My eyes were recently opened even more to a major event that will soon bless the lives of Sidney and I. Yesterday we went to Conway Medical Center, the hospital where our daughter will be born, for a birthing class. On our calendar for about a month now, we both had anxiously anticipated this all-day event as an opportunity to become more accustomed to what we could expect on the big day. With the stork marking the spot on the door we were supposed to enter, we quickly found the location where we would spend the next six hours.
By the time the class was called to order at 9 a.m., we were surrounded by five other couples. The 12 of us (or 18 of us depending how you look at it) would be under the direction of a labor and delivery nurse named Tammy. A 37-year-vet of this type of nursing, we knew we were in good hands with her. Nurse Tammy opened the session with a pep talk on how the women in the room were more than capable of the monumental task of giving birth while also stressing the importance us guys play in our role as “coaches.”
Then the movies started. Throughout the day, we watched videos that followed various couples around as they navigated the realm of childbirth. Filmed in an educational/documentary style, Nurse Tammy showed clips that addressed preparing for the hospital, prelabor signs, true vs. false labor, onset of labor, labor itself, the different types of birth, medication options, and postpartum care.
It was a lot to take in but the clips were broken up and we had a discussion after each one. The biggest eye opening part for me? In my life, I had never watched a woman give birth before, whether it be through the natural process or through a Cesarean. These videos made no qualms about showing the miracle of life in an up close and personal manner. When I walked out the door at the end of the day, I knew exactly what it looks like for a baby to enter the world.
Of course it wasn’t just videos and discussions though. Nurse Tammy took us on a tour of The Birth Place, the place at Conway Medical Center where we will have our baby. We strolled through the entire wing, walked inside a delivery room, met the staff, and looked at a postpartum room. While on this tour we had the opportunity to view all the room amenities such as the retractable mirror on the wall, the rollout bed for the husband, and the monitoring system used by nursing staff to insure that we are never alone in case we need something.
We also learned breathing exercises. Although one of the videos covered it as well, Nurse Tammy took time to offer us some breathing hints for when labor comes. She also gave us some massage techniques and stretching exercises that can help reduce stress and relieve pain for the mom.
Toward the end of the day, Nurse Tammy brought out what she called her “toys.” She showed us an epidural tray, a skeleton of the pelvis, a vacuum extractor, a catheter, and several other instruments. It was cool to see these things right in front of us. Nurse Tammy explained that “knowledge is power” and that it is important to be familiar with some of the tools we will encounter while in the delivery room.
In the days leading up to the birthing class, Sidney joked that I was most excited about the free lunch and snacks advertised on the registration form. The free food did not disappoint! Fruit, graham crackers, and juice/water were offered in the classroom throughout the day. However, the best part was the lunch. They let us loose in the cafeteria and allowed us to get whatever we wanted. I hauled out a tray that included pasta, turkey, cornbread, and pudding. I told Sid that the lunch itself pretty much paid for the class!
But the complimentary food wasn’t what I wrote down as the best part of the day. When I filled out the evaluation, I noted that the biggest strength of the class was the opportunity for Q&A with Nurse Tammy. Throughout the day, and especially at the end, we could ask questions about anything and everything. Sidney asked a lot of great questions and the other couples asked some really good ones as well. Nothing was off limits and it was very nice to have a person who has seen it all through four decades in nursing give us truthful and compassionate answers.
The birthing class was worth the time and investment. I thank Conway Medical Center and Nurse Tammy for preparing us for an upcoming major event in our lives. Don’t Blink.