When Arnold resident Catherine Wheeler, 63, learned that she will soon be a grandparent, she and her husband decided they had better renew their baby skills.
"Our youngest son (whose wife is expecting) is 40, so it's been that long since we've had contact with the new methods," Wheeler said.
"When I had mine, I was put to sleep both times. I had a spinal, and nothing was explained to me," she added.
To become up-to-date on all the latest information about infant care and technology, the Wheelers attended a class for new and soon-to-become grandparents in February at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. The free, two-hour course, which will be offered tonight at 6:30 p.m. for the second time this year, is taught by two grandparents on AAMC's nursing staff.
Phyllis McClintock, the labor and delivery nurse at the center will speak about "Before Delivery" and "Labor and Delivery." Nursery nurse Yvonne Harris will discuss "Newborn Care."
"The main objective is not to teach (the participants) how to be a grandparent but to familiarize them with the changes so they feel comfortable," said Harris, who has eight grandchildren.
"A lot of grandparents are really surprised at the changes," said Harris, who cited the fathers' attendance in the delivery room and the fact that most hospitals allowchildren to visit their new siblings as examples of recent changes.
Harris, who has been teaching the class for two years, said the course emphasizes to the grandparents that their sons and daughters arenot doing something wrong. The medical changes have been made because of advanced technology and studies.
To help the new grandparentsunderstand new methods and techniques used in the childbirth experience, the class includes a tour of the center.
Besides hands-on care demonstrations using dolls, the nurses take the participants on thetour to see the birthing rooms and the nursery.
Wheeler was particularly impressed with the birthing rooms, where the mother-to-be stays before, during and after the birth.
"They're absolutely beautiful. The private room even had a big puffy quilt on the bed, and everything they needed was there, even closet space," she said. The nursesalso showed the class how the bottom part of the bed comes off whilethe mother is giving birth. "It's much more convenient for the doctors," Wheeler said.
"We got to see the nursery and the new babies. The nurse held a baby up to the window that she had delivered that day," she said.
"The dad is right there the whole time," she added. "I think it's fantastic.
"As a man, my husband didn't get involvedwith the birth of our two boys. He would have liked to be there, butin those days, they didn't do this."
Because the Wheelers' daughter-in-law is 36, she has been required to have a lot of testing before delivery to be sure her baby is healthy.
They even know the sex of their first grandchild, due July 3. It will be a boy.
Wheeler said she picked up several packets and brochures at the course and sent them to her daughter-in-law. "She thoroughly enjoyed it," she said.
Vivian Crispell of Churchton is about to become a first-time grandparent. Her 26-year-old daughter is due to give birth June 7.
Crispell, accompanied by her husband, pregnant daughter and some friends who are new grandparents, decided to take the course together in February.
Crispell particularly remembers the tour of the delivery room. "There's not a fear like there was in our generation," she said.
Crispell said the course was very informative. "I just wish it went on a little longer," she said.
Also included in the class is a 22-minute film showing four births. "It wasn't really bad," Wheeler said. "We watched the process and one was a Caesarean, but we didn't actually see that birth."
Anne Arundel Medical Center offers the grandparents class twice a year. For information, call 224-5777.