June 13th, 2005

Class

It looks like I'll be taking German 4 as of tomorrow. I'm not sure how bad of an idea this is, but I have requested a chair that is not attached to a desk (I'm darn sure I won't fit in the chair+desk things anymore). I'm a bit concerned about the lack of AC as well.

I had ordered Gottman's _The Marriage Clinic_ in hopes that I would find buried in there results on their work on new parents and the impact of a first child on relationship satisfaction. The numbers I had been seeing (70% of women experience a profound drop in marital satisfaction after the first child arrives) were profoundly worrisome. I don't like 1-in-3 shots. I was hoping Gottman would have suggestions for stacking the deck in our favor. Unfortunately, while I'd seen mention in the book of some of those efforts, I couldn't find the book which should have been written on the topic, or even a decent summary of conclusions. I brought the book with me to read in the waiting room at the midwives on Wednesday, where T. asked us if we'd ever heard of John Gottman. Of course I held up the tome. She had a flyer for a class in October, curricula designed by the Gottmans et al, intended as an intervention to help new parents continue to enjoy each other in the wake of the family addition.

Well. Ask and you shall receive. I in fact frequently say that all I really need to do is say what I really want out loud, and shortly thereafter, an opportunity to have it occurs. I'm not talking world peace here. I'm talking things like boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Nothing major. But this was unusually amusing.

Since October is a long way off, after the arrival of the baby and, most importantly, during leaf season, that night I tracked down a class being taught the next two weekends (last Saturday and next Saturday) and after attempting to sign up on the web and failing, and not getting a reply from the website administrator and leaving a phone message, on Friday I finally managed to get us signed up for the class which we then attended part 1 of on Saturday. Ask and indeed, we received.

All day Saturday (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) we attended class. Lovely couples there, some with baby, some with baby at home, some with baby on board and 1 couple planning to adopt. All nice people, wide range of approaches to birth/parenting/relationships/etc. The Gottmans are training childbirth educators (the people I decided I generally want to avoid) to cover their curricula as part of childbirth education. Smart Gottmans. Insert into existing system. Unfortunately, it means to get at the info, we're stuck dealing with childbirth educators, which are a varied lot.

In particular, there's this weird speech pattern among people who propagandize, er, teach new parents. It involves referring to Baby. What's best for Baby. You will love Baby. Baby will change your lives. Etc. Baby is a name and a title, and Baby occupies a position at the pinnacle of every hierarchy. Everyone else's needs, wants, desires are irrelevant to Baby. Oh, and by the way, Baby is not the, a or your baby. No, Baby is archetypal, springing from the Void. Being from Nothing, Godlike in aspect and, okay, maybe they don't go quite that far.

Give me a f-ing break. While I eagerly anticipate the arrival into the world of the wee one, and I touch and bond with my baby constantly, while I love my baby and am doing a lot for and with my baby, my baby's needs are the needs of one person. A dependent person, one I value enormously, but I value me, too, and R. and a lot of other people. Since they are not dependent, and an adult's needs are rarely as urgent as the needs of a newborn (or unborn) child, I do get that the priorities need to be right or tragic things can happen. But it'd be pretty durn tragic if the kid was doing just great while the rest of us are sacrificing ourselves and our love for each other to help the kid do hypothetically and very marginally better. In fact, this is the _entire point_ of the class. Which our educator undermined by saying, "I know it seems like this class is all about you, but it's really all about Baby." No, it is not. This class is all about maintaining balance, and fulfilling the needs of the parents and their relationships, so we can all avoid showing up on daytime talk shows listening to Dr. Phil tell us that we can only be good mothers (or whatever) if we make sure our own needs are getting met. Something we should have noticed earlier on in the process, before we became raving lunatics and damaged each others psyches beyond ready repair.

Clever Gottmans. Most of the class is video tape, exercises for couples to work through, and the rest is driven by a printed guide. Hard for an educator to modify, and she let slip comments about how they had emphatically told their disciples _not_ to insert anything else into the class. Heh. Nevertheless, she talked over the video (irritating) and interpolated a fair amount of nonsense (as noted above). Most offensive, however, was that at the end, couples are to trade massage. She said she and many other students had questioned whether time in class should really be spent on massage (way to undermine the message there; loving touch between partners is clearly a useless waste of time). The Gottmans were, thank you, thank you, adamant. Massage was in. Our instructor was limited to disrupting the time verbally. She began by telling us to put our heads down on our desks. Ha! I'm 32 1/2 weeks pregnant. Not going to happen, let me tell you, and if I forced the issue, it sure as f- would not be relaxing. I didn't even try. The other woman in T3 (31 1/2 weeks) tried her best (babe, pregnancy can be the ultimate power trip; now is your chance to act out without repercussions -- don't just do what people tell you to do!), and, predictably, failed. Our instructor claims she gave birth to two children, but I am skeptical. Even R., who has never been pregnant and the movie Rabbit Test notwithstanding, never will be, knew this was a stupid suggestion. Our instructor, when confronted with the impossibility of compliance, changed tactics only slightly. She suggested reversing our chairs, straddling them, and leaning forward on the back.

Oh, please. It's a belly. It doesn't compress. That's not that comfortable when I was just _fat_; pregnant it is a combination of acutely uncomfortable and quite scary.

In any event, both of us ignored her and made ourselves as comfortable as we could. Our instructor resorted to narrating a fairly unimaginative-to-bad massage, which was mostly possible to tune out. After I muttered some feedback to R. about what was good and what wasn't working, she suggested that we could tell our partners what we liked. I'll tell you, if this is at all representative of childbirth educator culture, you won't catch me near another class without damn good reason. I will, of course, put up with the other session, because the Gottman vids are worthy, and the people are nice.

Anyone reading who has run into the oral language quirk I refer to above (Baby as name+title, the pinnacle of all hierarchies, used without a/the/my/etc.), I'd love to hear your take on it, and any examples you can think of off hand.