Deciding that I definitely wanted to feel like I was doing every possible thing wrong, I signed up for prenatal classes.
In the first class, I learned that under absolutely no circumstances should I consider even looking at deli meat. And if I do decide to eat it, I had better cook it for long enough to kill all of the evil bacteria it’s definitely harbouring, because otherwise I am a terrible mother. You see, according to one study from 1986, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely to get listeriosis (from the bacteria listeria) than the average other human. Never mind that listeria is also found on fruit and vegetables – things that I most definitely should be eating all the time – but in 2005, the Center for Disease Control reported a listeriosis incidence of 0.3 per 100,000 – or three in a million.
Sure, multiply that by 20 and my odds are suddenly a staggering 60 per million. I’m pretty sure I’m still way more likely to cause damage to this Little Parasite (and to myself) by crossing the street or, if my mother’s superstitions can be trusted, putting unworn shoes on top of furniture.
Still, all the “shoulds” and “should nots” and shaming were, I figured, a necessary introduction to the course. The second time around, things wouldn’t be nearly so traumatic, I reasoned.
Before I go on, I should stop to explain that up to this point, I had yet to experience any anxiety about actually getting LP out of my body. I hadn’t paid it much thought, but if I had, I would have comforted myself with the knowledge that women have been pushing babies out of tiny spaces for thousands of years, and many women do it more than once, so as bad as it might be, it’s perfectly doable.
You’ll notice my observations on labour and delivery were all in past tense.
That’s because last night, we watched a
feature-length horror film twenty-minute video featuring three women in the birthing process. This movie was generous with capturing all angles of bellies and breasts and perinea and placentae and really, really strained vaginae . Lots and lots of angles.
It was honest – honest and horrifying.
(Sidenote: I enjoy writing about medical stuff because it means I get to exercise my knowledge in standard Latin-based endings.)
Now, the birthing process wasn’t really new information to me. I knew generally how it works; you go to the hospital very pregnant, do some pushing with muscles I have yet to locate, yell at your husband a little, and then all of a sudden you’re not pregnant and you go home with a baby.
Pretty straightforward situation, right?
But to see these women struggling, in pain, moaning, hating life, and being in really unflattering positions all while being monitored by a number of complete strangers (not to mention the film crews) was a bit of a reality check. I knew in the back of my brain that giving birth is not an elegant event, but somehow, with words floating around the process like “magical” and “life-changing,” I imagined that perhaps there would be a bit more dignity involved.
At the conclusion of the video, I had certainly made a magical and life-changing decision; I’m just not going to do it. When LP decides it’s time to come along, I will bring out a roll of duct tape and secure the exit. Or something. I haven’t really figured out how I’m going to stop it from happening, but I still have a few months to get there.
The important thing is that although my husband was not at the class, he somehow managed to get the takeaway lesson for dads – support the mother and basically go along with whatever she says, no matter how crazy.
This was our entire texted conversation after the class:
Me: “Just watched an intense video about having a baby. I’ve decided I do not want to give birth. Hope that’s okay with you.”
Husband: “No problem.”