I’ve heard expecting mothers and the people around them make a number of different statements about why they don’t think they need childbirth classes. As a birth doula, childbirth educator, and mother of five, I’d like to address some of these statements.
Women have been doing this forever. I’ll just know what to do.
I have this image of a time long ago, when we all lived in villages and women had babies in their homes, without a lot of ceremony. Maybe you have an image like this in your mind too. In this view of the history of women, taking a childbirth class seems like a waste of time and money. But women who lived in these times witnessed the realities of birth – not the dramatic recreations we see on tv, or even the sweet snippets of peaceful waterbirths we can find on youtube. Young girls witnessed their mothers, aunts, neighbors, cousins, and sisters labor and give birth. They may have seen mothers and infants die in the process. They probably saw women who seemed to cope well with the challenges of labor, and women who struggled and suffered. They may or may not have been able to identify what factors made the difference between coping and suffering.
Many women today have never witnessed a birth, except made-for-tv-dramatizations. The stories we hear tend to revolve around doctors and hospital procedures and sometimes, horror stories. The process of birth is the same for us today as it was for those village women who birthed in the distant past, but our view of birth is very different – mostly because we barely have a view of it at all! Childbirth education provides a clear framework for understanding what is happening in the mother’s body – the physiological, hormonal, and emotional changes that mark the progression from the first contractions to birth. This understanding helps a mother and her partner translate the physical experience of labor into a journey with mile markers, provisions (tools and skills), and warning signs. Everybody wants a map when they’re traveling a new road!
My hospital or doctor’s office provides a childbirth class for free (or at a very low cost). Why would I pay to take an independent childbirth education course?
Childbirth classes offered by hospitals and doctor’s offices tend to be orientation sessions for what you should expect from your care provider and what they will expect from you. But a good independent childbirth education course typically spans 8 to 16 hours of instruction, covers “normal” birth, variations on “normal”, the benefits, risks, and alternatives to common medical interventions, coping techniques, various positions for labor, laboring with an epidural, and what happens in the event of a c-section. It will also help you prepare for breastfeeding, caring for a newborn, and transitioning to your new role as a parent. A great independent childbirth education course is interactive, engaging, and approaches learning from a number of different angles in order to reach parents with the teaching style they are most responsive to. Childbirth education empowers you to be an informed consumer of the care offered by your doctor or midwife, hospital or birth center.
My doctor or midwife (or doula) will be there to tell me what is happening and what I need to do.
Ina May Gaskin has said this, describing childbirth, “Don’t think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all of your attention.” Birth is an experience that calls upon every physical, emotional, and spiritual resource you possess. Strength, endurance, patience, commitment, love, passion, and courage. The last thing you’ll want to be doing during labor is getting a lesson on effacement, meconium, how long this will last, and why your legs are shaking. Find a great independent childbirth education course in your community today!