You want to know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s Crazy! 1st time parents prepping for child birth, now that is crazy!
Feel free to hit the eject button whenever the imagery becomes too intense.
Her energy was incredible, as she bubbled around the room dispensing a warehouse load of vital birthing information.
Like a sagacious tornado, she whirled through our vacuous minds, ripping away the layers of birthing incompetence and fetal ignorance.
Lamaze Queen was a white hot nuclear melt down of words and wisdom. She filled our ears and our very souls with detailed information that demystified the birthing ritual.
Like a flashlight in a darkened basement, her words assuaged our fears and allowed us to imagine crossing the precipice of parenthood.
Lamaze Queen introduced us to the techniques of labor with an abundance of medical jargon that made advanced calculus seem like a recipe for a PB&J sandwich.
Twice a week, four couples gathered in her OBGYN offices after hours for a quick fix of labor and delivery knowledge. To Lamaze Queen, babies were a business. To our neo-natal group, the whole experience was like a wide eyed roller coaster ride through a tunnel of razor blades.
I wasn’t exactly a willing participant of this class. Call me old fashioned, but I still long for the days when men pace the carpet outside the delivery room, smoking cigars and making small talk with other expectant first time fathers who have also chosen to hide from the blood shed and screams of life’s little miracle.
But to be a modern father is to be armed with the knowledge of the blessed event, which means Lamaze Class wasn’t an option.
Lamaze Queen led us through the shark infested waters of birth like some kind of medically clad Lloyd Bridges fighting a sea serpent with a harpoon wedged in her teeth.
She was an omniscient birthing expert who told us she single handedly, without the intrusion of any man, gestated and bore three healthy baby’s.
For four hours a week, Lamaze Queen hammered home the facts of life, and what to expect in each trimester. She was built like a stout German beer wench. She was loud and opinionated and worked our birthing group the way a comedian works the front row of a comedy club.
She had rugged thighs, and a solid, ample buttocks. To me, she appeared to be the perfect birthing mechanism.
All the mothers-to-be asked the same question, week in and week out: What about the Pain? How much will it hurt? Is there a way to pass a seven pound lump of screaming life into the world and somehow limit the pain threshold?
When asked, Lamaze Queen would always pause, allowing a thin smile to appear on her lips as she searched for the appropriate response. During these brief moments, my mind easily navigated the cloudy corridors leading to the delivery room where Lamaze Queen gave birth to child number 3.
I imagine Baby Lamaze entering the world like a little paratrooper covered in gelatinous goo. When the doctor smacks Baby Lamaze’s ass, the kid merely sneers and switches his cigar to the other side of his mouth.
Meanwhile, Lamaze Queen handles the birth like a combat marine pinned down in a murky rice patty. She is propped up in bed, her legs ripped wide apart by the cold metal stirrups that clamp rigidly into the berthing apparatus. Her hospital gown, spotted with perspiration, is draped around her massive, heaving form.
Breathing regularly in perfect timing and execution, she is the poster child for birth.
If this was a musical master piece, Mozart would have written it.
In. Out. Her breathing was text book pain management. Her teeth, like a hydraulic clamp, were gnawing fiercely on a wooden tongue depressor. Her grip on the metal bars of the bed was so intense, you could have made melted cheese sandwiches from the expended atomic energy of the metal being crushed.
Then in a whoosh of energy, it was over. Suddenly, like the sun releasing its gravitational hold on the planet Mercury, she let go of the metallic bars.
In one mighty volatile storm of muscle, blood and life, Baby Lamaze was born. Lamaze Queen yawned, and pumped her arms toward the ceiling. If you didn’t know better you would think she was a soccer player who had just scored the winning goal.
Ho Hum. Another child successfully birthed.
The powerful image was almost nauseating. Like a child’s etcha-sketch, I shook my head back and forth trying to erase the birthing image from my mind.
As my day dream dissipated, I realized there was still an hour left in class.
Lamaze Queen began to talk about the nuances of pain, I scanned the festively decorated room of plush sofas and intricately patterned wall paper. Each couple sat spell bound as if Moses himself was before us, holding the smoking tablets of God’s birthing law.
Lamaze Queen knew the mothers to be were scared. So she spoke calmly, bringing a sense of equanimity to the room. Her words assuaged our nervous fire like lemonade quenching thirst on a sweaty Carolina afternoon.
I watched as the women slowly released their death grip on the upholstery. It didn’t take a Microscope to see that this group of expectant parents was mortified by the life long investment they were soon to embark upon.
“Dilation of cervixes.” “Effacement stages of Labor.” “Contractions of uterine muscle.” These concepts flew from Lamaze Queen’s tongue like glowing metal embers from a blacksmith’s anvil.
Lamaze is all about natural childbirth, but the terms and symbols are heinously unpleasant. I was twenty-eight-years old, but felt like a kindergartner learning to toilet train myself alone. It was a rather unsettling feeling.
Lamaze Queen knew we were queasy and afraid of what was to come. We asked deliberate questions, and she responded with deliberate answers.
“Don’t worry about the unreal pain,” she would say throughout the two hour sessions. “When the contractions peak; breathe!”
Breathe?, I thought to myself. Is she crazy? My wife is supposed to pass a small Volkswagen through the eye of a needle, and we’re supposed to breathe?
