Some Thoughts on Birthing Classes

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You guys, I’m 30 weeks pregnant, this is crazy! I feel almost too huge to function, even though I know I’m only going to get bigger in the next couple of months. I’m definitely feeling it way worse than my last go-around (getting around in general is quite the challenge. I bow down to any woman who manages to work out while pregnant, especially in the third trimester. I’m just lucky to make it out of bed each day).

J and I are starting to really wrap our heads around the fact that come March, we’re going to have a second child. This is equally thrilling and terrifying to us. I’m also starting to think about my upcoming labor and delivery. Being that we have a very busy 18 month old running around, I haven’t had the time to sit and read all the books like I did last time. In addition to the books, we took a birthing class at one of our local hospitals (though not the one we delivered at, theirs was full because we were a little late in registering).

While I found the birthing class to be an overall positive thing, I have a few thoughts on both sides of it. I think the decision about whether or not to take one is pretty personal. Some people are super into it, other don’t see it as necessary. We were somewhere in between but we figured we’d give it a go, since it was out first rodeo and all. So here are my thoughts on our birthing class experience:

Deciding whether or not to take a birthing class is a personal decision. Here are some pros and cons to think about!

The Pros:

Information- As they say, knowledge is power…Seriously though, it never hurts to be informed of all of your options. I think it can be so easy for people to put together these huge birth plans, where every single aspect of their childbirth is planned down to the second, but the reality is that your baby will do whatever he or she wants. You may not want to have to know about vacuums and forceps and c-sections (oh my!) but you can bet that I was glad to understand the ins and outs of these options when I had to choose between them after 4 hours of pushing.

Get your questions answered- Birthing class is a great place to really get in depth with your questions. Sure, most hospitals offer a free tour. But we noticed at our free tour, that they didn’t really get into much about the birthing process, it was more basics in terms of the lay of the land and general logistics of your hospital stay. I really enjoyed the opportunity to dig in and really get some information on the process of childbirth.

Prior to the class and of course before living it, I had a very specific idea of what labor and childbirth would be like. This was based on the way movies depict the process (mom screaming in the delivery room and a baby popping out in a single push, usually looking about 3 months old). Boy, did I have no idea! I was very glad to have gone through the class and understood what the process of birthing a child entailed.

Tips for pain management-  Let me just say that regardless of how your baby enters this world (vaginal or c-section, with or without drugs, etc.) you’re amazing and ever birth is beautiful and special. Period. That being said, this goes back to knowing all of your options. I personally have always known I would end up with an epidural. My pain threshold is not super high (although it turns out it was higher than I expected when all was said and done). Still, I was super paranoid that an epidural too early would slow down my progress and the last thing I wanted was to spend hours at 3 centemeters.

I really liked that our instructor gave us some great tips and breathing exercises for natural pain management. While I still ended up with an epidural (which was absolutely the best possible decision for me!) I held off for a very long time by using those pain management techniques. While I don’t know for sure if I progressed so well because I waited on the meds (they said I was “textbook”) I was able to wait as long as I did because of the pain management tips they had taught us in class and the excellent support from my husband and the amazing nurses on staff that day. The more you know…

The Cons:

The Fear- This may just be something specific to me. One of the things we did in our class was watch these videos of people going through actual childbirth and various processes associated with it (different stages of labor, different types of delivery, etc.). While these were super informative and we got a kick out of the bad 90’s hairstyles, they really terrified me. Seriously.

When I’m not pregnant, I tend to not be a super emotional person, I rarely cry and can be a bit on the abrasive side (I’m working on it!). I don’t know if it was my hormones or what, but every single time we would watch a video in birthing class I would have a really emotional response. I’ve (thankfully) never had any major medical procedures before and these women on the videos just seemed so miserable and totally, completely in pain. It really, really scared the hell out of me. I can remember one night on our usually after-class-drive-to-Wendy’s (because a Frosty makes everything better) I was still really teary after a particularly scary delivery video. J was wonderful about reminding me that the parts of labor and delivery that they were showing in the video were all of the very hardest parts. Yes, the image of that poor woman laboring at home and completely miserable in her newly designed nursery were scary, but they were likely leaving out the breaks between contractions where mom had a moment to breath and regain her strength for the next contraction.

