can't do it. We all have our limitations and this is mine.

My Husband is worse than I am. You have never seen an adult as frenetic as the man I married. Everyone comments on it. "Does he ever sit still?" people ask. No, he does not. He is constantly buzzing around. The man vibrates with energy, but he is extremely productive. It's very weird. I don't honestly know what his deal is. I used to swear he had ADHD, but I'm not so sure. Recently I read this article about being married to someone with ADHD and I was all prepared to be like "Yes, this is my life, yup, that's my man." Then I took a test on a website to see if you're married to someone with ADHD and the results shocked me. I wasn't. In fact, it seemed that it was my husband who was actually married to the spouse with the attention deficit problem. It was me!!! Not him!! That was pretty humbling.

Still, neither one of us were designed to sit in four hour classes on Saturday afternoons and this is why we dreaded childbirthing class. But we went.

It was awful. I don't want to go back.

First of all, we had a nurse for a teacher and it was painfully evident that this woman had no teaching skills at all. I can't really fault her for that I guess, but here's the deal. As a teacher, you have to empathize with your students. I know that when I teach that my students appreciate an agenda. Every single class I write on the board a bulleted list of what we are going to do and in what order before we have to leave. It's detailed. This gives my class a sense of time passing and security because they know what to expect and they always feel like we're moving along and accomplishing something. In a class over 90 minutes long, I always give breaks. Breaks are important. You can't make people sit for four hours with no bathroom and no snack. People need to get up and shake themselves off. I felt like I was about to have a pulmonary embolism in this class.  This class had no agenda and no breaks. We had no idea what we were supposed to be accomplishing.

Another thing good teachers have got to remember, and this is profoundly difficult to do, is that you can not ever, under any circumstances, judge your students by how they look or treat them differently according to your biases. That should go without saying, but most teachers do it. I practice extreme mindfulness about not doing this in my classes. I am conscious of it in every single class, and look, it's hard, but you just don't know what people's private lives are really like. I felt that our teacher was condescending.

First off, the class was really diverse. There was a teenage couple who would not stop making out. Then there was a couple who seriously looked as old as my parents and kept making comments about how old they were to be having kids, which was a little awkward, but I think they were self conscious. Then we had some average looking Hispanic couples in their 30s. In the class we also had a single, very young black girl who had no partner or coach with her, which caused the teacher to make a scene. Had I been the teacher, I wouldn't have even said a thing about it and just would have gone on with the class. Being a little hormonal, this made me want to start to cry for some reason and I wanted the girl to come be with us, but luckily we didn't do anything that required a partner anyway because all we did was freaking sit there for four hours.

Husband and I sort of don't look exactly like what we are sometimes, which is educated, responsible, employed, upstanding citizens. We look considerably younger than we are. My husband, on the weekends, dresses like he's back in his college years when he was a snowboarder who worked at Whole Foods. He recently had a terrible skateboarding accident (do not even ask) in which he got my parents' dog to pull him on the skateboard, but then the dog saw another dog and took off around a corner, which sent my husband flying onto the asphalt. He is Mr. Road Rash. Admittedly, the two of us look a sight. At the moment I have pretty much given up personal hygiene for comfort. I don't remember when I last put on some blush. I look haggard and miserable and to someone who doesn't know me I look like an unidentifiably ethnic, pregnant twenty year old who lives in a rough neighborhood. Needless to say, we didn't make a good impression on our teacher. She hated us. She kept picking on us and embarrassed me in class because I hadn't prepaid. She kept asking me for money and making sure I knew we needed exact change, which I did. You do not discuss money in front of other people. She should have waited til the class ended.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with this teacher though, was her annoying use of gender stereotypes when explaining hypothetical situations. In all of her scenarios, men were uninterested in the births of their children and wanted to be watching "the big game" instead. Her imaginary women were all preoccupied with shopping and treating their babies like dolls instead of real human beings. I honestly don't know where this woman got these ideas. She also bugged the crap out of me by calling all of her hypothetical boys "Johnny." 

We had to go through a labor timeline. Afterward, she quizzed us and of course she used us as her hypothetical example, starting off with "Now say Mr. Lawns is home watching the big game and Mrs. Lawns has just gotten back from shopping for frilly baby clothes when all of a sudden she has a contraction -"  I had to interrupt her. I couldn't help myself.

"Umm, no," I said, "Mr. Lawns doesn't even like sports unless the winter X-games are on. He'd actually be reading and so would I for that matter because I hate shopping, especially for frilly clothes."

We went through the whole labor and we're at the part where we're now at the hypothetical hospital and this is where the bitch gets revenge on me.

"Ok class, now what do we do when all of a sudden Mrs. Lawns says she feels like she has to poop?"

I nearly died. I guess the correct answer was that it was probably time to start pushing, but seriously, it took all of the strength in my body not to shout out:

"I ALWAYS feel like I have to poop!!"

Our teacher was obsessed with poop and sex. As often as she compared childbirth to taking a crap, I think I might actually be able to get through it. I wanted to say to her at one point that since I've struggled with IBS for so many years that I really didn't need the class because childbirth was going to be a breeze with all the practice in painful pooping I've had.

