Chuck and I are up abnormally early for a Saturday to go to the 8-hour cramfest version of a Childbirth Preparation Class at the hospital I plan to fill with my moo-iest birth sounds in mid-July. There are like 15 couples gathered in this room and we've all, as instructed, brought blankets and pillows. Just like on TV.
I already think it's weird enough seeing pregnant people in the world. Usually it happens at Target and I feel like there should at least be knowing eyebrow raises barely perceptible to others. This must be what it's like to be a member of The Skulls. Now we're in a room filled with a diverse mix of preggos and it's mind blowingly creepy. It has a 1970s sci/fi pod-living ness to it. There's a special walk and a shared look that seems to say: I can urinate on demand. I probably just did.
There is the token Juno. There is a foursome of couple friends, the women both dressed in preg-chic and the men look like high-fivers who will bring novelty cigars to the waiting room. There's a woman whose super savvy sister is her birth coach. She looks seasoned and I wouldn't be surprised if there was an infant beneath her shirt -- maybe even her own -- suckling as we speak.
I'm always kind of testing the waters for pregnant friends and quickly learn this is not my crowd. When the woman next to me says she's 37, I turn to her in a very playground way and say, "I'M 37, TOO!" But that will be about the extent of what we have in common, so I close with "Well, see you at kindergarten roundup, I guess" and shrug.
We are asked to go around the room and introduce ourselves: Name, estimated due date, how the process has been, weird cravings. I always want to be memorable under these circumstances. The best, if you will. So I throw out some untested material, but a topic that I'm certain will kill.
"I'm Christa. I'm due in mid-July. I guess my weirdest crave has been old school cafeteria tacos. You know, the kind with cheap, sloppy meat and hard shells and wilted lettuce, slathered in Ortega. Anyway, the tacos at Burrito Union were too good. I guess the closest ones I've found are at Taco Johns."
And ... Silencio.
At one point we gather in the back of the room to learn some breathing exercises. I stretch out an old animal print blanket and Chuck says: "You know. This is the blanket from my childhood bed. If it only knew where it would end up ..." and I cackle. We're led through different ways to breath while Yanni goes apeshit on a lute or whatever, but I'm mostly aware of this hard floor and my shoulders caving in on each other. While Chuck squeezes my arm to simulate contractions, I just close my eyes and breathe the normal way.
The front of the room is decorated with juxtaposed drawings of the inner workings of the human body. It all smacks of classic Goofus and Gallant. In one, the innards are tucked nicely into the correct places (Gallant). The other is the pregnant body. In that version, the parts are squished flat into any available space. Like when your already packed elevator stops on the fourth floor and six people with luggage need you to make a little room (Goofus).
"No wonder you can't go to the bathroom," Chuck says.
Mostly we watch a bunch of films: Vaginal childbirth, cesarian child birth, one specific woman's story from first contraction on and Oh The Drugs You Might Try or Not Try. These are a bit formulaic: They are all just a vehicle for what I'm calling The Money Shot. The big moment when the doctor yanks the blood-and-gunky infant into the world and slaps it like sirloin upon the mother's bosom, where it immediately latches on to her nipple -- seemingly for life.
We're in the front row, which makes it extra awkward when I recoil in horror and shield my eyes every single time. On top of this, I've learned what a mucous plug is after vowing to leave that as The Last Great Mystery. The moral seems to be: There is no polite way to get this person out of my body.
What they can't show, they use animation to represent: The slice just above one's bikini line, the way a doctor will manually stretch these muscles into a gaping maw, reach inside, root around and yank forth a baby -- then double back to give the placenta a magician's flick of the wrist.
Chuck misses this part. He had to leave early. So instead of taking huge cathartic bites out of his shoulder, instead of squeezing his thigh muscles until I've left half-moon nail divots, I just remind myself how much I love Japanese horror flicks and pretend this is one of them.