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“Relaxation”

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I am laying on a yoga mat in the front of the auditorium, in the midst of about eight other similarly-sized and -shaped women and their partners. Last week, when the lights were turned down and the music started, we were encouraged to close our eyes and just breathe as our partners used various massage techniques over our burdened bodies. Given that I hadn’t slept through the night in months and that it was just about bedtime, I nearly drifted off, and only just barely was able to peel myself off the mat and drive home.

This week, however, is apparently Discomfort Week. After two and a half hours of listening to and watching stories of interventions ranging from narcotic injections (mildly scary) to episiotomies (pretty frightening) and monitors that are screwed into the top of a baby’s skull (actually pretty terrifying), we again recline on the floor for “relaxation.” Except this time, it’s not just about massage and breathing; oh no, they’re handing out clothespins. These clothespins, we learn, are to simulate contractions.

“Partners,” says the RN/doula who leads the class, “find a place that will cause some pain but not leave a mark.” Great, I think, she’s setting us up for a little light domestic abuse. We agree that I won’t be able to feel much in the way of discomfort on my hands, fingers, or earlobes, and decide that the tip of my nose is a prime candidate for clothespinning.

As the “contractions” build, peak, and dissipate, my nose is pinched and my eyes involuntarily water, regardless of the presence or absence of music, touch, and soothing encouragement. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” I accuse. He assures me that he isn’t, and clips the clothespin to his own nose in solidarity. Finally, after about five of these simulated labor pains, we’re allowed to collect ourselves and belongings and head home.

We’re almost done with our childbirth prep class, within five weeks or so of my due date, and nearly prepared, equipment-wise, to welcome a baby into our house. I’m willing to bet that contractions are going to be a little different from the old nose-in-a-clothespin trick, but hey, at least they tried to prepare us, right?