Back in early 2006, my wife and I found ourselves at a childbirth class. Now, I had seen about a bunch of them, but only on TV shows, and usually those shows were treating the class itself in a comical light. Sometimes there were slick watermelons, or fathers fainting while watching the birthing video, and always there was an animated instructor who seemed like she should have been teaching a Zumba class instead. Things were a little different in real life.
For one, the class was in Cooperstown, which is an hour and a half drive for us, so we didn’t sign up lightly. We were both completely on board since it was our first pregnancy, and since we were both just a little bit nervous about what would happen when the time came, when labor started. My wife had read all the books (she always reads all the books) but reading about it and going through it are two entirely different things. We figured it would be helpful to go through the process of learning along with several other couples at the same time.
So we took the drive on a frigid late January morning, with two pillows in the back seat and an open mind for whatever was going to occur. When we got there the building looked a lot like an old church to me, minus the steeple (and the priest). Other couples were already there milling about on the lawn, carrying pillows, so we figured it was the right place. Then the instructor arrived, and we found out pretty quickly that she was a registered nurse who had been through about a metric ton of live births. We were in good hands.
Then we got to know each other, which reminded me oddly enough of so many first days of school, both as a student and as a teacher. I was tempted to be sarcastic when it came around to me, but the nerves won out and I spoke meekly instead. I think it finally hit me for the first time, during that class, that I was going to be a father, that this awesome responsibility was going to be mine, and I was incredibly humbled. After we went around and introduced ourselves, we played a few games geared at breaking the ice, and then it was go time.
The instructor asked us who was there because it was their first pregnancy, and we all raised our hands. She told us how usually with first pregnancies the child will arrive after its due date, and that the labor was typically a longer one than second, or third births and beyond. This wasn’t to scare us, she added, but just to help us prepare for the possibilities. Then she asked us who had seen a live birth before, and I raised my hand, then I looked around. Absolutely no one else had a hand raised. I was embarrassed to be put on the spot, but I took a deep breath, then I told the story of the very first live birth I had seen some 10+ years earlier…