Yesterday I attended my second (and final) Preparing for Childbirth class at Kaiser Permanente, and, upon leaving, my thoughts focused on the ohmygodcrucial need for a support group in order to make this a fully positive experience.
We live in a strange situation here at the beginning of the 21st century. Neither my wife nor I are particularly close to home (her folks are 1600 miles away, mine are 400), so it’s impractical for family to help out during the birth. For how long for humans was it simply a given that the family managed the birth (with a midwife?). No longer! In part because of this, we’re hiring a doula, so we can have another member of our team to help handle the ins-and-outs of the hospital where we’re having the baby.
“The hospital” points to the other strange aspect of all this, which is the medicalization of childbirth. I suppose we could have used a birth center, or performed a home birth, but because I’m a member of KP, it made sense to take advantage of their services. But the more you engage in the process, the more you realize that pregnancy and childbirth is managed almost like a disease or other medical condition, and not simply a process as natural to mammals as eating, sleeping, pissing, shitting, fucking, grooming. Obviously, it’s perhaps the most involved of mammalian processes, and, as such, complications are more likely to arise, but you know things are going overboard when you’re told that a woman in labor cannot eat solid food while in the hospital, and you find out the reason for this is because they have to treat her as a candidate for surgery, which requires an empty stomach.
The medicalization passage was a digression, though. Without family around, what we have are our friends. And as we prepare for parenthood, I’m realizing that I have to overcome my inclination to not ask others for help. I hate being a burden and a bother, but, really, you need others to help you through this. (And I also feel like a bit of a schmuck, ’cause I haven’t reached out to help friends who had kids recently, thinking they’d let me know how I could help. I realize now that you cannot wait for someone to ask for help. You just have to give it. Oops.)
It’s clear that child-rearing, particularly at the outset, all but necessitates more than 2 people being involved. I’m guessing that in Ye Olden Days parents didn’t worry nearly as much about lack of sleep and having all the right accessories because there was easy access to a close-knit community that looked after its own. Now, we need to scaffold your home with all manner of baby items, and rather aggressively reach out to others to make sure you’ll have the support you need. (And I consider us lucky, as Stacy has an extremely flexible job, so she’ll be able to take off as long as she needs).
I’m grateful for the close friends that I have, and for the happy coincidence of so many children being born in such rapid succession within this group. I will have to overcome my reticence in asking assistance, and you can be assured that I’ll be first to lend a hand to newly expecting friends.
We’ll see how this goes.