5 memories from prenatal class

Ian reflects on five things he remembers about attending his first series of prenatal classes with his wife, Sonia.

By Ian Mendes
5 memories from prenatal class

Photo: digitalskillet/iStockphoto

On Tuesday night, I was working our broadcast of the Ottawa-New York hockey game on Sportsnet, when a woman approached me at my position behind the Senators’ net.

“Hi there — do you remember me?” she asked.

I stood there with a completely blank and puzzled look, because this woman’s face was not registering in my mental database.

She finally filled in the blank by saying, “We did a prenatal class together nine years ago.”

I have to admit it was the first time I’ve heard the words “prenatal class” while doing a hockey broadcast. The woman explained to me that she and her husband had three more kids after their first one, so apparently the prenatal class worked just fine for them.

As I was driving home from the game, I thought about my interaction with her and about our prenatal class from the spring of 2004. So this week, I figured I would reach deep into my archives and try and remember five things about attending our prenatal class:

1. Using a stuffed animal was weird
In our prenatal class, they asked us to all bring in a small stuffed animal or doll so that we could practice handling a baby. For starters, not many childless couples own a big collection of stuffed animals or dolls, so your selection is probably going to be limited. In our case, we dug around some old boxes and pulled out an E.T. plush toy from my childhood. We used a whole bottle of Febreze on it, just so we didn’t walk into the class as the weird couple with the funky-smelling E.T. doll — because that’s a label we were never going to shake in a six-week class. We used that E.T. doll to practice swaddling a baby and wrapping it tightly in a blanket. For a guy who has a hard time assembling a fajita, I had a predictably difficult time with this exercise. And yes, things did get a little awkward when Sonia was learning how to position a baby for breastfeeding, because I might have used a fake E.T. voice to say, “E.T. needs milk.”

2. Watching the childbirth video isn’t fun
I had no issue watching my wife give birth to our two daughters. I didn’t get squeamish, queasy or nauseous. So I don’t think it’s a problem for me to say this: I don’t like watching other women give birth. I just sort of pretended to look at the general direction of the TV screen during the prenatal class, as if I was watching one of my in-laws slideshows from their vacation in Germany.  

3. The birth plan was overrated
We were told repeatedly about the importance of having a travel bag ready at the door for the moment when Sonia went into labour. The experts suggested packing music, books and snacks in your travel bag. I think we had visions of Sonia giving birth in a quiet room, listening to an Enya CD while eating almonds. I remember one book saying that you could even bring a board game to help pass the time, but I had a hard time imagining Sonia playing a game of Balderdash while she was seven centimetres dilated. Our instructor also spent a lot of time telling us to prepare a birth plan. I remember writing a Word document with Sonia, where we tried to plan everything. And while it was a great idea, our birth plan should have just read as follows: Sonia will scream obscenities at Ian, who agrees not to take anything personally.

4. They strongly suggested that breastfeeding was the only option
You get the sense that prenatal classes are like a timeshare meeting — where they have you trapped in a room and want to push something on you. As a man, I completely understand that maybe my opinion on this topic isn’t as important as a woman’s. But I do find that they put a lot of pressure on women to breastfeed their kids in these prenatal classes. You sort of feel like if you ask a question about formula feeding, the instructors might make a preemptive call to child services.

5. There wasn’t enough information about what to do when the baby comes home
In hindsight, I wish the prenatal class had more information about what to do when you actually bring the baby home. If someone had told me that our child’s first bowel movement was going to look like some driveway sealer, that would have been helpful. Or that our baby will likely be inconsolable from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every night for the first six weeks. A few days after bringing home the baby, I’m fairly certain I would have paid for some postnatal instructions.

What do you remember about prenatal classes?

This article was originally published on Feb 21, 2013

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