I’m the type of person who likes to over-prepare. I like to expect the unexpected. I hate surprises. I want to be in control of my circumstances and to have a good idea of what life is going to throw at me. This is NOT how pregnancy works. You basically lose complete control of even your own body, as it’s entirely at the mercy of your hormones (which is good prep for parenthood, when you end up desperately clawing at life for a modicum of sanity, with no control of the chaos whatsoever)!
During my first pregnancy I bought every book I could find – and I read them over and over, cover to cover, making sure there wasn’t one thing I had missed. I wanted to know everything about those nine months, what to expect in labor and delivery and what life with a newborn would be like.
When my doctor suggested signing up for a Lamaze class at the hospital, I did so without hesitation and my husband and I showed up with pillows dutifully in tow, ready to practice our obligatory breathing exercises. My hubby and I have very different learning styles. I am the straight A student, who wants the teacher to know it from the get-go. I have to look smart, focused and try to communicate, “I’m incredibly intelligent” with my direct stare. My husband is the class clown, who instantly begins to exude obnoxiousness the second he enters a classroom setting, asking questions like, “Is there pain medication available for the dads dealing with nine months of a pregnant wife?” as he gets death-glares from all the pregnant women in the room, most of all me, who at this point cannot believe I’m pregnant with his child.
The class had all the typical childbirth videos to introduce you to the birthing process and the stages of labor, and then we got about practicing the Lamaze breathing techniques. The “birth coaches” learned how to count slowly, and the moms-to-be learned how to breathe to release tension and relax into the contractions. We learned a few gentle massage techniques and then it was thankfully time to break for lunch because no matter how many pillows you bring, there is nothing comfortable about sitting on the floor all morning while you’re pregnant.
Over lunch we reviewed what we had learned in the class. My husband was hung up on how graphic the birthing videos had been (when it came time for our son to be born, he was front and center for the delivery and thought it was so awesome he shares the story in way too much detail with everyone to this day). I shared that I honestly thought the birth coaching techniques were awkward. It didn’t feel like “us.” I was expecting labor to be painful and I prefer to deal with things independently and head-on. I knew that if I was in pain and my husband was slowly counting or making the waterfall patterns on my back we had learned, I would punch him in the face. If that works for you, great, but that’s just not for me.
When you’re preparing for childbirth, like so many other things in life, you have to know yourself. And you have to know who you are as a couple too. Lamaze is great for some people. For some, it’s the perfect birth coaching plan and works wonders for them during labor and delivery. Some rave about the Bradley Method. Some love hypno-birthing (tried that too and it wasn’t for me either). What I discovered really matters is that you find what works for you and know how what YOU need to cope. Check it all out, but don’t feel pressured to fit into a box if it’s not working for you. Childbirth is going to be hard – don’t make it more difficult by adding any extra stress or going with anything that feels unnatur to you.
So we dropped out of Lamaze class and never went back. When it came time for our son to be born, there was a moment when my poor, helpless husband walked up next to me and asked “do you want me to count?” and I assured him I did NOT.