I’ve been teaching childbirth education for almost 12 years and during most of my years teaching, my classes were consistently full. But the last few years, a disturbing trend has occurred – less people are taking comprehensive childbirth preparation classes. I’ve seen it in my own business, but I’m not alone. As I learned this past fall at the International Childbirth Educator’s Association annual conference, the rate of preparing for childbirth by enrolling in a preparation class is declining nationwide overall.
It doesn’t surprise me. As I interact with pregnant mommas and the men that love them, I repeatedly hear the same lies they’ve believed that contribute to why a solid class isn’t in their plan.
“I’m just too busy to take a class. I’ll prepare on my own when it fits in my schedule.”
We are a society that is over-scheduled, overcommitted and just plain exhausted from information overload. I feel it too. But, committing some time to prepare for birth is worth it. Scaling back other commitments as you prepare is wise. Why? The simple answer is that when you sign up to take a class and pay for it, you will show up. We have lots of good intentions to prepare on our own, but a vast majority of people don’t. We let other commitments get in the way of us reading a book on childbirth, or we are just too plain tired from working all day to come home and purposefully work on relaxation techniques. The TV goes on instead.
“My doctor will tell me everything I need to get ready for birth.”
According to the 2014 Medscape OB/GYN Compensation Survey, the majority of obstetricians spend between 9 and 16 minutes with a patient during an office visit. He or she doesn’t have the time to give you all you need to know to really be ready to experience childbirth and early parenting.
When you take a comprehensive class you not only get more information, but you spend hours with an instructor who will pass on her confidence in your body to you. Our culture tells us that birth is scary. Who’s seen a less-than-peaceful birth on TV or in the movies? Who’s had someone come up and give you their opinion about what you should do? “Just take the epidural – don’t be a martyr!” But a good instructor, is going to do just the opposite. She will provide the best evidence-based information about birth, teach you about the amazing things your body is capable of doing, and then she will let you, as a couple, make your best decisions.
As an instructor, my job is to empower a couple, to let them know that they can do this, and give them tools and questions to ask if the unexpected does come up. Your doctor has a different job to do – it is to care for you medically.
“I can find out what I need from Google, You Tube and blogs.”
With a class, you get the benefit of an instructor’s knowledge who knows your area’s birth environment and can help you maneuver through the local hospital system, as well as give you all you need to know to prepare in one place, each week. Information on-line is great as a supplement, but it’s not nearly as personal or thorough as one-on-one instruction.
“I’m getting the epidural so I don’t need a class.”
Not everyone wants a “natural” birth. A majority of people, in fact, plan to have medical pain relief. But a good class will provide valuable information – judgement free – for all women. The fact is, you don’t get an epidural the minute your contractions begin. You most likely will labor for several hours or more before medical pain relief is an option. A childbirth class will provide you with an arsenal of pain relieving techniques for you to use during those beginning hours of labor. And, there’s SO much more a good class covers outside of only pain relief!
“Having a baby won’t change our relationship as a couple.”
According to research by the Gottman Institute, 2/3 of couples report their relationship satisfaction dropped significantly after the first baby was born. 69% of new parents experience conflict, disappointment and hurt feelings with their partner in the months following the birth of a child. Having a baby changes your relationship.
So what’s a childbirth preparation class have to do with your relationship? A good childbirth education class should have a goal to bring you together as a couple, to allow you time to work together, to intentionally think about your life and goals for parenting, and to develop a strong bond.
Think about it – creating a baby is a highly intimate experience. Birthing a baby is just as intimate. Preparing for that intimacy takes time and effort. A class should help you develop relaxation skills that you can use together as a couple. This is typically the first time in a couple’s life that they will learn these skills.
Additionally, but not less important, a good instructor can serve as the “bad guy” or “enforcer” with your partner. There’s lots of things you may want your spouse to do or not to do in birth, but if you communicate it ALL to them, it may be felt as nagging or as you being bossy. But if it comes from an instructor, it softens the blow. And this goes for women as well as men!
“Having a baby won’t change me.”
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the truth. You change when you become a parent.
When you join a class with other REAL people, you experience normalization. The concept of normalization is a fancy way for saying that you’ll come to class and meet others that are struggling with the same issues, have the same fears and dream the same dreams….and you’ll in turn realize that you are doing just fine.
Dr. Gottman explains it in his book And Baby Makes Three, as “we realize that we are all in the same soup.” Social media and our constant diet of online information causes us to come up with very unfair comparisons. We judge our insides to others’ outsides.
When you attend a multi-week class, you begin to realize, that you aren’t the only pregnant person having crazy amounts of gas or burping constantly. You’re not alone in feeling fear about passing an eight pound bowling ball out of your vagina. You’re not the only guy who feels inadequate to care for a baby, or can’t seem to say anything right to his wife.
In a good class, we can laugh together at our insecurities and talk through strategies to help – from communication with your partner, to tips on how to help with pregnancy discomforts.
And these people that you are now hanging with each week and have learned are just like you….they may just end up to be good friends and a support system along the way.
Over the years, I’ve had lots of my classes bond and then remain friends. Because there’s no one that will get how you are feeling at 3 am, besides another nursing momma or dog-tired dad feeling just the same thing!