I actually ended up downloading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth on my kindle about a month before I delivered. It’s interesting, because although I’m not at all against Natural Childbirth (I think it’s awesome if that’s something you want and are able to do!) I had heard that the second part of the book was pretty biased against hospital births and after rolling my eyes through an entire sitting of The Business of Being Born, I was not interested in anymore rhetoric (spoiler alert, there were parts of the second half that also made me roll my eyes, but like everything else, we take what works for us and leave the rest).

I decided to go into the book with an open mind, mostly because I was really surprised at my emotional reaction to those videos and felt it would be good for me to read some empowering stories of real women’s birthing experiences. And while some of it was a little out there for me, overall I really got a lot of out the first half of that book, which is all birth stories. Not only was I much more at ease with the idea of going through childbirth, I also picked up even more fantastic pain management tips, which really helped us when I was actually in labor.

So while I’ve gotten a little bit off topic, the moral of the story is keep an open mind. Where the classes are concerned and where information is concerned. Even though I’m not someone that tends to gravitate toward the Natural Birthing movement, I really enjoyed educating myself on that side of the birthing process and it really contributed to my great birthing experience. But also be aware that they don’t sugar coat anything about childbirth in the classes.

Biased information- Let me preface this by saying this was not at all an issue in the class that I took. The nurse who gave our class made a point to discuss all sides of childbirth and was careful not to push anything on us in terms of beliefs. I don’t know if this is the case for every other birthing class and I’ve heard of situations where the instructor may have been a little more pushy about certain hot-button topics. Whatever the case, I once again encourage you to keep an open mind, not only in class but in the delivery room.

And that goes for childbirth and parenting in general. At the end of the day, the goal is a healthy baby and a healthy mama. Regardless of whether you take all the classes in the world, you cannot truly imagine what it will be like until you live it (the good, the bad and the ugly!). Whatever you decide about the classes, the best advice I have to give is as mentions: keep an open mind. Babies will do what they want during birth. There is so much that is out of your control. While it’s amazing to be informed and to know what you want (and don’t want) try to go with the flow. Do what’s right for you and your unique situation. If that means taking a class have at it. If you’d rather skip it, that’s fine too.

If you’re currently pregnant or planning to eventually be pregnant, do you plan to take a class? If you’d been through it before, did you take a birthing class? What was your experience like?

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  • Reply
    January 13, 2016 at 11:42 am We did classes when we had our first. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but once we realized everyone was feeling the same way, it wasn't so bad.
    • Reply
      January 13, 2016 at 4:24 pm I'm with you there, definitely had some uncomfortable moments (and we may or may not of made some slightly awkward jokes to ease the tension).
  • Reply
    January 13, 2016 at 11:42 am I never went to birthing class, although my doctor suggested I do. I had a great pregnancy experience and birth experience though.
    • Reply
      January 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm I feel like it definitely isn't for everyone! I'm glad to hear you had an awesome experience on both sides :)
  • Reply
    January 14, 2016 at 4:45 pm My hubby and I are expecting our first this February and we took a class. I'm so glad we did because it cleared up a lot of misinformation and helped me to fee empowered to go through the delivery process. It was also an eye opener for my hubby who is truly embracing his support roll now that he knows what he should be doing.
    • Reply
      January 15, 2016 at 11:05 am Congrats on the new baby- I hope you have a quick and easy delivery! I'm so glad that the class was helpful for you both! My husband was the best birth coach and it made the entire experience so positive.
  • Reply
    January 16, 2016 at 1:08 pm We took a class and I was a fan for all the reasons you mentioned. My friend was about ten weeks behind me, delivering at the same hospital, and I told her the classes weren't really necessary, and, guess what, her baby came out! LOL to staying at 3cm for hours. Sometimes that happens without an epi if you are REALLY lucky, so thanks for nothing, body. I also tried that Ina May book until I got to the part about the woman having an orgasm during labor. It went right back to the library and I was then even more solidly on team epidural. Now everything I can find on VBACs seems geared towards women who also want natural births. Where are my epidural VBAC ladies?
    • Reply
      January 18, 2016 at 11:39 am Yeah, it's so crazy how different everyone's bodies are! And I'm told how different every labor is. I'll be interested to see what this next one was like. There were definitely a few things in the book that were a little out there for me personally, but it was definitely interesting to see what worked for other people (or reeeeaaallly worked in the case of the orgasm haha). Bummer that my body doesn't handle labor that way haha!
  • Reply
    January 17, 2016 at 10:20 pm I completely agree that it is something you should keep an open mind about and it is personal for everyone.
    • Reply
      January 18, 2016 at 11:35 am Thanks for stopping by- there's definitely no single right way for everyone :)

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