birth prep classes and the alien game

When I find boredom creeping up through my limbs, I play what I call the alien game. To play, you look around and imagine how what ever is around you would look to aliens fresh out of the hatch. I imagine that it’s human procreation that would most baffle the aliens, assuming that they did’t happen to have a similar biological casing.

I imagine an alien returning home from an observation trip to Earth to give a lecture on what he/she/it/Zarlgdar learned and describing human mating rituals as he/she/it/Zarlgdar had understood them: “…and once they find a partner, they like to be alone to rub all their wet bits together.” The crown would gasp, or maybe just giggle and look at each other with raised eyebrows (unless of course they didn’t have vocal chords or faces or eyebrows). Think about any human custom long enough or describe it in an unfamiliar way, and suddenly everything we do starts to seem utterly strange and random.

Take leg shaving for example. Even though I did it myself for years, having given it up about six years ago has put enough space between me and the habit that I can no longer fathom what would inspire anyone to put so much time and money and effort into something that, to my eyes, looks so weird. I’m sure the aliens would be equally baffled. Which is why I sometimes find myself in situations where I feel like I might actually be the alien visiting Earth.

Like in my last birth class. Though I’ve been enjoying getting to know even more about my midwife’s philosophies and practicing relaxation and controlled breathing and positions on the yoga ball, classes have become a little boring. Conversations revolve around hospital issues—I am the only one in the class opting for a home birth—and I tend to keep my few questions about home birthing to myself knowing that they won’t interest anyone else and that I can talk about them with my midwife at a later appointment without wasting anyone else’s time. Not a big deal though; I figure the information could still be useful sometime and file it under “good to know.”

But during our last class and one of the many spontaneous question and answer sessions, leg shaving came up. A handful of women started chattering about how they wanted to make sure they had time to get their legs and bikini lines neatly shaved when the contractions started but before the birth really got rolling. Because they would feel uncomfortable being stubbly in front of the midwife/doctor/their partner. OK, weird priority from my perspective, I thought, but not surprising considering. Then came the topic of shit.

You see, when you’re pressing a baby out, there is pretty much no way to prevent a little bit of it coming along as well. It’s not the most pleasant thought, but hell, it’s not like anybody’s never dealt with the stuff before. And the way I imagine it, when you’re busy pushing an eight, nine pound baby out of your body, a little poop is the least of your worries.

More than a handful of my classmates were horrified. HORRIFIED. There were frantic questions and wide eyes. “Can you tell when it’s going to happen?” one woman wanted to know. “So that I could send everyone out of the room?” People nodded in agreement at the thought. “Or maybe I’ll just stop eating as soon as I go into pre-labor,” she went on. “If only there was some way to know when you were going to go into labor so you could fast for 24 hours beforehand.” Great. Just before beginning one of the most energy-intense experiences of your life, something often equated with the exertion required to run a marathon, start fasting so you don’t end up pooping a little in front of your partner (who loves you no matter what, right?), your midwife (who frankly doesn’t give a shit, hardeeharhar), and some doctor (who you’ll never see again). In that moment I didn’t even need the alien game to find our customs—particularly the western woman’s tendency to want to hide anything to do with her bowels or her body hair, though both tendencies I once harbored myself—really fucking strange.

Have you ever played the alien game? What struck you as strangest about your surroundings?

0 Comments on “birth prep classes and the alien game

  1. heh, I do this too but more from the point of a human say…. a thousand years ago. It helps me to see how weird and incredible things like cars and skyscrapers and mobile phones are.

    I think my high point of boggle eyed surreality was watching an inline skate marathon through the streets of Berlin. Thousands of people in multi coloured, shiny, skin tight outfits with numerous tiny wheels where their feet should be. I just couldn’t find any reference point to give it sense for a Victorian (Briton) or a cave man etc!

  2. haveyouseenthisgirl: Oooh that’s a cool approach to it too. I like that. Is much more fathomable than an alien too, since I figure other forms of life could be (probably are) so incredibly different from us that we couldn’t even fathom them or their perspective. Love how weird the image of the inline skaters can be from the right angle. Heh.

  3. Love your blog! I’ve been really enjoying for a few weeks now. I remember being horrified at the thought of shitting myself, too, when I heard about it in birthing class. Little did I know that while giving birth you are in such a state of what I can only describe as “animalness” that things like that don’t even register on the radar anymore! I couldn’t have cared less and I’m a leg-shaving kind of girl.

  4. Without even trying to look from an alien perspective, the marvels of skyscrapers, planes, phones, etc. still mystify me.

    Re: bikini line shaving – how is it possible when you are that pregnant? I couldn’t see mine for months. And no way was I gonna go through the hassle of using a mirror.

    Re: pooping – happened to me, I was so out of it I laughed like I was completely stoned and said “get a picture of them wiping my butt”.

  5. p.s. I can understand though how women would want to avoid the pooping in front of a crowd. When I first found out that’s what usually happens I was horrified, but I guess after you’ve been through it you realize it’s no big deal.

  6. Believe me, once they’re having contractions for real or get to the pushing stage, they will have no energy, mind or will left to worry about poop, stubble, whether their legs are fat, what they look like, whether they’re giving birth to a baby or an alligator, the state of the world in general. The whole of one’s being focuses on pushing. The. Baby. OUT.
    And stubble be damned.

    * Giving birth is actually quite a wonderful experience, in spite of the apparent inevitability of poop.I loved it.

  7. I’m not sure it’s what ‘usually’ happens – lots of women get the runs for a couple of days before labour, or even in early labour, which clears it all out. My husband was near the business end during all of my labours and assured me there was no poo involved in any of them. I think I believe him.

    Frankly if during labour you feel the need to have a giant poo, rejoice, because that almost certain means birth is imminent. My youngest child escaped being born in the bathroom by about ooh, 2 minutes.

  8. very fun idea, probably even the modern office would look alien to people who worked in offices back on the 1910’s, 20’s (sorry im at my office job right now so have no other point of reference, lol) as far as the shaving I don’t care who sees my hairy legs esp during a birth. but the pooping thing!? ah it freaks me out. I’m still years (hopefully) away from my first pregnancy but I do hope to have a home birth. hopefully i’ll be able to waddle over to a toilet if the need arises.

  9. Shit happens. That is what the goldfish net is for. And no, you will not care during birth. And no, your midwife will not pay any attention to your leg or pubic hair. (Like one of the other commenters, I couldn’t see my bikini line for months leading up to birth.) And yes, all those women who are worried about that crap (literally) are idiots.

  10. I just got back from assisting at a childbirth prep class here, and yes…the things people get hung up on are so strange. I think if it were me looking at a hospital birth, the idea of someone poking a giant needle into my spine to put my legs to sleep would be the freakiest thing imaginable.

  11. As you know I play that game all the time, except I, like other commenters, think about time travelers from previous eras more than anything. I was being astonished at something the other day… it might have been a lamp post… but yes I usually pause at least once a day to look around and think, this is all just WEIRD.

  12. I wonder if these women realize that they’ll also be pushing a FUCKING HUMAN BEING–one covered in unfamiliar goop and mucous and blood, etc–out of their bodies. Or is that kind of goop especially miraculous to them and they are totally cool with all that mess? Plus, how many of their loved ones are REALLY going to be actually watching the head emerge from the vagina? And, for the ones who are (and are not medical professionals), how many will not (even if just subconsciously) be thinking, “that is the grossest thing I’ve ever seen”?

    Also, even having lived in Los Angeles now for 3 1/2 years, I am STILL baffled by how hung up people are about their hair. Why bother doing anything to the bikini line while you’re pregnant?

  13. I don’t actually play the alien game, but I’m constantly shocked and disgusted by the way most things seem to happen in the world. In other words how cruel we humans are to animals, nature and each other. I often feel like an alien in that I can’t stomach the ‘regular’ stuff the way many appear to do.

  14. Frugal Vegan Mom: Haha, I remember you telling that story. Or was it even a part of a video you posted? Anyway, priceless.

    I can understand being a little freaked hearing about the poop factor for the first time, but to want to fast before birth just struck me as completely brain dead.

    Susann: That was my take on it in class too… “Don’t you think you might have other things to worry about at that moment?” And stubble be damned indeed!

    Freya: Statistically, it is what usually happens (about 2 in a 100 don’t experience it, apparently), for whatever stats are worth.I feel like rejoicing is in order at that moment too. Haha, I have a friend who said when that finally happened she was just so damn relieved.

    Sarah Allison: From the sounds of it, I don’t think it’s usually a toilet kind of moment as it’s usually not full on poop at that moment. The baby pushes anything left in your intestines out of you in front of it.

    Lauren: Heh. Shit happens. Exactly. And for the record I can’t frankly understand why anyone does anything with their pubic hair ever. And I really wish that there were more bathing suit designers taking that into account.

