Pregnant during lockdown: A unique kind of birthing class

Pregnant during lockdown: A unique kind of birthing class

Thanks to Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown, a number of industries have been forced to rethink the way they do things and to move a lot of their business online. This is no different for the baby industry. Baby expos are being held online, stork teas are done via zoom and I am very surprised that gynaecologists have not yet designed an app with which patients can undergo a virtual sonogram without having to visit the doctor. 

In a similar fashion, midwives and birthing experts are hosting pre-natal classes via Zoom. This being my very first pregnancy, me and my hubby started these online classes a few weeks ago.

First I should probably mention that I am deadly scared of giving birth. The whole idea of a small human being plucked from your lower abdominal area, be it with metal clamps or a surgeon’s knife, while you are – for the most part- at your full consciousness, is too disturbing for me to contemplate. As a matter of fact, I can’t even watch one episode of Grey’s Anatomy without wanting to get rid of my lunch. 

As the evening of our first prenatal session drew closer, I started to have my doubts about the whole idea. Do I really want to have all the gruesome detail before I enter the birthing ward in September? But the classes were already booked and paid for, so I put on a brave face and sat down in front of the computer at 18:30 sharp on Tuesday evening. 

My husband and I awkwardly greeted about twelve other parents through the screen. I then started making notes as the birthing specialist provided information about weight gain during pregnancy, foods to avoid and how to make sure your little one got a head start on developing his or her brain. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought to myself as I started to relax against the couch.

The slide on the screen suddenly changed to a picture of a bloodied baby being lifted from a woman’s open abdomen and my stomach lurched. 

I saw the phrases “vaginal tear”, “haemorrhaging” and “damage to rectal sphincter” moving across the screen… (Note to those who still plan on getting pregnant: Apparently hormones and the joy of holding your baby in your arms make the whole ordeal seem like a ride in the park. I’ll let you know when I get there.)

One by one my fellow classmates turned off their screens, but I wasn’t giving in that easily. On the screen appeared a picture of a baby, halfway through the birth canal, being removed with what looked like a giant pair of pliers placed on either side of the baby’s head. Apparently babies sometimes become stuck and need to be removed using “paddles” or “tongs”. That was the breaking point for me and I felt the tears melt down my face. My hubby quickly turned off the video and duck for the bathroom, retrieving a roll of toilet paper. I cried so hard for the rest of the session that I could barely hear the rest of the instructions.

As the session came to an end, I didn’t dare ask any of the millions of questions I had, for fear I would break down in front of everyone else in the class. Clearly I wasn’t alone, as no one said another word or turned on their cameras again as the instructor ended the lesson and reminded us of the date and time of the next class. 

I sat there, shell shocked, as we left the Zoom session. I was massively relieved that I didn’t actually need to face these people in real life while bawling my eyes out, and could hide behind a turned-off-camera. For once I was grateful for lockdown and the fact that I didn’t have to interact with people face to face, but could do it from the comfort of my own couch with a roll of toilet paper propped on the pillow and my hubby rubbing my back sympathetically.   

I have since relaxed somewhat about the whole birthing process. After all, billions of woman have done it before me, many of them without any painkillers or anaesthetics. What effect Covid-19 will have on this life changing experience however, remains to be seen…

Elaine Krige

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