Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Baby Story 6

This week, my wife and I attended the first of several “preparing for childbirth” classes offered by our local hospital. I had been warned ahead of time that the videos could be somewhat graphic and the conversation rather forthright but in the interest of being prepared we felt it was the best course of action. We were told to bring two pillows and our curiosity.

Upon arrival, we were instructed to place our pillows in the back of the room and select seats around one of the three tables. Once settled in, we began the task of making immediate snap judgments about our fellow attendees while I fought the urge to launch myself into the mountain of bean-bag chairs stacked in the corner. All of us were around the same age, due the same month, and were first-time parents.

The instructor completed the requisite orientation and distributed a booklet that took each and every opportunity to remind us that it had been funded by Pampers. About one hour into the course we watched our first video about the identification and prevention of pre-term labor. The film featured a young African-American woman speaking directly to the camera as she recalled her own misconceptions about pre-term labor:

“My friend had her baby early and she said that it was great. The hospital kept the baby in a special room for several days and she was able to get some sleep while they took care of him, but when my baby was born early it wasn’t like that at all. Now, my baby is retarded.”

To be fair, the video was probably produced just after Reagan left office but it is hard for me to believe that people willing to pay for a four-day course in birth preparation would be unaware that pre-term labor was not a desirable outcome. I was tempted to feign shock and ask the instructor if this meant my wife should stop taking tequila shots on her smoke breaks.

After discussing the differences between true labor pains and Braxton Hicks contractions, we screened the second and final video of the evening. This VHS featured three “birth stories” narrated by the participants or their spouses and grew increasingly more racist as they progressed. 

The first story featured Caucasians Susan (a rotund woman with a rather unflattering bowl-cut) and her husband Jim. They are shown in their idyllic brick home adorned with an American flag and manicured lawn before being admitted to the hospital where Susan bravely delivers her son with minimal complications and no pharmaceutical pain management. Jim was informed, involved, and unfailingly supportive.

The footage is narrated in unflinching monotone by Jim, who appears to regret his contractual obligation to review and provide commentary for the video. He seems unaware that in several segments it sounds as if he is narrating an adult film.

The next story follows a Hispanic woman (Maria) and the man we assume is the child’s father though he is never specifically identified as such. We are given no backstory but it is implied that the couple is somewhat financially stable and although he is not as supportive or informed as Jim it is apparent he is deeply concerned. Unable to tolerate the pain, Maria requests and is give intravenous narcotics and her child has to be immediately treated for a uterine meconium leak upon delivery.

This footage is narrated by Maria who admits that her grasp of medical jargon was limited and during contractions the pain was so intense she momentary lost the ability to speak or comprehend English. 
This necessitated that her partner translate for her.  

The final story features a young African-American woman (Quesha) who we are told had to “take two buses” just to get to the hospital. We are informed that she was admitted primarily due to the city’s unpredictable public transportation system (upon which she is dependent) rather than her current state of dilation. The child’s father is not present nor is he mentioned. Instead, Quesha is reliant on her sister for support during labor. She requests an epidural which then necessitates the administering of Pitocin but eventually the child is delivered successfully.

Quesha narrates the footage and muses that her sister’s only real contribution was providing comic relief in between contractions.

Once the video was concluded were we issued a Similac Swag-Bag and told to remember to bring our pillows for next week. I came away with a greater appreciation for the pain of labor and the knowledge that apparently childbirth is better as a honkey. I can’t wait to see what happens when an Asian couple needs a C-Section.

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