We all know that I'm on a diet to prevent dehydration and to keep my blood sugar from whipping all over the place. Because of this I take small protein snacks and water with me everywhere and maybe a piece of fruit. To this class I took water, a pear and a babybel. When it became obvious that no break was coming, I had to make the choice that was healthy for me and eat the snack in class. I was discreet and did not make a mess or crinkle wrappers. This was not good enough for our teacher who had to make tons of comments about my eating. I tried to tell her I was on a special diet and had to eat every two hours, but she just embarrassed me more and made me feel like I was just being high maintenance. I began to hate this woman. It only got worse when she started talking about how sex can be used to progress labor and about the creative uses of shower massagers, but I'll spare you.

Finally, she left and we were treated to an hour with what appeared to be a hungover pediatrician, who was actually pretty funny and obviously didn't want to be in this class.

The pediatrician had a flip book of horrifying pictures of things that can go horribly awry with a newborn's appearance. By his own admission, the book was probably from 1960. The point of the book was to prepare us for how ugly our babies might look so we wouldn't be alarmed. According to this book our children could be born with crossed eyes, smashed noses, misaligned jaws, displaced hips, strange birthmarks, huge bruises, a cream cheese like coating, yellow skin, blue skin, coverings of black hair like monkeys (direct quote), patches of hair missing, slanty eyes, blistering rashes, enormous genitals, nipples the size of pepperoni, lumps on their heads and all sorts of other things that really seemed more like they belonged at Halloween Horror Nights than the maternity ward. After viewing this flip book, I was not at all comforted or prepared for what my child might come out looking like. In fact, I began to dread it. But the good news, according to this doctor was that it is hospital policy not to vaccinate babies at birth "unless the mothers look like crackheads." Which means that I had better clean up my act and wax my eyebrows and maybe slick on a little lip gloss for labor and delivery.

I didn't even get to the best part. The moral of the story here is that I need to move to a big city because I can not escape people I know everywhere I go. Who was in this class but my sister's ex and his psycho wife who hates my sister irrationally and anyone associated or connected to my sister, which means me. I guess she's one of those really, super jealous women who can't bear the thought that their husbands had relationships before them. She's one of those women who always wonders if the exes were prettier than her. In this case I can say the answer is yes.  All class I tried to make eye contact with him to say hi, but he is actually so scared and whipped by his wife that he pretended he didn't know me. Trust me, he knows me very well and he was crapping his pants that I was there and might mention my sister in front of his wife or that he would have to explain to his wife how he knew me. I tried to grab him on the way out to say hi, but he tore out of that classroom like he was on fire. I don't know what he's going to do to avoid me tomorrow when we go on a tour of the hospital facilities. Woohoo field trip!

I have excused my poor husband from going tomorrow. I think it's a waste of his time, especially now that WE HAVE PERMITS!!!! Yes people, we have permits on our house and work has resumed! I think my husband is better put to use supervising the contractors at our house than he is touring our hospital's birthing center. If we need a partner for activities I've got the single black girl.

Stay tuned for the next edition of The Childbirth Class From Hell.


Anonymous said...

Ugh. My wife and I went through that class 2 years ago. What a complete waste of time, the actual information imparted during 8 hours of classes would have fit on a 4 page handout. I know most people won't read a 4 page handout, but why not let those of us who will test out of the class?

At least you get some mental revenge by reporting on it here. If I were you I'd print off my thoughts, bring them to the next class and hand them in with the evaluation forms.

BTW, have you picked up The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy? My wife and I agreed it was the only pregnancy book worth reading. And while we are on the subject, our favorite baby book by far was Dr. Sears' The Baby Book. We did not go whole hog into the attachment parent lifestyle, but do find it a very useful way to think about developmental issues.


Heather said...

Ugh! What a nightmare! I actually lucked out and had a really nice nurse teach my childbirth class, she was really cool and patient, even with the crazy girl who started hyperventilating every time we talked about delivery. Sorry your teacher is such an ass. I would consider writing a letter to the hospital sometime AFTER you have the baby. I took a safety class that had a jackass instructor, and I wrote a very satisfying letter to him after the class. Then again, you may be too busy buying frilly clothes to sit down and write.

JoeinVegas said...

That class does not sound like fun. A bad teacher can spoil anything.

A said...

OMG, that sounds horrible. Ours was the same long Saturday class but we at least got breaks. I mean who honestly expects pregnant women to sit for 30 minutes, let alone 4 hours, without a visit to the ladies. Anyway, since someone posted about their favorite baby book, thought I'd post ours. Best book we read was "Happiest Baby on the Block". Worked extremely well for our little guy.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I dont know how you didnt slap her, or at least tell her off. In B.C. you can choose to do a series of classes or just a 1 day class, and I do not believe any are required, you just go if you want. I did the 1 day class before my daughter was born and I thought it was very helpful, the lady teaching it was nice, but I also didnt like the pictures of how your baby 'could' look. Love your stories :)

Laurie said...

