x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Prenatal class's most important lesson: hold on to your humour

I held off taking prenatal classes for so long, but this class has been a real eye-opener.

Right from the beginning of this pregnancy, I had been averse to attending a prenatal class. I had always imagined them as a combination of hippy nonsense and silly breathing exercises – similar to the Lamaze classes that are a prerequisite scene in all movies featuring a pregnant woman. I knew enough about myself to know I wouldn’t be the type to hee-hee-hoo-hoo my way through a natural child birth; I’m the type who laughs at the notion of “hypnobirthing” and slaps anyone around me who asks me to “visualise my happy space”. I’ll be the red-faced pregnant woman demanding the drugs out in the hospital’s car park, loudly and insistently.

Marriage, however, means discussion, compromise and agreeing to go ahead with an activity that previously made you snort, just because your partner’s heart is set on it. And thanks to Mr T’s insistence that we experience as much of this pregnancy’s milestones as possible (ridiculous notion, really, seeing as I’m experiencing a lot more than I bargained for), the two of us signed up for an honest-to-goodness intensive prenatal class over an entire weekend.

When our confirmation email reminded us to “bring pillows” to class, I became grumpier than ever, convinced we’d be using them to snuggle in our partner’s lap, most probably on a yoga mat, while the instructor tried to lead us to connect with our “inner zen”.

I was very wrong about the benefit of these classes. Mr T and I, together with the seven other expectant couples in the class, were not told it would be roses and sunshine during labour and delivery. We were not told it would be easy and that the end result would be a bundle of springtime that we’d fall in love with immediately.

Instead, we were realistically told what to expect and how to be practically prepared to deal with one of the most difficult things we might ever have to go through. We were asked to look at how we deal with stress, pain and fatigue in everyday life, then use those same coping mechanisms that have always worked for us as individuals during our labour and delivery – a time ripe with stress, pain and fatigue.

One thing that stood out to the both of us is the need for a labouring woman to continuously change positions and rarely lie down flat on her back, which instead slows down labour and provides no pain relief. We practised different positions during class. For example, I’d lean against the wall and Mr T would rub my back as instructed.

“How does this feel?” he kept asking, eager for positive -feedback.

“Well, OK I guess, but then again, I’m not in labour right now,” I’d tell him.

During another practice position, Mr T sat back and didn’t participate. “Put your hand on my back like the instructor said and rub, why aren’t you rubbing?” I asked him.

“No, can’t do that, we have to be realistic when we practise this stuff, so this one is the one where you’re on your own because I needed a bathroom break.”

The number one piece of advice from our instructor, to help us get through the ordeal to come? Hold on to our sense of humour, with both hands.

That should be doable, as long as my Mr T is around.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae