Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Uno, Dos, Tres... empujad!!

A combination of a lack of half-decent Spanish and lack of tennis balls meant I approached my first pre-natal class with a certain amount of trepidation. I wasn't sure why the tennis balls were necessary, but Maite had instructed me to turn up wearing pantalones (trousers) and with two of the balls. I had successfully found my last remaining pair of trousers that I could get over my expanded derriere, but had failed with the tennis balls, owing to lack of time and the Spanish shop opening hours (10 am mostly - or at least those tiendas selling pelotas de tenis...). So, there I was in my pink pantalones, sans tennis balls and smiling in what I hoped was an ingraciating way at the arriving members of Cuidad Lineal's local Bump Club (Club de Bomba) with their impressive range of bulging tummies.

We started with exercises to help with breathing and labour positions. I managed the first pair activity by copying the other women and wih a little gentle encouragement from my partner. Maite then solved the problem of my patchy understanding of the lingo by firmly indicating to me to move to a spot on the mat beside her and saying "Tu, aqui!" She then proceeded to demonstrate the rest of the exercises by picking up my various limbs and manoeuvring them into the required positions, which was a very sensible way of handling the situation, all things considered.

The tennis balls, it turned out, were for a massage technique that involved rolling them firmly up and down each other's backs - and luckily, I could borrow my partner's sports equipment for the job, so that was okay. She was a quiet but friendly Muslim woman (Syrian, possibly?) who wore her head-scarf throughout the class and did a pretty decent job of easing some of the tensions out of my back.

After the exercises, which culminated in a lesson in pushing, Maite gave us a lecture about what to expect directly after the birth of our forthcoming babies. This may seem a little advanced given that it was my first class, but I had joined the group half way through the sessions - I would have to do the first few classes after Christmas. If, however, I had waited until then to do the whole course, it was a fair bet that Fosbella would have emerged before I had completed it. Doing the second half followed by the first half was the next best thing.

Anyway, despite the rapid Spanish, I managed to get the gist of most of the advice surrounding health, healing, breast-feeding, contraception and other post partum matters. I also learned some new vocabulary related to the female anatomy, including pechos (breasts) and suelo pelvico (pelvic floor). I also realised that the frequent mentions of la "ba-heenah" was actually the Spanish pronunciation of "vagina" and that cicatriz meant scar and cicatrizarse is the verb meaning to heal. It's probably just as well partners weren't allowed to the class, the discussion wasn't for those of a squeamish nature (ie, men).

After that, we were instructed in the finer art of foot massage, which we were assured would be excellent to practise on our offspring to help them relax and sleep better and which would be excellent for our partners to practise on ourselves for the same reason. Then, while gentle ambient music played, we lolled about massaging each other's feet while Maite continued her lecture about the days following the birth (nappies, layette and other practical requirements our new-borns would be needing).

After the class ended I had a few brief conversations with some of the other women - a Paraguayan embarazada whose emphatic reply, when I asked if this was her first child was, "Si, y la ultima" ("and the last"); a Spanish woman with whom I compared gestation times and genders and a friendly Italian who chatted to me in English while I replied in Spanish, which had the satisfactory result of both of us practising our non-native languages and gave me a considerable boost in understanding her words as well as she could clearly understand mine. One thing's certain, I'm part of a highly international group of ex-patriots and although my command of Spanish is probably at the bottom of the class, it's comforting to know I'm not the only foreigner plotting my uncertain course through the Madrileno pre-natal set-up. Ex-pats of the world unite, all power to the embarazadas inmigrantes!

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