A Lasting Impression


(Or rip, maybe? I promise this is not a post about what happens as the baby is being born. Trust me.)

Last night I slept like crap. I don’t know why, but I did. I’m someone who needs at least six hours of sleep in order to function. That’s not a ton of sleep and is a lot less than what most people need, but when I get less than six hours I’m not too happy about it.

The only thing that was making my sleepless night somewhat okay, was that at 4 am when I went to the bathroom, I sketched out my whole post for today in my mind’s eye. I was awake – this was not me sleepwalking or anything – and, if I do say so myself, this post was going to be brilliant, except for one thing… When I woke up – POOF! Gone. I have no images, no direction, not the slightest idea about my brilliant post for today’s blog. I only have one word: “FIRST.”

So, I guess it’s fair to say that, this is my first day of not knowing what to write about. There are so many firsts with pregnancy, birth and parenting – but that might be my problem – too many things to choose from! Which is why last night when I struck gold I was so happy. Until I forgot. And of course, the more I try to remember the more it feels like someone has placed an unbreakable lock on that corner of my brain and they won’t give up the combination for anything. Oh, well…

For lack of anything more profound to say, I’m going to write about the first time I really embarrassed myself in front of a group of students. It’s a pretty good story…

I was coming back after maternity leave with my 4th baby. It was early Summer and I had to search through my clothes to find something to wear. I found an old pair of capris that I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to wear just yet. I was only three months postpartum, but to my delight, they fit. They weren’t even tight! I was so excited. I couldn’t remember when I’d bought these particular pair of pants, but I know I hadn’t put them on in close to two years. Feeling pretty good about myself, I threw them on and raced off to teach my class.

This was week two of the series and during the 2nd half we were going to cover some basic positions and other comfort techniques so couples would have some ideas of how to continue to progress through their labors. I’d already talked about slow dancing, the “doula’s hula,” and lunging. I’d covered effleurage and back massage. I had shown them two different forms of counter pressure. I was cooking!

Then, it was time to show them how to squat during their labors.

Squatting can provide up to 30% more room for a baby to get down and out of the birth canal, so this is something that needs to be covered. I had the partners sit backwards in their chairs to act as the counterweight for the pregnant folks to hold onto as they moved into a squatting position.

I showed them two different ways to squat: either standing tall leaning over the back of the chair and allowing their legs to be splayed wide with nice loose knees, or all the way down into a full squat, feet flat on the ground, kind of hanging and holding onto the back of the chair.

I showed them a couple of times what the high squat looked like and then again what the low squat looked like. High, low, high – and then just as I was about to go low again I heard a loud R-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-P! And then my old (apparently very old capris) gave out on me! Oh they tore alright – but not like a little tear, they were ripped wide open from the crotch all the way up to the waistline in the back. There was a huge, gaping hole that was now exposing my backside – and whatever post baby underwear I’d put on that day!

Now you might think that I would start freaking out, but no. I thought it was the most hysterical moment of my teaching career! In fact, I jumped up and said loud enough for everyone to hear, “Oh my Gosh – I just ripped my pants!”

The lights were low, but they weren’t that low, and all of a sudden everyone in the class erupted with laughter! I had tears streaming down my face I was laughing so hard. There was absolutely no way to hide what had happened, and I knew that people would feel terrible for me if I acted embarrassed, so I didn’t. I laughed harder and louder than everyone else and gave them permission to laugh right along with me. 

This actually ended up being great for me! I was preparing a presentation for an International Conference that was happening about four months later and my topic was teaching with humor! In my mind, this could not have happened at a better time!

But now what to do? I still had 20 minutes of class time left and some serious stuff to share with them before they left for the evening. So, I asked one of the partners to grab a poster off the wall – the biggest one in the room – and then I got creative! I wrapped my bum in blue painters tape and a poster of laboring folks and their partners modeling various positions. I became a walking billboard as I encouraged them to continue practicing a few more comfort measures.

I ended that class with all fo the pregnant folks in a hands and knees position leaning forward into their partner’s lap. I did this on purpose, because partners can’t do anything but give a great massage in this position. It’s like the back is right in front of them and they just start doing it without any prompting.

It allowed me to reassure the partners that they already have it in them to support the person they love most through the labor and birth experience. They’ve been doing it all along!

They held their hair back when they were throwing up in early pregnancy, they ran out and found them good watermelon (in January, no less!) They listened to them process their day and their experience of pregnancy over and over again.

On the “Big Day,” partners don’t have to be professional doulas, they just need to show up and be there for their person – like they already have been – through each and every contraction.

This is what I needed to share with the class on the day that I ripped my pants in two. And you know what? After about five minutes of sustained laughter, they settled back down, took in what I had to say and they really got it. It was nice.

Then, I told them all to get out because I had a huge, gaping hole in my pants that I needed to fix. And they all erupted in laughter again.

It’s so good as an educator to remember to not take yourself too seriously – stuff happens, and you’re the one who sets the tone for the whole class.  Acknowledge it, laugh about it, move on and then, maybe, laugh about it again. I kept those pants and took them with me to the conference – I didn’t tell that particular story, but it helped me to take myself less seriously, even as I was on the big stage.

Take that, brain freeze! I was able to write about the word first – maybe not in the brilliant way I’d planned, but isn’t that how it always is? I’m not a fan of making too many plans – in birth or life, in general. And I think this post might just be me getting a taste of my own medicine.

Are you willing to share with me a moment of true embarrassment in front of a group of people? How did you handle it? Ever have brain freeze? I’d love some tips on how to get through that

Meet Barb

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