"Natural child birth means that no drugs will be administered to the female during the delivery. The father can have all he wants."
"Are you two ready, yet?" Joyce called from the driver's seat of her car.
"I'm waddling as fast as I can, Joyce," Willow called out from the back door. She gingerly made her way down the front steps, Buffy holding her hand urging her over each stair, secretly fearing for Willow's safety. These old rickety steps made her blanch, especially with Willow trying to go down them while carrying a six-month old fetus. In her mind's eye she could imagine Willow's sprawled form over the pavement from a bad fall, blood leaking from her uterus. The thought caused her to shudder.
Willow immediately sensed her wife's apprehension and smiled reassuringly at her. "Don't worry, Buffy, I won't break on you."
"I know that, Wills," Buffy whispered back as they walked toward her mom's car. "But I still have flashbacks to seeing Faith with a gun at your head, so please humor your paranoid spouse for a little while longer."
"I extend my tongue in your general direction," Willow made a rude face, then giggled slightly. Buffy shook her head; even when she was being rude, Willow was, in Buffy's humble and much biased opinion, capable of being no less than radiant. She fought back an urge to take her red-haired lover in her arms and give her a long slow passionate kiss. But her mom happened to choose that moment to honk her horn, reminding them of their appointment.
"Coming, mom!" Buffy and Willow chorused, and reached the car in two more steps. Once they were seated, Joyce pulled away and drove the two lovebirds to the YWCA. Today Willow Rosenberg-Summers began her Lamaze lessons, with Buffy along to coach. Buffy had loudly proclaimed to anyone who cared to listen that there was no force on Earth that was going to keep her from witnessing as Willow gave birth to their daughter three months from now. The firm set of her jaw when she spoke encouraged her mom and Giles to take her words at face value. Fortunately the local Y held regular lamaze classes for free. Buffy and Willow had signed on for their classes, and were glad to start them finally.
Five other couples were already there and sitting on mats on the floor by the time Buffy and Willow had arrived. All of them the classic pattern, male and female, leaving them the only same-sex couple there. If the other couples were uncomfortable with Buffy and Willow, they at least had the good graces to keep that discomfort to themselves. The two of them located a couple of spare mats, and Buffy helped ease Willow down to the floor. Willow sat in a slightly awkward but comfortable position, at least as comfortable as the bulge she was carrying would let her.
"Good afternoon people," the young woman at the head of the room announced a couple of minutes later, "I'm Cheryl Stephens, and I'll be your instructor for the next few weeks. Now then, let's start by introducing ourselves. Starting with," she pointed to a couple at random, "you two."
"I'm Karen Rabb," the short-haired young woman announced. Her husband added, "and I'm Steve Rabb," nodding to the others. He gestured to another couple who introduced themselves as Rosalind and Peter Wang, and in turn each of the other couples introduced themselves.
When it got to be their turn, Willow announced with audible pride, "I'm Willow Rosenberg-Summers, and this is my wife, Buffy." Buffy grinned, not caring what the others thought. Just hearing Willow introduce her as her wife with that loving tone of voice, gave her a feeling of sheer joy. She reached over and sqeezed Willow's hand, smiling at her.
The others chose to greet her politely, if not animatedly. Steve nodded at Buffy, saying, "A pleasure." Buffy nodded back, saying, "Same here."
"Okay," Cheryl continued, trailing her eyes a little longer over Willow and Buffy. "Now, this course will be six weeks long, and will cover the basics of natural child birth. The first thing that you coaches have to be ready for, and I have to start with this observation, is that your wife will undergo hormonal changes over the next few weeks, until the actual labor. And when the labor comes, well, your wife'll become an entirely different person. A mean one at that. You may remember that line from 'The Cosby Show' a bunch of years back, where Dr. Huxtable described his wife's labor; 'On the next contraction she told everyone in the delivery room that my parents were never married'."
This line helped to relieve the tension in the room, and the couples all laughed. "Just remember that this is her pain talking. Okay, we got that straight? We'll come back to this topic later on in the course, so if you have any questions so far, I'm sure we'll get to them quickly. Any questions at this time?" The couples all shook their heads, content with their answers for the time being. "Don't be afraid to ask any questions out of the blue as the course continues. This is the most important thing that each of you couples will do together, bringing a new life into the world, and it's important to know everything you can on the subject. Now then, today we have a video to show you. This tape is pretty graphic, I'll warn you in advance, as it shows a woman going into labor and giving birth. This tape will touch on the basics, which we will outline and detail as the course progresses. Ready?"
"Should have brought popcorn," Willow whispered quietly to Buffy, who grinned merrily at Willow's suggestion. "Oh well, too late now."
"Could someone get the lights?" Peter turned off the main lighting, and the video started. "Here we see footage that my husband Michael shot of my giving birth to our son James." The initial shot of Cheryl being wheeled into the hospital was followed by a shot of the emergency room interior. The camera closed in on Cheryl as she was prepped for her delivery. Her pants were taken down, her legs were spread apart and lifted up, and the camera took a clear shot of her vaginal region. Already, her cervix was enlarged. "As you can see, my cervix has begun dilating at this point. This occured after my water broke."
"Uh," Willow raised her hand, "when you say your water broke, how much water we talking here? Like a thimble-full or a half a cup, or--"
"Uh, let me put it to you this way, Willow," Cheryl answered. "During the last two weeks of your pregnancy, I'd advise against wearing silk." This brought a round of tension-relieving laughter from the couples, but Buffy somehow felt a protective urge stirring in her gut. The notion of Willow going through labor, of being in pain for a protracted period, left Buffy feeling uneasy.
