Students are amazed by 'Family Life' Childbirth, AIDS among class topics NORTH COUNTY -- Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

January 11, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

At the point in the baby's birth when the head appeared, male spectators at Harbor Hospital Center could no longer contain themselves.

"Oh, my God!" yelled one, amazed.

"Oh, yuck," said another.

The spectators, 28 mostly female students from North County High School, were watching a video, not the real thing.

But their teacher and an obstetrics nurse hoped that "Labors of Love," shown last week to two Family Life classes during a hospital tour, had been vivid enough for students to appreciate childbirth and prepare themselves for parenthood.

"I wouldn't want to be the one giving birth," said senior Pete Dabrowski, 17, who used words like "amazing" and "incredible" to describe what he'd seen.

"It looked painful but beautiful," added Shirley Clark, 17, also a senior.

For the past year and a half, the hospital and North County High have teamed up for a day each semester to teach teen-agers about prenatal and neonatal care and childbirth.

Pat Griffin, a registered obstetrics nurse and childbirth education specialist, showed graphic videos on fetal development, childbirth and breast feeding and photographs of newborns. She used a doll to demonstrate childbirth. And she stressed how a mother's drinking and drug use would harm a fetus.

After answering questions about how a fetus breathes, placentas, delivery methods and Caesarean sections, she led students through the nursery.

Last week's tour included a stop at the special care nursery, for babies born prematurely.

Lying in a bassinet was a tiny boy, born just hours earlier. His head was covered by a clear Oxy Hood, a device that allows babies to breathe richer oxygen. He appeared to blink his dark eyes at the students.

"He likes me," said one of the high school boys.

"He's curious," added a girl.

But the students soon felt like intruders, peering through a window at the baby. The infant's mother entered the nursery, saw her child for the first time since his birth and burst into tears.

Susan Sala, who teaches the one-semester Family Life course at North County, takes students to the hospital during the final unit on childbirth.

"They get a first-hand glance at what really happens," Ms. Sala said. "They don't ever see that. They're curious. And I think it's important the boys see the role of the father during childbirth."

Several students said curiousity prompted them to take Family Life, an elective that covers choices about sexual behavior, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, rape, pregnancy and childbirth.

Some, fearful of diseases, particularly AIDS, said they took the class to learn how to protect themselves.

Others said they feel more comfortable discussing such topics with a teacher than with their parents.

When the students started the Family Life class in the fall, "We were all so naive," said senior Michelle Simering.

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