As we approach the birth of our child, we’re checking off more and more of the preparation to-dos. When you first consider the prospect of bringing life into the world, it seems overwhelming to the point of suffering paralysis thinking about it all. We’re never going to be ready in time!

And then like anything else, you just start banging them out one or two at a time until there’s not much left to do except have the thing. In its own way, that’s even worse than the paralysis of having too much to do and a long road ahead to get on top of it because – oh shit! – we’re going to have a real live baby to take care of now.

One of those tasks was attending a childbirth class, which we did just over a week ago. I’d heard mixed reviews about these classes, with the common theme of the negative ones focusing on zealotry from either the instructor or other class attendees regarding the method by which you have the baby. I was wary of this because forcing someone into a prescribed way of doing things is pretty much never productive (and is a quick way to make me hate you personally), so I went in with my shields up.

I’m pleased to report this didn’t happen, and the degree to which this didn’t happen was sort of disorienting. We arrived at the hospital and groped our way through the surprisingly labyrinthine hallways to the classroom on time. “Punctuality is always a good thing,” I noted while staring daggers at my unborn child, who better not show up early while I’m in Washington, DC this week.

We watched the couples file in, and most of them looked remarkably similar to us. Pretty much everyone was late-20s or early-30s, and all the ladies were right about 34 weeks or so. It reminded me of being in Maui for our Honeymoon where it seemed like every other couple we ran across had gotten married on the exact same day as us. I’m always amused when I find myself in situations where I can have long, familiar, and in-depth conversations with people I’ve never met, but who are currently experiencing the same exact thing as me.

Although there was one dude who sat down, pulled out a salad in one of those to-go plastic clamshells and started mowing down on it right when the class started. It was 9 am. I’ve never seen anyone so vigorously and enthusiastically plow through a mixed garden salad at that hour of the day. There wasn’t any other weirdness from that day outside of his somewhat off-kilter choice of breakfast.

The rest of the day unfolded fairly predictably as we discussed needed preparations, the process of labor, when to leave for the hospital, how to optimize your breathing, how the experience differs delivering with an epidural vs without, episiotomies, caesarian sections, recovery time and a whole lot more. I’ve been reading books about this, but there’s really no substitute for a trained, skilled facilitator there to help you understand every element of this unbelievable process and answer questions in real time. I’d recommend this class to anyone. Well, anyone expecting a child anyway. For everyone else, it’s probably superfluous.

One other thing I was remarkably struck by was the attentiveness of every single attendee. Having now conducted more than 25 sessions of internal trainings for my company that last at least two days each, keeping the pulse of a group of learners has become second nature to me. I just can’t stop doing it. And no matter how good you are, there will always be a subset of your audience that is bored or withdrawn or more interested in looking at their phones. I accept this, and even I’m guilty of it sometimes.

What was so amazing was that not a single person had their head buried in their phone during this entire session. Everyone was engaged and attentive and polite and there to learn. If you’re the instructor, this has both got to be a dream come true as well as a bit discombobulating. When I’m presenting, I know portions of my audience are going to tune me out, but that’s sort of nice when I get lost or need to recalibrate my presentation because I have a place to look that isn’t staring back into my goddamn empty soul waiting for me to continue to drive the program forward. Sometimes it’s too much.

In this case, I suspect everyone was well attuned to the presenter because for us, it really is just too much. We’re going to extract (one way or another) a real live baby out of my wife and try to do so with a minimum of discomfort to both of them. And while there’s no way to fully prepare for this undertaking, dedicating a few hours of your undivided attention on a Saturday is quite literally the least you can do.

Because soon enough the last thing on the list is to take care of a baby. That’s both incredibly exciting and totally terrifying. Sometimes I wish there were more classes.

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