The first of our three baby classes, “Lamaze Basics,” took place last Saturday. We elected for the all-day marathon session. The following one act is based on our experience.
[scene: Hospital classroom]
[BEN and ERIN arrive early with pillows and blanket in tow. OTHER COUPLES, nine in all, filter in. Everyone is wearing comfortable clothes except for WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS, who is wearing a summer dress and heels. MARY ANN, instructor, writes notes on a whiteboard. Soft, soothing music plays on a stereo.]
BEN: Which ones do you think will be natural?
[BEN and ERIN survey room, eventually settle on couple next to them and exchange knowing glance and then head nod.]
ERIN: Hey, I will give you $1000 if you ask, ‘How can my wife achieve orgasm during labor?’
BEN: I’m putting that in our post.
ERIN: You can take notes for a post, but you have to pay attention too.
MARY ANN: Welcome everyone. Let’s go around and say our names, our due dates, what gender your baby will be, assuming you know that, and then finally, what you hope to get out of today’s class. Let’s start over here.
[COUPLES begin sharing. The class is evenly split between those who know if it will be a boy or girl and those who don’t.]
MARY ANN: Very good. Thanks everyone. I should’ve gone first, my name is Mary Ann and my credentials are that, besides being a nurse here, I have two daughters so I’ve been right where you’re sitting. I’m also now a grandmother, so I’ve been on that side too. In fact, I will be referring to my oldest daughter so often today that, assuming any of you will write this up as a one act play on your blog, you should just go ahead and capitalize her as MARY ANN’S DAUGHTER because she will be a central character and you will learn interesting things about both her and myself that may shock and offend you. All right then!
[MARY ANN picks up a skeleton pelvis and a baby doll.]
MARY ANN: Childbirth comes down to some basic physics. This baby needs to go through this opening, the cervix. As you can see from this chart, you will need to be ten centimeters dilated before you’re reading to push.
[ERIN gulps. Various women in the room look agape. WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS appears visibly shaken by the dilation chart. HUSBAND OF WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS smirks at her, as if to say, “Gotcha!”]
MARY ANN: Now when the baby moves down the birth canal we’re hoping he or she will come out head first and face up, like this —
[MARY ANN crams baby doll through skeletal cervix.]
— and not like this —
[MARY ANN pokes baby’s hand through cervix and waves it.]
— or this —
[MARY ANN sticks baby’s foot through cervix.]
— or this.
[MARY ANN rotates baby so it goes feet first.]
Now I’m going to pass around some charts that show shocking illustrations of forceps and vacuum use should your baby need assistance coming out.
[MARY ANN hands charts out. WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS looks at forceps chart as if it has been smeared with bird poop.]
BEN: What do you think is going through her head right now?
ERIN: “Get this baby out of me now.”
MARY ANN: Now, let’s reenact the birth using this mesh bag as the placenta. The baby will come through like this, and do this, and come out here, and then after that the placenta will just —
[MARY ANN pulls the placenta through and drops it on the table. It goes “plunk.”]
— come out like that! Any questions?
[Most couples are wide-eyed and silent. Two are nodding in agreement with the miracle of childbirth as demonstrated by a skeletal pelvis, a baby doll and a mesh bag as the placenta.]
MARY ANN: Now, the placenta will look different depending on a few different things. My daughter, for example, smoked while she was pregnant —
[BEN and ERIN exchange alarmed glances.]
— and as a result when her placenta came out it sort of looked like chopped beef.
[ERIN and other women suppress dry heaves.]
So that’s one reason I would definitely advise you not to smoke when you’re pregnant. Hopefully none of you do!
[Lights go down, spotlight on MARY ANN as she turns to the side for a soliloquy.]
MARY ANN: Maybe that’s why my daughter only gained 16 pounds during her pregnancy. But she liked crystals and I bought her a crystal for her delivery. She also got a tattoo across her stomach two weeks before she found out she was pregnant. She asked if it would stretch, and I told her, “Well of course it will!” I think she also had difficulty delivering because she was in a car accident when she was young.
[Lights come back, MARY ANN turns back to the class. Class’s expression is different variations on “WTF?”]
MARY ANN: Now let’s watch some movies and then we’ll have lunch!
[BEN laughs. No one else does.]
MARY ANN: We’ll see three births, the first with an epidural, the second a natural birth, and the last one a Caesarean section.
WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS [raising hand]: So you’re going to show the actual births?
MARY ANN: Yes, we will.
ERIN [raising hand]: Do moms ever pass out during delivery?
MARY ANN: Not usually. Why, do you faint sometimes?
ERIN: Well, sometimes. I mean, I have before.
MARY ANN: Is this a regular occurrence?
ERIN: No, it’s a hospital thing.
MARY ANN: Well, I’ll announce right before the actual births happen so anyone can close their eyes or leave the room if they want.
