Childbirth education classes are a necessary evil.
If you’re going to push something the size of a watermelon out of an orifice that is usually the size of a blueberry, then you need some training. Very few first time parents are willing to go through the whole birth thing without at least a little bit of formal advice, and sadly that advice is rarely delivered privately.
Not since high school have you been packed like hairy little anchovies, side by side into a small space, and expected to bond over a single commonality. The environment is distinctly awkward, the subject matter confronting, the props just plain weird and your fellow participants? Well, they’re the most challenging part of the whole childbirth education experience.
Luckily, you don’t need to be unprepared for the friend-making element of the class. Who to avoid and who to buddy up with is something you can study for in advance. The couples you want to be furthest away from (and avoid any group activity with) will inevitably fall into one of seven deeply annoying categories.
Read the list and learn to identify them, like native birds, by their distinct markings, trademark noises and toiletry behaviours. And then? Pick your seat as carefully as you possibly can. (Whatever you do, don’t sit next to number 4).
1. The super prepared couple who have read EVERY baby book (and want the whole room to know it).
She is dressed in super-comfy, designer maternity wear and is wearing the most sensible of sensible shoes. He’s come prepared too, ready to get down on the floor and deliver the best supportive massage of anyone else in the room. They nod knowingly when medical terms like ‘pre-eclampsiya’ or ‘funds’ or ‘alpha fetoprotein’ are used. They exchange pitying smug glances with one another whenever someone has a question. Dad-to-be regularly interrupts, belittles and clarifies the midwife’s perfectly reasonable explanations.
2. The hippy couple where mum-to-be’s birth plan is Absolutely. Not. Negotiable.
These two haven’t read a single conventional parenting book but have done their own research, which they will use as cover to tell everybody else in the class that they’re going to give birth wrong. For these two, a natural vaginal birth is not a preferred option, it is a requirement. They talk in hushed, musical tones about the benefits of Himalayan salt lamps, flinch whenever the word ‘epidural’ is thrown into conversation and don’t need an iPod birth playlist because chimes and guitars are far more soooooooothing.
3. The trendy couple who are too cool for name tags, activities and everyone in the room.
This couple are easy to spot because they will inevitably be late. They will skip the whole ‘write a name tag’ business because they’re above that and dawdle on the way back from every class break. The pair will spend most of the class gazing at their mobile phones, reading articles on the New York Times website about Hillary Clinton’s chances in the Iowa caucuses. They smirk during the small group activities and watch the clock as intently as year 11 students waiting for the school bell.
4. The couple where dad-to-be thinks he’s hilarious (but isn’t) and his partner just looks exhausted.
Karma is a bitch and as a result this mum-to-be will have had the most painful and difficult of pregnancies. She’ll be completely wiped out, be sitting propped up on a pillow, massaging her painful lower back and look like she’s mid-labour, rather than heading into the final weeks of pregnancy. Her partner is a smart arse, desperate for the attention of the room and cracking a series of very unfunny jokes about dropping/hurting/killing/harming his baby by accident. Words like ‘lactation’ and ‘mucus’ cannot pass the midwife’s lips without him chiming in with another zinger.
5. The touchy-feely couple who are a little bit too into the active birth stuff.
Ain’t no question about how these two managed to get pregnant. Instead of sitting politely on chairs beside one another, this couple will position themselves on one another’s lap, on the floor between open legs or in a karma sutra like pose on the fit ball. So excited they are about the physicality of birth that they are practically having intercourse instead of acting out labour positions. They’re the only couple in the room who are still having regular and non-painful sex; an act they’re likely to repeat in the birth suite, in order to get the endorphins and oxytocin flowing.
6. The painfully annoying couple, who took the ‘there are no stupid questions’ instruction literally.
Classes always begin with a midwife kindly explaining that everyone is here to learn and that no question is a stupid question. This is a lie. There are stupid questions. There are so, so, so many stupid questions. And this couple will ask them all. From “If the baby is a girl, can it get pregnant if we have sex while pregnant?” to “Am I allowed to leave the room to go to the toilet while she’s in labour?” and “Why don’t the dads get given meals too?”
7. The couple where dad-to-be is a little confused and thinks it’s all about him.
When you go around the circle to talk about the hardest parts of pregnancy so far and fears about labour, there is inevitably one dad-to-be who thinks those questions are more about him than his partner. He’ll wax lyrical about how frustrating it is that he might have to leave work thinking his wife is in labour, when she actually isn’t. He’ll complain about how tired he is because she wakes him up so regularly at night when she uses the bathroom. He’ll be terrified about seeing all the blood during labour and fear that her vagina will never be the same. Pro tip: Try to accidentally trip him on the way out, or offer his wife a bite of your muesli bar. She’s got a tough road ahead.
So… which couple were you?