Oh my God she sounds horrifying. We opted for the Tuesday nights and what a waste of time. We probably saw the same video and my daughter is now 14. Our instructor was cool though from what I can remember. You should definitely let them know what a crap job she's doing.

Also, IMO the epidural is God's gift to women. I had one with each of my kids and they make all the difference in the world, you don't miss anything and everything turns out fine. Please consider having one. :)

kerry said...

She's a stupid teacher for making any of her students feel bad. I agree that you should write a letter about her.

I can totally see you partnering with that single girl and helping each other out. :) Try not to giggle too much when the two of you are cracking jokes during the next class. :)

Robin in Ohio said...

Amen to what Laurie said! Epidurals are God's gift to women!!! I can't tell you what it difference it made for me. And, both my boys have grown up to be honor students and fine young men.

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

oh GOD. That sounds a LOT like our childbirth "classes". BOOOOOOORING and long, taught by someone who wasn't a very good teacher...very diverse and interesting "crowd" in the room...thankfully we didn't get scolded...but we did watch a WICKED outdated movie, and had to listen to all the horrid things that could happen if you have a C-section, etc. scary and not very helpful. I HATED thosse classes. sooooo useless.

Farmer Jo said...

I just stumbled on your blog! I am also suffering through horrid birth classes, but no where near as bad as yours. Can you complain to the hospital??
Ours is a mix of boring and then traumatic when we watch the 1988 birth videos. And she makes us practice saying vagina. But, thankfully, the teacher isn't as bad as yours! Hang in there!

Green said...

That was awesome. Here's what I think: you should fully prepare your letter of critique about this "teacher" now-ish, but then hold it to send in to the hospital AFTER Baby Lawns is born. Because the last thing you want is for her to see how awful you think she is, and then for her to be your nurse while you're in labor.

Delainie said...

That sounds horrible. I put off childbirth class until it was too late. It can go so many different ways, so in the end I was just happy to not have expectations other than a baby coming out! He was born 7 weeks early, furry like a monkey, with enormous genitalia. My husband proceeded to take a dozen pictures of him then email pictures of our new son, giant balls and all, to everyone we know. I can't wait until the kid is old enough to see the humor in it!

My favorite pregnancy book is Pregnancy Sucks. Hilarious... and made mine seem not so bad!

Anonymous said...

Do they have an evaluation form you could fill in and list those criticisms together with suggestions for improvement?

If not, a letter to the hospital management proposed earlier really sounds like a good idea.


Anonymous said...

Unless you need more material for your stories, I'd just skip the next class.
Had three boys. The docs and nurses in the delivery room walk you through everything you need to know.
Don't waste another afternoon.

Anonymous said...

How the hell does this women expect to teach a class for 4 hours to PREGNANT WOMEN and not let them eat or pee?

cathryn said...

Wow! Your experience sounds infuriating! We decided to skip any hospital sponsored childbirth classes and instead are going to start a Hypnobabies birthing class next week with the hope that it will actually be helpful. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear your class (and specifically your instructor) are so awful. We're going to the classes right now, just north of the Mason-Dixon line, and so far they've been very informative and very professional. The two nurses we've had as instructors have been funny, compassionate, good speakers/ teachers, and have provided drinks and snacks. The restrooms were pointed out at the beginning of class, and we were given explicit permission to go whenever we wanted.

I would definitely, in your shoes, write a letter to the hospital or whoever is in charge of these things. They deserve to know the condescension and lack of respect you and the other parents-to-be have been treated with. It's a shame that anyone so ignorant and tone-deaf works in healthcare at all, let alone in an "instructor" capacity!

On the other hand, I can't help but be grateful that all these weird and awful things keep happening to you, because I have such fun reading your accounts of them.

Melissa said...

My lord. A good teacher can make or break community health classes. From the sounds of it, this woman didn't so much break the class as completely, irreversibly decimate it. And shame on her for making assumptions based on gender and race. As a fellow female who HATES shopping for frou-frou crap, it's enough to make me grind my molars to dust.

Once wee Lawns is born, I think you should write a letter of complaint, as suggested in the comments. This woman doesn't belong teaching. Or in contact with other humans, really.

Anonymous said...

You need to go all Gemma on her a$$. (Sons of Anarchy reference).

Anyway, good luck with glass from hell. Hang in there.

Miss Ana Elisa said...

My husband and I have exactly the same problem with how we look: We both look like teenagers although we are almost in our thirties. That is always hard when walking around with an 8 month belly.
We have decided not to go to prenatal classes. We asked our doctor and he rolled his eyes and said he frankly didn't think it was necessary at all, he knows me and trusts that all my questions will be directed to him and that I have read and asked as much as possible, so he said there is no point. The people at the hospital said we should but we just thought they wanted the $400 that would cost us. I admire you for not leaving the class after giving her a piece of your mind (sweetly of course) but I take off my hat for both you and your husband for the 4 hours you invested on such terrible experience.

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