[MARY ANN puts in video and dims lights. The first video is about HEATHER, who receives an epidural. She is in labor for 14 hours.]
MARY ANN: The average labor is sixteen hours, so many couples bring movies to watch. Each delivery room has a television.
[BEN writes “What movies will you watch?” on a slip of scratch paper. Below that he writes “Cache?” and slips paper to ERIN.]
[ERIN crosses it out and writes “Requiem For a Dream.”]
MARY ANN: All right, here comes the birth.
[HEATHER delivers her baby, a girl. Some couples are smiling, others appalled. WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS looks as though she just watched The Wicker Man.]
MARY ANN: Now we’ll see a natural birth. Who here is planning to deliver naturally?
[The couple BEN and ERIN tagged raises hand. BEN and ERIN nod and give discreet fist bump. Another couple across room raises hand. BEN and ERIN look at one another in shock.]
ERIN: Did you see that coming?
BEN: Absolutely not. That caught me completely off guard.
MARY ANN: Well, good for you. You’ll want to pay close attention to Mischanda.
[MISCHANDA moans, groans, stumbles, sways and sobs her way to an eighteen hour delivery. Throughout her video everyone casts sideway glances at two natural couples. Both have frozen smiles on their faces. They may or may not have snuck out and left wax figures in their place.]
MISCHANDA [as baby comes out]: AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
MISCHANDA’S HUSBAND: You’re doing great, honey! Push!
BEN [gesturing to WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS]: What’s she thinking now?
ERIN: “I would gladly chew glass for a thousand years to have this baby out of me.”
MARY ANN: Now we’ll see the C-section.
[BEN scribbles 28 Days below Requiem For a Dream. ERIN adds Team America, Closer, House of Sand & Fog and 21 Grams.]
[SUSIE cannot physically deliver her baby vaginally, so the doctors inform her she will need a C-section. The doctors make the cut and Susie’s baby is pulled out.]
ERIN: Oh. My. Lord.
[WOMAN WHO IS NOT SO SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS is scribbling furiously on a sheet of paper, presumably drawing up plans for the construction of a time machine so she can travel back to last October and undo her pregnancy.]
[Video ends. MARY ANN turns on the lights.]
MARY ANN: So there you go. Any questions before we eat?
[Scene: Mostly empty hospital cafeteria. BEN and ERIN split a Sara Lee veggie wrap without olives.]
ERIN: Did you know that they smear cream cheese and strawberry jam on newborns on TV and the movies to make it look real?
BEN: I did not know that.
ERIN: What mom lets her baby get smeared with cream cheese just so it can be on TV?
BEN: Not this mom.
ERIN: What’s the most surprising thing you learned this morning?
BEN: Hmmm. I’d say the fact that some pregnant women carry a jar of pickles at the grocery store so that if their water breaks they can drop the jar to disguise it. What about you?
ERIN: That some women have no problem showing their hoohahs on tape in the delivery room.
BEN: I noticed that when Mary Ann asked who had experienced Braxton-Hicks yet, you didn’t raise your hand.
ERIN: Yeah, I decided I just wasn’t going to raise my hand today.
BEN: Did I tell you Erik’s theory about baby-naming? He said that he and Colleen always had one name they were sure about and another name that they felt good but not great about, and in all three cases, they had a boy or girl depending on the best name.
ERIN: So that means we’d have a girl.
BEN: I guess so.
ERIN: This is a good wrap.
BEN: It is a good wrap.
ERIN: We could eat here when we stay for real.
BEN: Hospital cafeterias have really good food.
ERIN: I’m not sure I’d go that far.
BEN: In Pittsburgh I’d go eat lunch at the hospital cafeteria sometimes.
ERIN: Oh that is so sad.
BEN: No, it was good! It was good food.
ERIN: Did you go alone? Sit by yourself in a hospital cafeteria on your days off?
BEN: No. Not always. Chris would come with me.
BEN: We went because it was good food.
ERIN: I just wonder about pre-Erin Ben sometimes.
BEN: This intermission is over.
[MARY ANN rolls out two exercise balls.]
MARY ANN: All right, it’s time to do our exercises. We’re going to take turns sitting on these exercise balls raising our hands in the air like we just don’t care.
ERIN: Did she really just say that?
MARY ANN: I’ll go first. Notice how incredibly awkward I look. Now it’s your turn!
BEN: You know, when we write this up as a one act, we’ll have to adhere to Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama.
ERIN: That means we’ll need a plot, theme, character, language, music and spectacle.
BEN: I’m really not sure we have any of those things besides character and the spectacle of Mary Ann rolling around on the exercise ball for us.
ERIN: So how should we end it?
[WOMAN WHO IS NOT SURE SHE’S READY FOR THIS takes out a gun and shoots husband.]