Your birth experience will stick with you. I know this because when a woman learns that I’m a childbirth educator and doula, she always tells me her birth story. . . even if that story took place in 1951. Many of those women feel confusion about why their birth went the way it did and express frustration with their doctor and sometimes even anger at the way they were treated in the hospital.
I always wish I could’ve gotten a hold of that mom while she was still pregnant, but you know what? It probably wouldn’t have mattered. I’ve had more than my fair share of on the fly conversations about birth. Very rarely do they make an impact.
You know what does make an impact? Sitting in a class for a few months, slowly taking in information about pregnancy and birth.
- You don’t know what you don’t know.
It’s a popular saying among birth workers and it’s not a slam against parents. It’s just a sad fact that giving birth in America can be really complicated, especially for a woman wanting a low intervention birth. If you think you’ll just walk in, let the staff know you’d rather not have an IV and would like to labor in the tub. . . you’re probably in for a rude awakening.
A childbirth class gives you time to really understand the birth process, along with the common interventions offered (or insisted upon) by your doctor or the hospital, and what is standard practice in your neck of the woods. Episiotomies are pretty much unheard of in my area but are still being done in other parts of the country. Your local childbirth educator will have insider information
- Your care provider might be a jerk.
Do you know when most women find out that their doctor or midwife is not on board with the way she wants to give birth? A week or two before her due date. Sometimes during labor. Not ideal, right?
You don’t want to be fighting with your doctor about being on the fetal monitor while breathing through hard contractions. Or be yelling at the nurse not to put ointment in the baby’s eyes while you’re pushing out the placenta.
Taking a class will help you know what questions to ask your care provider so that you’ll be on the same page about your birth.
- Knowing what’s normal alleviates fear (and lessens pain!)
What most of us know about the process of labor we’ve learned from TV sitcoms–mom’s water breaks, intense contractions begin immediately, then she rushes to the hospital and swears at her husband while she pushes.
If your labor doesn’t progress like what you see in a 22-minute sitcom, then you may begin to feel scared and anxious about how things are going and if you’ll be able to handle it. Or your partner may feel anxious and unsure if you are ok. If you start to pick up on that anxiety, it will probably make you feel scared. Having a thorough understanding of what happens during an average labor (and what happens during a normal, but different than average labor) will help you to feel calm and safe as you welcome your baby.
- A class can make your labor easier and keep you from unnecessary interventions
Healthy, low-risk moms have more options. You can’t control everything that happens with your body during your pregnancy, but you can stack the deck in your favor by taking good care of yourself during pregnancy. A comprehensive childbirth class will be front-loaded with information about how to stay low risk through diet, exercise, and body balance. (The complaint I hear most from of my students is that we don’t actually talk about birth very much at all during the first class!)
- A class prepares you for the transition to parenthood
You may know how to change a diaper, but do you know what meconium is and what it looks like? How often your baby should be eating? How long he should sleep? How to calm him when he Won’t. Stop. Crying. How to help your body heal after delivery while caring for a tiny human?
Many expectant parents spend a lot of time preparing for birth and seem to forget they will be bringing a newborn baby home with them after the delivery. Labor is just one day. . . parenting is forever. A childbirth class won’t give you all the answers to your parenting questions, but will definitely give you a solid foundation in newborn care, breastfeeding, and taking care of yourself postpartum.
So go find a class! The big day will be here before you know it. Learning all you can about taking good care of yourself during pregnancy, the process of labor, and the transition to parenthood will make your story one you’ll be excited to share for years to come.