January 18th, 2006: While the little guy cooked and we waited expectantly for our new family to explode in a shower of milky-white Vernix, I attended my first (and last) birthing class with Nigh Perfect. I kept making jokes about our postman, Benny, being the probable father. This did not go down too well with my long-suffering wife, much less with the Soup Nazi birthing instructor, Crazy Judy.
I will admit, chums, I started yelling at the television when I was three.
It was "Sesame Street" that first got to me, and Big Bird in particular: I hated that fluffy yellow bastard because he was in charge of the "One of These Things is Not Like the Other" spot. Even at the age of three, I could tell this guy was an idiot.
What really drove me berserk was when they would put up, like, two triangles and a boat, or something. This would make me rant and rave at Big Bird: "What the hell is wrong with you, you freak? The odd one out is a bloody ocean liner! The first two are little geometric shapes and the third transports people to America!"
And it got worse. Big Bird used to go searching for Ernie all around Sesame Street but he could never find him. If it were me, the first place I would have searched was in Bert's bed because that's where Ernie seemed to spend most of his time. But failing that how about looking behind you, you moron!
Big Bird never listened, and as a consequence, I grew up with a healthy loathing for (a) people wearing yellow feather outfits and (b) anyone who didn't seem to be able to spot the difference between, say, a ferret and a hovercraft.
Well, folks, this week I went to my first birthing class. Previously, I had thought Big Bird was the biggest dingbat in the known Universe. But I have looked into the face of Captain Bloody Obvious and her name is Crazy Judy. It's a little spot I am forced to call
The Miracle of Big Bird
At first - no word of a lie - I was excited to be there. I wanted to learn about how to stand in the waiting room with the other fathers and to understand the correct etiquette for smoking a cigar with your obstetrician. It made me feel like a grown-up to be in a room with other couples. Maybe Nigh Perfect and I could make "couple friends"… that'd be neat, I thought. (This would make a change from my other mates, all of whom can pass gas on command and recite the entire Oscar Mayer Wiener song backwards).
Enter Judy and her Television Cart of Horror. She looked like a Fraggle, so there was the Muppet connection right there. Judy scowled a lot. I knew this was going to go badly when the first thing she said was: "Two things we don't like: interrupting and… anyone?
The room fell silent. Was she asking us to fill in the missing thing she doesn't like? I decided to give it a shot:
She shot me a look that would melt the arse off a whale.
"No. We don't like silly comments or jokes."
Believe me, things went downhill from there. As it turned out, Judy was on day release from a local insane asylum. I could only assume that as a condition of her parole she had arranged to run a birthing class and scare people straight. She would ask the most obvious question ever invented and then scowl at the class, challenging them to respond. We were terrified of getting the wrong answer but she refused to continue with the class unless someone spoke up.
Crazy Judy: "This is the device with which we slice open the amniotic sac. What does it look like? anyone?"
Crazy Judy: "Can anyone tell me how the wife gets pregnant? anyone?"
Dads (in unison): "Yeah, it's Benny the postman!"
Dads stop for a moment to look at each other. That's quite a coincidence.
This went on for THREE HOURS! During that time, I learned what I could have learned in five minutes: Husband and wife kiss, wife gets knocked up, nine months later she has the baby and it is a very painful but rewarding experience. Crazy Judy droned on and on, occasionally stopping to glare at the class, and it was at that point that I truly understood the excruciating pain of childbirth. Maybe that was the point: if our wives were going to be miserable, so were we. But Judy had even bigger plans. Enter the Television Cart of Horror.
"Now we're going to show you a short video on the subject of… anyone?"
Judy glowered one last time and then dimmed the lights. In a show of bravado, one of the Dads produced a bag of popcorn. The film began. The footage was of the same quality and time period as the Zapruder film, but slightly more graphic, as it turned out. As the cheesy old credits began I half expected a voice to come on and say, "Hi, my name is Troy McClure. You may remember me from such birthing videos as, "Doctor, It Hurts When I Squeeze" and "Nine Months To Liftoff."
Then it happened: the actual birth. Blood starts flying all over the delivery room. The mother begins to scream. Someone tosses a placenta into a bucket. The baby is covered in a white, milky substance called Vernix. It looks like an albino Phantom of the opera. Fourteen people stare at the screen in horror. Is this for real? That woman just squeezed a bloody cannonball out of her private bits! Why couldn't you have shown this to us before we got knocked up? We would have bought a puppy, or something.
By the time it finished, seven expectant mothers were crying with fear and seven expectant fathers looked like someone had a gun to their heads. Judy turned the lights back on and stood in front of the class, scanning us for signs of hyperventilation. No one said a word. Somewhere on his route, Benny the Postman felt a cold breeze go up the back of his neck. Judy finally smiled.
It was a wicked, thin-lipped smile that was probably similar to the expression Caligula had when he was deciding the fate of Christians.
"Now… is anyone scared? anyone?"
Thankfully, we did a second class this week with an extremely nice lady named (Sane) Lorraine on the subject of "Baby Essentials." Lorraine actually encouraged us to crack jokes but we were a little gun-shy after the previous experience. Nigh Perfect spent most of her night laughing at me as I attempted - for the first time in my life - to change a diaper. I kept dropping the practice baby on the floor "by accident," just as I do with the dishes at home, my rationale being that if Nigh Perfect sees this she will never want me to clean any diapers. It didn't work: she thought it was cute that I looked so uncomfortable. She kept insisting that we bring our camera to the next class.
"There's a next class?" I asked her.
"Yes," she laughed. "Couples breast feeding."