Lamaze Queen liked to accentuate these discussions with gigantic pictures of life exploding into the world. She’d show us colorful slides of baby heads ripping and clawing their way out of the womb. And not one to be discreet, Lamaze Queen used an overhead projector to beam these heart stopping images onto the darkened walls of the office. She showed us hours of delivery videos where mothers were frantically berthing babies.
She showed us men how to hold our wives’ hands. She lectured us on the nuances of feeding them tiny bits of ice and cooling foreheads with a damp wash cloth. And through it all, Lamaze Queen waved her arms triumphantly and knowingly as she blistered about the room in a theatrical whirl wind.
To make sure we were getting it, she showed us large, colorful flash cards to test our birthing acumen. The cards displayed mothers with child, bursting at the seems, their distended belly’s filling up the huge poster board placards. The reality of birth was so vivid, my eyes burned as if they had been hosed down with lemon scented ammonia.
As if this reality wasn’t piercing enough, Lamaze Queen showed us more posters revealing the insidious possibility of a C-section. The photos revealed the same grossly distended sacs of living protoplasm cut open like so much raw meatloaf. Inside a swirling soup of soft tissue and major organs was the astronaut-like baby, floating upside down in his own universe. Umbilical cords and placenta and upside down floating fetuses undulating on the top of their momma’s bladder.
It was too much.
So much vivid information, so much reality, so soon, it was too much for the class. We were a pinball machine frozen on tilt, the flippers refusing to move no matter how many times we banged the buttons. Videos of birth and flash cards of heads popping out of other human beings, it was overwhelming to my senses, like laying down naked in a briar patch filled with starving army ants.
Contortions, contractions, epidurals, effacement intervals, I was awash with terminology and facts I didn’t want to know.
Christ how did the cavemen do it? Did momma cave-woman feel a little indigestion, only to go behind the cave and come back a short time later with a lathered up, hairy baby with a large frontal lobe? And if she did, you can bet that Poppa caveman never budged from his cement recliner to hold any hands or distribute any ice chips. In Neolithic times, Lamaze was as useful to a cave couple experiencing the miracle of life as a thesaurus to a stegosaurus.
Maybe ignorance is bliss, at least when it comes to birth. All I know, is I was suffocating on the imagery.
I felt like I was at a drag strip full of furry and burning rubber. Red lights yielding to yellow, then to Green!
Suddenly, drag racers spinning into a contortion of thunder, exploded off the line. Birth was crazy, like a symphony of third graders playing violins with bricks. My mind was over loaded, and scared and there was no turning back. The dragster of birth was barreling down the track. Smoke and grease were being tossed into the electrified ether.
As Lamaze Queen punched the birthing accelerator, letting all barrels of her carburetor swell with liquid nitro, I started looking for the exit. The walls were closing in, and words entering my ears in short, staccato bursts of nonsense. It was as if hell’s own furnace exploded, creating a white noise amplified through a nuclear powered megaphone.
I looked around the room at the other dads to be. Their faces were blank, covered with a blanket of fear. The stimulus was too much. The group was collectively overdosing on lessons of life.
Like a computer out of disk space, our minds could accept no more. We were bloated like a bad case of intestinal gas. Our synaptic connections fried, no input could go in. No output could come out. It was time to call for a Lamaze time out.
As we got up to mindlessly put money in the soda machine during the break, I noticed a nescient haze hanging on every face. You could read it like a book. What the hell is going on? Where are the instructions? If it’s natural childbirth isn’t it going to happen anyway?. Why worry? Why deal with Lamaze or LAMAZE QUEEN for that matter?
After the break, color started to breathe it’s way back into the faces of the group, especially us future dads. Under the international rules of Lamaze, we are known as “Coaches.” A nice appellation, but hardly fitting since we really have very little to do with the berthing process except to hang out in the specter of disaster and offer encouraging words to a woman who suddenly has as much use for us as a swimmer has for a toaster.
Before Lamaze class, I fancied myself a manly man. But like a sucker punch from the darkness, Lamaze beats that out of a man. In one class, I went from caveman to coach. I am now the friend of the birth., and keeper of the birth techniques. I am now the wiper of the Life giver’s forehead.
Lamaze Queen did her best to prepare us coaches for the realities that lay ahead.
Ignorance really is bliss! Before Lamaze Queen, I thought “I can do this!, I can be a maternity coach!” What’s the big deal? I’ll say a few appropriate, comforting things at the right time to ease the pain of delivery, and I’ll be there to pet my wife’s hand when she’s really distressed, and then in a few hours, viola!, I’ll be holding my tiny bundle of joy.
Man oh man, how Lamaze Queen changed that perception. In two hours I learned about postpartum hemorrhaging, where moms bleed to death. I’ve seen graphic pictures of breech babies, where the feet come out first and then mom’s cervix clamps down around the baby’s neck choking the life out of it. And of course, the icing on the cake for me is the ever popular C-section. Nasty business this C-section thing, nasty business! All in all, I got some combat maternity training, some graphic literature to bring to work to make everyone wince, and perhaps, the most important thing I took away from the class, was a deeper appreciation of what was to come.
And I owe all of it to Lamaze Queen; a female General Patton who prepares for life like a soldier prepares for war.