On the video, voices could be heard, comforting Cheryl as she entered the first stages of labor. "This took place during the active phase of the first stage of labor. Just toward the end, actually. The first stage is usually the longest period of the actual labor. The first phase of pregnancy is marked by light contractions, spaced about twenty minutes apart. During this time, the expectant mother should move about to encourage laboring, and apart from that just relax, rest up. Concerve your energies for the task ahead."
On the screen, Cheryl started to grit her teeth, and breath in a rapid tempo. "We're cutting ahead to the transition phase now. This is the shortest and hardest part of the labor experience. The cervix, as you can see," she pointed to the image on the screen, "is fully dilated, the contractions are two or three minutes apart and can last as long as ninty seconds. This may also be the hardest part of labor, as your spouse may start saying things to you that would make a sailor blush."
Willow glanced at Buffy, and even in the dim light of the classroom, she could sense that she was turning pale. "Something wrong, Buff?"
"Nothing really," Buffy answered. "I just met this woman and suddenly I'm looking at her cervix." Willow giggled slightly and took her wife's hand.
"Breathing of course is key to labor," Cheryl continued. "The breathing takes place in sync with the contractions, as a learned response. A way of working through the pain, and concentrating on something else. This part of labor is the tough one, people. This third phase is punctuated by fluctuation of body temperatures, nausea, pressure on the rectum, a need to push, leg cramps and a sensitivity to touch." Buffy watched Cheryl on the screen, imagined Willow going through all this, and felt even more pale than before.
"The second stage of labor is the actual birth itself," Cheryl was saying as Buffy collected her thoughts and concentrated on the screen. "It usually follows an interval period of twenty minutes when contractions are weak. Now, the contractions are further apart, and the urge to push is very intense. You'll notice that the doctor and the midwife are positioning my body into an upright position, with my legs spread. An upright sitting position is best for a quicker second stage. The breathing is also important, to aid in relaxation. Remember that relaxing your jaw will cause your pelvic bone to relax, and make it easier for the baby to come out."
The figure on the screen screamed and yelled in between breaths, as her husband and the midwife urged her to push. After a few more edited minutes of this action, a small shape emerged from her vagina. "Now, you can see that the baby's head is visible. We're in the homestretch here, folks." The doctor on screen held the baby's head in his hands, as Cheryl pushed once more. Buffy shuddered as she witnessed this; this was nothing like she had ever imagined, or ever seen in the movies. Of course, the movies usually either shot the childbirth scene from the mother's waist up, or strategically hid her lower half. Here, she was getting the whole picture. And that image was making her feel a little queasy.
"And finally, once the head is clear, the rest of the baby comes out relatively easily." The baby slid through the birth canal, and the doctor cradled him in his hands. He held him briefly upside down and slapped his rump lightly, causing him to wail, his tiny lungs amazingly loud. After severing the umbilical cord, he brought the baby to his mother to hold for the first time. She cradled the fragile life before her as gently as she knew how, and slowly brought the baby's mouth to her breast to nurse for the first time.
"The next stage of birth," Cheryl announced brightly, "is the expulsion of the placenta. This usually takes place in the first half hour of birth, and is accompanied by mild contractions." The next scene of the video showed a dark, slimy object emerge from the birth canal.
Willow felt and heard the thud immediately behind her. She turned around, and shook her head in amused surprise.
Buffy Anne Summers, the Slayer, the Chosen One, who had faced all manner of demons and monsters, who had looked unblinking into the face of Hell, had fainted.
"Is she okay?" she heard someone ask as she emerged from unconsciousness. Her head still felt dizzy, and her vision blurred slightly.
"Sheís fine," a familiar voice that Buffy belatedly recognized as his wife announced. "She just fainted." The word Ďfaintedí caused her to feel more miserable than she had before. "Buffy, itís okay," Willow assured her, but she still wanted to crawl away and hide.
"Oh, Iím so sorry, honey," Buffy moaned as Willow affectionately stroked her hair. She was vaguely aware of the other class members around her and Willow, but cared less about that than her performance earlier. "I mean, if I canít take the sight of that-that thing coming out of her on videotape, how am I gonna handle it when itís your turn?"
"Donít sweat it, Buffy," Cheryl answered brightly, offering Buffy a glass of water. "Thereís at least one fainter in every Lamaze class. Itís normal; this is a special experience for both you and your, uh, wife." She said the word with a slight awkwardness, but no sign of derision. Buffy decided she liked her right then. "One of the main goals of this class is to get you more acclimated with the experience of childbirth. Itís not something unusual, itís a perfectly natural event. And once youíve both experienced it, youíll remember it as one of the most, if not THE most, special moment in your life."
Buffy nodded, grateful that Cheryl understood. Of course, she still felt embarrassed; after facing the monsters and demons of the Hellmouth, a simple childbirth experience shouldnít phase her. She looked at Willow, who smiled that incandescent smile of hers, and knew that she couldnít and wouldnít back out now. Not when the most important and most beautiful person in her world was counting on her.
She mouthed an "I love you" to Willow, who repeated the gesture.
"Now, what say we break for ten minutes, and then weíll discuss the itinerary of the course?" Cheryl suggested. The others agreed, grateful to stretch their legs. "Oh, and expectant mothers, you may also be interested in a breast-feeding course we offer on Wednesdays."
Buffy glanced at Willow, an eyebrow raised. "Breast feeding, she said."
"Thatís what it sounded like to me," Willow answered. "Go fig, I thought that would be instinctive."
"Well, if you need to do homework on that subject," Buffy whispered lasciviously, "you know who to call."
"BUFFY!" Willow squealed, glad that no one was around to listen in on the conversation. But as she protested, a part of her was looking forward to the homework.
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