My baby sister, Christina, is pregnant. This is still weird for me on several levels since she will forever be 13 in my mind. But, I guess she does have a husband and a college degree now, so, by society's standards, she is not really jumping the gun. (For the record, she isn't 13 anymore either).
So, as her pregnancy has progressed, I have got to play the older, wiser, big sister. I've shared all of my terrible labor stories and related the merits of sleep training. You know, all of the stuff that every expecting woman needs to know.
But, there is one thing I have failed to relate. My Lamaze class experience. So, I give it to her and you now. When I was pregnant with J, my husband and I took prenatal classes from a Lamaze instructor. There was one problem, though. My mind doesn't exactly work like everyone else's. It just doesn't. So, as the rest of the class was finding their focus point and pretending they were on a beach, I was calculating how many minutes were left in the class. I just couldn't put myself on a beach when we were sitting at least 500 miles from the nearest one. Maybe this is why I've never been able to enjoy reading science fiction. If I'm going to read fiction, it better be realistic fiction.
So, week after week, we attended the class. And, week after week, I became more convinced than ever that an epidural was going to be my only hope for making it through labor. In all fairness, there was one point of the class that I did get - the pushing phase. The plan was, that I was going to push while someone counted to ten, and then I could stop and breathe for a moment. I could do that. It was real. It was measurable. It was quantifiable. Check. Check. Check.
So, the night finally came. I went into labor. I timed contractions, and then I announced to my poor husband, who was preparing for a presentation for class the next day, that it was time to go to the hospital. When I arrived, the people in charge confirmed that I was, indeed, in labor. That is when I put my plan into action. I announced that I would please like my epidural now, pretty please, yes?
The epidural was administered and life was good. It didn't matter that I hadn't found a focus object or even been able to envision the shores of Utah Lake. I was happy and comfortable and playing pinochle with the aforementioned little sister. Then, hours later, something bad happened. The epidural stopped working and I could feel pain and it hurt. Yes, it hurt very bad. But, the midwife assured me that the baby was almost here and it was probably best that I just push it out and call it a day rather than trying to find other solutions for the suddenly non-working epidural. But, you see, it hurt really bad. Not just a little bit, but really, really bad.
So, I tried to think back to my Lamaze class. I couldn't remember anything. Wasn't I suppose to concentrate on something? But who could concentrate when everything hurt so bad? What was wrong with these people? Couldn't they see I was in pain? Am I not in a hospital? Okay, let's see, Lamaze. Um, I'm suppose to push while someone counts to ten. I remember that part. But, it wasn't time to push quite yet. Then I started to hyperventilate and the nurse freaked out and told me that I had to slow down my breathing. So, my husband started counting with me. He counted 1-2-3 as I breathed in and 4-5-6 as I breathed out. As each contraction hit, and they were pretty constant at this point, he counted to six and I breathed in and out and somehow I delivered that baby.
That simple method of counting to six has helped me several times since. When marathon training, I used the same breathing pattern and it carried me through miles. I counted to six over and over and over and 26.2 miles later I would manage to cross the finish line. My older sister and my husband have both claimed that I rhythmically breathe in my sleep sometimes too. When I received the call that my sister passed away this summer, I pulled myself back from a couple of sessions of hysterical crying using this same method.
So, for the left-brained among you, I am offering you my own prenatal advice (free of charge - how generous of me). When you go into labor. Just count to six.