The reason I initially started writing about my sister and her wife going to antenatal classes is completely different to the story I ended up writing. That quite often happens with my blog.
This time I think it was actually on purpose. Sometimes I feel like the stories I write about are too ‘heavy’.
I worry that I don’t balance them enough with ‘good’ stories – the moments of joy, love and gratitude – and instead I spend too much time telling stories of drama and adverse circumstances. Here’s another to add to the pile.
The only experience I ever had with antenatal classes was one of intense awkwardness and embarrassment.
It was fifteen years ago when when T and I were expecting Master Z.
We knew nothing about childbirth. Neither one of us had any experience with it. This was the time before the modern phenomena of YouTube and widespread use of the internet, so we couldn’t simply ‘google’ tips for how to get us through childbirth.
To be honest, we didn’t hesitate – we booked ourselves in for the antenatal classes advertised at the hospital that we would be giving birth in. There were the weekly classes, or there was the option of a weekend intensive course. We opted for the latter as it suited our work schedules better.
It was exciting and we felt like we were being responsible and informed parents. We had no idea what to expect, but just hoped and felt optimistic that we would come away feeling better prepared to successfully bring our little one into the world.
It was hideous.
We were the only lesbian couple, with a group of yuppie thirty somethings and an ‘old school’ midwife group leader who obviously had no experience dealing with same sex couples.
It was like we had walked in without clothes on.
I remember too clearly feeling the heat rising in my cheeks as I realised that not only were we the only same sex couple, but that this midwife truly had NO CLUE how to be anything other than awkward in her dealings with us.
Everyone, including her, stared at us.
We weren’t late, but it felt like we were. She stumbled over a greeting as she directed us to join the group.
We made our way to a spot on the floor as quickly as we could and people politely tried to avoid staring at us.
I made a careful study of the carpet. Pretty sure T did the same.
Determined not to be put off, I tried to appear chirpy as the group was instructed to ‘introduce ourselves’ and giving a few details about each other and when we were due. I could sense the eye roll and internal groan of displeasure from T without even one glance at her. Being an introvert, she hates the ‘touchy, feely’ stuff at the best of times, so I didn’t look her way on purpose. I just listened and waited anxiously for our turn.
The demographics in the room consisted largely of de facto and/or married couples expecting their first or second child – mostly either white collared workers or tradies and their pregnant spouses.
No single mothers, no other same sex couples and definitely no teenage girls.
Had we missed the disclaimer for this class that said you had to be a high flying, straight, middle or upper class heterosexual couple? I felt sure we had.
I received a couple of smiles from fellow pregnant women as I introduced the two of us, but otherwise just blank stares. The group leader, in fact, just occupied herself with the page in front of her until we were done.
I was 23 years old, so am sure a degree of the awkwardness I describe was imagined – but let me promise you the bulk of it was real.
Our ‘Old School’ group leader then proceeded to split us into two groups – the ‘Mothers’ and the ‘Fathers’. T and I just stood there as we tried to decide where T should go. We had no idea what the activity was, nor did we receive any further direction. Initially the group leader directed T to go and sit with the ‘Fathers’, but this was humiliating for T as she stuck out like a sore thumb, being the only female in the group. Also, she didn’t want to be apart from me at that moment, let alone cast off to play the ‘Dad’ role when she clearly wasn’t a Dad.
We tried to make the best of it, but my enjoyment of any of the information was marred by the fact that T felt so hideously embarrassed and looked like she just wanted the ground to swallow her. The group leader ignored this and made no attempt whatsoever to lighten the mood, or make T and I feel more welcome and less ‘different’. There was a box and we didn’t fit it. We received that message loudly and clearly.
I noticed T excuse herself after a couple of hours to go to the toilet. Wanting to check she was ok, I did the same and met her inside. She burst into tears and I did the same.
After a little while the group had obviously been set a task and the group leader came outside and noticed us. She seemed genuinely at a loss for anything to say at all – she was just completely and utterly ill-equipped to be able to deal with us and our situation. This made it even more awkward. In her defence, she probably hadn’t experienced many same sex couples having children before and perhaps hadn’t geared her classes appropriately as a result. All the same, her manner was very much lacking given her line of work. Surely we weren’t the only same sex families around at this time?
To this day, whenever anyone mentions antenatal classes, this horrible experience springs immediately to my mind.
I’m so very glad my sister and her wife had a better experience recently. Hopefully other same sex couples and single mothers – in fact anyone outside the ‘traditional’ family model – are able to access a greater level of support than we were.