“This is a very impore-tant and special aspect of the birthing process, which you should note as you come in to this special time.”, said the woman teaching the birthing class. This was the exact moment I decided I loathed her.
I didn’t loathe her. I was just nervous about the whole thing, and feeling a little put out. I needed a scapegoat for my anxiety and she was handy, as the teacher. Sure, she could’ve just said ‘important’ the way it’s said, without the over- enunciation, but that was no reason to hate her. She was just a little boring and heavy on the special, that’s all. She certainly looked the part. With her wide hips, enormous bazongas, and soft-spoken, motherly cadence, she clearly had the most important credentials.
“Well, I don’t have any children of my own yet, but wahwahwahwahwahahwah,,,” as she slipped away into Charlie Brown classroom mode. I was frustrated enough with the whole ‘pillow’ thing- which I’ll get to-, let alone the 15-slide power point presentation that she stretched out over four three-hour sessions, but no kids?!?! Couldn’t we have just downloaded the power point online and saved ourselves the trouble of coming all this way?
Seven months previous, I could not have ever imagined myself here. I was a free-wheeling bachelor, living large. And by ‘living large’, I mean I was renting a tiny in-law in North Berkeley after breaking up with the woman that I moved to California with. I was unemployed, and had just returned from the Midwest after staying with my parents for 2 months while my mother went through a series of operations removing increasing amounts of her breast, a series of undignified operations more tailored to doctors at the U of M getting published in interesting medical journals than to her best interests. I was depressed, angry at what these people were doing to my mum, sorry about being a failure, and coming off powerful anti-depressants.
Needless to say, I was not in good shape.
I was shaking off a month-and-a-half of Paxil- an awful drug- and had just gone on tour with my musical outfit, when I met the Missus at the walnut farm. We had been hanging out quite a bit, and enjoying ourselves. Still, I didn’t feel like I was in any state to be of any use to anybody.
“Hey, I ‘m having a great time” I said to the future Missus,
I said this to her after a long weekend of us just fucking off, going out, hanging about my tiny in-law, hunting for edible mushrooms in the park above my house, and eating slices of pizza at noon on the median of Shattuck St. It was relaxing, non-committal, and pure leisure. Still, I wanted to be clear about where I was at in my life. She was fidgety all morning, though. Could she sense what I was about to say?
“ I just wanted to let you know that. These last few weeks have been great fun.” I said, leading up to what I hoped wouldn’t be a bummer, “I’m just not quite ready to start a relationship. I still want to hang out and everything, but I’m just getting used to living on my own, by myself, you know? I need some time to get used to that idea.”
“I’m pregnant.” She blurted out.
I thought I responded appropriately.
“Is 9:30 in the morning too early to start drinking?” I asked.
I can’t remember how or where I found someone who sold me a bottle of champagne so early in the morning, but I did, and along with it, I bought orange juice and sparkling water. I came back to my little studio, where the Missus was waiting, and poured a mimosa for myself, and a virgin for her. I must have already known.
“Let’s go down to the creek.” I said.
We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon there, perched on a slab of concrete, not saying much. We expended a lot of effort to pull an old car battery out of the meager trickle coming down from the Berkeley Hills, an unconscious nod to the fact that we needed to make the world a better place if we were going to add a new citizen. I didn’t even know her last name, nor she mine.
We went forth, answering the question of ‘should we even’ by not answering it, ignoring the looming fact, probably knowing life was getting later for us both. She wasn’t even supposed to be able to get pregnant. I was still shaken up about confronting my mother’s mortality and my own recent shakedowns. We just let everything slip into being, through petty acknowledgements of our ill preparedness. She scolded me for lying on the couch; I scolded her for lane-splitting traffic on her road bike while four months pregnant. She asked if I intended on ever doing the dishes, while I had all day off, each and every day- I countered with…..something, I’m sure, but it escapes me now. Time moved on. We found ourselves- ok, she found herself- extremely pregnant one day, or so it seemed to me. One moment I was napping in my favorite dream world, the one where fairies brought me frosting cakes spun from rainbows and I didn’t have a kid on the way, the next, she was peeing in her drawers at restaurants whenever the baby saw fit to kick her in the bladder, which was always. We had to get ready.
“We have to bring pillows to the first class,” said the Missus, “It’s for some special exercise.”
“Well,” I said, only aware that you certainly needed clean white sheets, hot water and a scalpel at childbirth, “ I guess there’s a reason for that.”
We had signed up for child birthing classes, which is something you just have to do. A friend of mine was trying to explain them to me.
“It’s like Driver’s Ed,” he said, “Pretty boring, except when you get to the gory videos.”
We brought the required pillows. As we both had to meet up after work and head straight down there for the first session, we decided that I- not her, mind you, as her diet was carefully modulated at this point- could buy a famous greasy philly cheese steak from around the corner before we entered.
UCSF is an enormous entity, with buildings and hospitals spider-webbing the entirely of San Francisco. Even this modest incarnation- the Women’s Health Center- had five floors, and it was difficult to know where to go. Fortunately, there were other confused pregnant couples that showed up at approximately the same time. The swollen bellies were a good clue as to whom we all needed to meet, but what really gave us all away as fellow classmates was the fact that that each couple was carrying around exactly two pillows, as if we were all seasoned narcoleptics who met on a very specific dating website.
Someone must have known where the class was- I have a dim memory of following a two-pillowed couple onto an elevator and making the kind of small talk that one does when you are pregnant with two pillows on an elevator- and we settled into our hard plastic chairs.
The beginning of the first class- the first five minutes at least- I remember. What I remember most was that the cheese-steak was extremely drippy, emanated a delicious smell throughout the rather clinical room we were in, and I felt a bit embarrassed to be eating it amongst a passel of pregnant women with Tupperware containers containing organic vegetables that wouldn’t make them nauseous. I felt self conscious, the way you do when you are a man who’s life- down to what you chose to eat- had not changed yet.
We started class. The Enormous Bazongas Woman showed us the power point- in its entirely, that being all fifteen slides- in the first 30 minutes. I was beginning to get bored and I needed a distraction. At that point, my stomach was beginning to rumble. I stared at my greasy yellow fingertips, wondering about what I had just eaten. There were stains on my trousers, and not small ones, where the grease had dripped. I was doing calculations, figuring that if the radius of this spot was over three inches, and most of the grease actually made it into my stomach, then-
“So now, let’s get into groups and discuss”, said Giant Bazongas Woman.
“Especially note how you are feeling,” she added.
I was feeling awful, and not at all thrilled about the prospects of scooting in close to a bunch of strangers in a room that carried smell as instantly as Wi-Fi.
Fortunately, I had two pillows with me.
To be continued…..