My Plastic Freak Out
By Monica Casañas
I created a checklist while pregnant. Get the baby room organized, completely clean the car, get my hospital bag ready, tour the hospital – take a birthing class. I was 6 months pregnant, other than the morning sickness I had in the first trimester, it was smooth sailing.
The baby room and hospital bag got done first. I delighted in organizing baby clothes, blankets and toys. I meticulously folded garments and added toiletries to my overnight hospital bag. The process of doing this induced daydreams and soft visions like those in movies and commercials of pink hues, baby coos and smiles. There was just this one thing – I had not put much thought into the birth process. I knew it would happen – it just seemed so far away.
Despite the waiting list for prenatal hospital tours I managed to get a spot. In that same step I registered my husband and I for a birthing class. I felt so organized, so in control.
We arrived 30 minutes early to the hospital tour. Driving into the parking lot I began to feel panic. I’d been to hospitals before – I was not one of those people that freaked out at going to a hospital, but this time was different. As other couples began trickling in for the tour, I sat trying to contain and identify my nervousness. Part of me was excited and the other was freaking out. As I surveyed the faces of the other moms to-be, it seemed they felt the same as me.
The tour began. Our tour guide was pleasant as she pointed out the cafeteria, the registration area, the family waiting section (full of happy families & balloons) and then the maternity ward.
What a sly move to begin at the window with babies on display! We couldn’t contain ourselves at ooohing and ahhing at these precious newly delivered humans. It was cuteness overload that made me forget about how they came to be in the world. Walking again on a cloud of pink daydreams we entered the delivery room. Holy. Fuck. Reality hit me hard in the face. I would be delivering a tiny human, one way or another, from my body – in this hospital – on this very floor. When the tour ended, we walked to the car and sat quietly as we recomposed ourselves for the trip home. We looked at each other and repeated the phrase that we kept on saying throughout this whole experience – Shit is getting real.
A couple of weeks passed – I was now 8 months pregnant and in full nesting mode. The control of organizing and reorganizing things helped keep my fear of giving birth at bay. We entered the hospital again this time to begin taking birthing classes. Surprisingly I felt ok, like I knew the place. We entered the meeting room, chairs formed in a circle and an older woman greeted us with a warm smile, our class facilitator. I couldn’t believe I was here, sitting in a circle with other pregnant women, ready with yoga mats and pillows. It felt good to be amongst other parents to be who were as scared shitless and clueless as we were. And so it began. We introduced ourselves, watched videos, it all seemed innocent enough until . . . . she brought out the cervix tray.
The cervix tray is a plastic square with indented circles that shows you measurements of dilation. My heart began beating as I focused on the circles. My pupils dilated! I could not look at the cervix tray without nervously laughing and although all the other moms were cool and collected, I completely lost my shit. I nervously laughed and looked at all these women wondering – are you freaked out too? The voice in my head yelled out “This is going to happen to us! Our vaginas are going to go through this excruciating pain – are you all not freaked out?!” Alas, nope – I was the only person having this freak out moment. The tray went around the circle and once it was put away I regained my composure.
I thought I had regained my cool – until the facilitator brought out the plastic model birth canal and fetus. The facilitator showed how the vaginal muscles and bones expanded as she pushed the fetus through. The plastic baby had to go through just the right way in order to be delivered. The clanking of the plastic raised the beating of my heart. Insert freak out no. 2 here. I burst out into nervous laughter again – similar to those psych ward patients they show on tv. Not only was I nervously laughing – my bladder was also beyond my control. Freak out no. 2 was the worst. As the model was passed around the facilitator skipped passing it to me knowing there was no way I could handle holding the model. She was a seasoned birthing class professional – she knew what a freak out looked like! It felt like forever but the model was finally put away. In its’ wake I sat in a puddle of urine. My dear husband, what a patient, kind and forgiving man. As we sat in the puddle of pee, he handed me his sweater so I could wrap my waist with it. The carpet was dark and so were my leggings. I hoped that no one noticed that I had just full blown peed myself. Although to be honest, in a roomful of pregnant women ready to pop, this shouldn’t have been an all too uncommon occurrence. This was only class #1 there were still 3 left to go.
Another couple approached us after class #1 was over. They told me that it would be ok. Those kind words helped me and affirmed that I wasn’t the only one freaking out, just that I was the most vocal and active about it. I learned to bring a stress ball with me for the remainder of classes – which helped me tremendously. Whenever I felt like i was going to burst into nervous laughter or felt I might nervously pee myself again – I squeezed that sucker until my heart rate returned to normal.
I ended up giving birth a month later. It was not vaginal – it was a C-section. I was still incredibly glad to take the class. I was in awe of all the women who have gone through this and who support you through the birth process. The class, the ups and downs, have all been part of this special time in my life. In the end I know I can get through it all as long as I have a stress ball in hand.