Ante-Natal Classes Part 3

What a waste of time.

Last night’s class was effectively the first time we’d been to one of these and it turned out to be even more of a waste of time than I had anticipated. The whole theme of the night was “Relaxation Techniques and Positions for Labour”.

We started with an introduction to how to obtain the best pre-delivery position for the baby. With the aid of two props (a plastic skeleton model of a pelvis and a toy doll), she demonstrated how the head should “engage” correctly. It quickly became apparent, though, that this woman was making it up as she went along. Sentences were painfully slowly in arriving, and even then there was more backtracking than an Italian tank. It took about 10 minutes for her to say “this is the ideal position for baby here, although every delivery is different so you shouldn’t really worry about it”. I never understood either, why people giving a talk ask questions of the audience. She asked “does anyone know what ‘back-to-back’ is?” Well, not strictly, but it hardly takes an Einstein-ien IQ to hazard a guess does it?

We then moved on to the dreaded “watching a video”, which didn’t start very promisingly. The introduction she provided was “we’re now going to watch a video, so if there’s anyone doesn’t like videos, you can leave the room and have a wander in the corridor for 5 minutes”. Doesn’t like videos? What are you on about woman? I’m much more partial to DVDs in this day and age, or are you catering for people with tape-o-phobia? Then she continued with her prize-winning sales pitch: “First thing: It’s a bit difficult to understand what they’re saying because they are from Australia (or New Zealand). Secondly, these are women who have had particularly easy births. Thirdly, they’re a bit hippy and of a particular ‘sort’. Fourthly, to start with there’s a bit which shows a contraction happening”.

Now I’ve watched the film Pulp Fiction, which was deliberately edited to show events in a non-linear order and your brain needed to work out exactly what happened and when, but this was impossible. As I said earlier, she was just making things up as she went along – I’ve no idea how often she has run this class in the past, but I hope this is the first time. It was terrible. At university or education classes at work, you get someone who stands up, confident and can form coherent setences that lead you convincingly through the material. This woman couldn’t lead you through a doorway.

Anyway, video time! Working along the whole “being prepared” theme, you’d expect someone to at least know how to start the tape, but of course we had the comedy “can’t work the video” routine. My suggested routine for running a tape in a class:

  1. Before starting class, check which buttons are required
  2. At correct point in lecture, go to light switch
  3. Switch video on with remote
  4. Switch lights off
  5. Wait for video to complete (waiting by light switch)
  6. Lights on
  7. Video off

Nope. What we actually got was the following (without the preparation).

  1. Switch lights off
  2. Stumble back past chairs and bean bags in the dark
  3. Grope around for remote
  4. Press buttons aimlessly for a bit
  5. “Which one is it Shirley?”
  6. (Lights go on again and the other person comes to help)
  7. “The one with the red circle”
  8. “Right” (video goes on)
  9. (Lights go off)

After all of that faff, we watched this bit apparently about a contraction happening. In reality, it was a woman breathing slowly and deeply while standing up for a minute. I’ll give her credit though – she did appear to be pregnant.

Video then cut to a group of Australian women discussing how they “rode the wave” of pain during contractions. Yeah… like giving birth while surfing, dude! She then (without warning) fast-forwarded through a bit of it. She did mumble a reason why, but I didn’t hear it. Like most of the video in fact – it was just too quiet. She was sitting about 2ft away from the screen so it was great for her, but there’s people at the other side of the room straining to hear. Or probably not actually – I don’t think anyone was too fussed about missing it.

Next we moved onto her bag of tricks, which were all things used to help massage a woman while in labour. First thing she pulled out was a large sock, which had been filled with 2lb of rice and then microwaved. Apparently that’s great to hang round your neck and relax you. Not sure about Katrina doing that with my socks to fight off pain – vampires perhaps, but not pain.

Next was a couple of tennis-ball sized rubber balls – the sort you get with cheap children’s cricket sets.

Then there’s the pièce de résistance – something that appeared to be a Fisher-Price “My First Vibrator”. Shaped like an insect (with only four legs if we’re anatomically picky), it had a rounded, highly-colourful body and rounded ends on the legs. There was a small DC input jack where its bum should be and pressing its nose started the thing vibrating. Apparently you can get these in the pound shop at Eastleigh, although you have to wonder why.

The idea was that pregnant woman sits on a chair and I rub her back with the rubber balls, vibrating thing, or my hands. We practised that for a bit and then rejoined the circle. We were then treated to a demonstration of how a partner (ooh! that’s me) should massage the shoulders of the mother if I notice her becoming a bit tense. Notice her becoming a bit tense? Katrina can come home with a haircut and two new skirts and I don’t notice – how the hell am I supposed to notice if her shoulders are a little elevated?

Anyway, after the whole massage practical, we moved onto some breathing exercises. The lights were switched off again as she described how you should breathe during a contraction in labour.

“OK – first think of your favourite colour”. Favourite colour? I haven’t had a favourite colour since I was six years old. It got wierder. “Now imagine that colour in a very pale form and then in your head visualise yourself breathing out a thread of that colour. As the contraction gets stronger, the colour of the thread should deepen”. I’m sure there was something like that in The Exorcist in the seventies and that was banned from public viewing for years.

I’m sure there were other lowlights of the whole evening, but to be honest by now I’d lost the will to live and decided to shut off my brain’s short-term section to conserve energy, so the rest of the evening is pretty patchy. Somewhere in there she dropped-in the name of the “giving birth hormone” and that seemed to be the token “science” bit. It was tempered slightly by drawing a heart-shape on a piece of paper and writing “oxytocin” in the middle, then she asked for us to shout out things that relaxed us. I wasn’t allowed to shout out “leaving this room”, which is probably a good thing.

Towards the end was also a thing about postures during the latter stages of labour, but that just involved hanging a poster on the wall and telling us to go and look at it. Hardly a comprehensive walk-through now, was it?

Katrina is normally very generous and forgiving of people, but even her verdict of last night was “that was crap”. I expected a crack for messing about during the session, but Katrina just thought my entertainment was far more useful and relaxing than anything we had learned that night.

Next week is the baby-changing challenge. My hopes are not high.

One comment

  • Classy – sounds like she really knew how to inspire her group. Looking forward to the post about nappy changing ……. I’ve got a fiver on it ending up with a plastic doll with a disposable nappy stuck to the side of it, with the nappy dangling in the breeze performing no useful function whatsoever…..