    Lyssa: That is SO how I feel. There is one woman in my class who talks about people who plan home births like they’re nuts (she doesn’t know there is someone in the class planning one, and actually I really need to tell her that she comes across in a really hurtful way every time she reacts to the mention of one), and I always just think, but you want to let a stranger stick needles in your spine?! Insanity is totally relative.

    Fishie: Haha, yup, weird.

    Jill: I wonder that myself, if the women worried about the poop realize that they’ll be passing all sorts of bloody gunk too. No idea. And as I said above, my stance is, why bother doing anything to the bikini line ever?

    Sara: I hear ya there.

  15. In the long ago time when I gave birth to my son, we were given castor oil in orange juice so as to expel all the shit before you were going to give birth. That was horrible as you were running to the loo all the time. And there was still some remaining. Obviously they don’t do that now!

  16. Didn’t poop during my childbirths. In fact, my body expelled all waste a good while before the first contraction. I was in water a good bit of the time with my first and would not have been happy to be sitting in my sheisse or to have fouled the tub. Is it really that common? None of my girlfriends have either.

  17. Anni: I’ve read a ton of stories about using castor oil that way. Was never sure if I thought it sounded like a good or a bad idea. All the running to the toilet sounds annoying though.

    GinBerlin: About 2 in 100 don’t let out a little shit during birth, according to my midwife, who is basing her numbers on attending between 3,500 and 4,000 births so far. But most people don’t even notice. But oh yeah that would be rather nasty during a water birth, now wouldn’t it?

  18. Gotta add my voice to the “2 births and no poop” faction. It’s fairly usual to let it all out in the earlier stages of labour, I think. The baby doesn’t want to have to do battle with a blocked bowel on its way out! But yeah, at that point in your labour, you’re really not going to care. I’ve a friend who was horrified by the fact that I was naked in front of other people for my home water birth. Birth is so primal, there’s just no room for hang-ups.

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  20. It is nice to stumble upon your blog!
    I was actually thinking about what would aliens think of while seeing … a bunch of sweaty women at the gym! I am referring to the group lessons, when u have to repeat the moves of the instructor. Hilarious!

  21. Sleep. I always think that powering down for 1/3 of one’s entire day is very strange, and that another species might be baffled at how we just lie there. I mean, it’s really a long time to be unconscious. Of course, I’m someone who sets an alarm on weekends to avoid sleeping 16 hours, so the act has always been on my mind.

  22. Katherine: I think the point that a lot of folks freaked out by the potential poop factor don’t realize is that it usually isn’t much we’re talking about here, just whatever’s left in there or has been digested in the time between the early stages of labor when you might have gotten most everything out…

    Maegan: YES! I think about sleep like that sometimes too. How fucking weird is it that we just sort of turn off and lay somewhere completely vulnerable and whatnot for 8 frickin hours every night? Love it. Totally bizarro.

  23. I find it difficult enough to explain things to an imaginary visitor from just 50 years ago. I play that game a lot. But when it comes to childbirth norms, I guess an American or European from 1962 would identify more with your classmates than with you.

    I like to brag that I scrubbed the bathtub, shaved my legs, and sucked cock while in active labor. 😀 I didn’t shave out of concern for my appearance but because feeling smooth makes me feel physically competent, ready to dance or swim without friction, and I hoped it would work for giving birth, too. When I awoke at 5am in labor I followed my instincts first to soak in a bath (it happened that the tub was dirty) and then to shave. That feeling of frictionless competence was helpful to me.

    Having had many periods that were immediately preceded by diarrhea, I was certain that would happen to me in labor. It didn’t, and I did poop a bit during pushing. I didn’t waste a lot of time worrying about it, but I was kind of freaked out that I was completely unaware of it happening and wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t seen it in the mirror, so when I did see it I said, “What’s that black stuff?!” with a surge of horror. My partner was somewhat grossed out but says it would have been a lot worse if Bradley class had not mentioned that this might happen.

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  25. HAHAHA, OH MY GOD JUST FOUND THIS AND IT’S PERFECT FOR THIS POST!!!! Too bad I didn’t find it earlier. Maybe I’ll have to go back and make it this post’s photo. Grin.

    Damn it, the card it’s showing is different from what the thumbnail says. Anyway, thumbnail says: “I still love you even though you shit all over the delivery table.” What that one actually says is really stupid.

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