In the course of reading my column, it may have come to your attention that I am a bit of an over-preparer, an obsessive studier of what may happen. I am one of those people. I once told my parents that I knew how to ride a horse because, “I’ve read all about it!” It should be no surprise to anyone that I have applied this behavior and philosophy to the process of getting pregnant, being pregnant, and preparing for birth and parenthood. The publishing industry and my hospital have both happily enabled me in this regard.
I bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting before I ever got a positive pregnancy test. As soon as I tested positive, I read the entire book. I then picked up in quick succession The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, William Sears’ The Pregnancy Book, and From the Hips, reading each cover-to-cover. While I’ve since discarded The Girlfriend’s Guide (yes, we get it, you’re dismayed you can’t wear a size 6 while pregnant!), I’ve repeatedly checked the month-by-month and week-by-week calendars in the other texts, hoping that maybe I’ve missed some tiny tidbit that will provide the breakthrough I need to feel fantastic for the rest of my pregnancy. I have not found it yet, but I continue to hope that my repeated re-reading will somehow prepare me for what’s looming in my near future.
My drive to know every single thing about these processes has not been limited to the internet, books, or my friends. My hospital offers multiple classes in preparation for birth, parenting, and even grandparenting. In a great marketing move, they offer a package deal: $250 for any combination of classes off a 14-class list, a collection that would cost hundreds more individually. While I don’t need a class on introducing the baby to his siblings or one on C-section preparation in Spanish, I’ve been quite happy to sign up for everything from Infant CPR to Postpartum Preparation. My husband, always supportive, has accompanied me to every class my heart desires, and he has even attended a 9 a.m. Saturday class on conscious fathering on his own.
Yet even as I happily attend night after night of two- or three-hour classes, I am coming to realize that no matter how many times we role-play the Heimlich maneuver on a doll or chant “4-1-1″ in response to questions about when we should go to the hospital, there is no way to know for sure what’s in store for us or how to deal with what’s coming. Sure, eight hours of class on labor and birth makes the process clearer and makes us more able to articulate what we want in certain situations, but it’s never going to match the education of the actual experience. I’m aware of this, but I can’t help it – I keep attending classes in the hope that I will find something that will make it all easier – and I know I’m not alone. When I look around the room at other women’s faces during discussion of the possibility of a 28-hour labor, we’re all scared, and we’re all reaching for anything that will make this process more manageable, whether it’s breathing exercises or knowing when to demand the Fentanyl.
For me, at least, it’s becoming more and more clear that the only thing that’s going to get me through labor is one simple goal: at the end of the process, whether it’s 12 hours long and medication-free or 36 hours and ending with a C-section, I want to meet my passenger, the kid who’s swam around while I watched birth videos, who’s kicked for everyone except my dad, the person I’ve donated my body to for the past nine months. I may have lofty goals for labor and birth and how I’ll parent, but in the end, my only real goal is to meet my healthy son and raise him to be a healthy and happy person with healthy and happy parents.