Now that I am a Certified Childbirth Educator, I can look back on my childbirth preparation experiences with a more critical eye. Let me first say, I don’t believe that there is one method that serves everyone, but rather, certain methods resonate with certain people. You like vanilla, I like chocolate . . . you get the idea. But how do you know what is a good fit for you? Let me explain.
For my first baby, I took classes through the hospital, and I didn’t remember much of anything helpful by the time I was in labor. Those hospital classes did not teach me any coping skills. I was going to “try” to go natural (lol). I ended up getting pitocin and thought I had to stay confined to bed. None of the nurses there told me it would be easier for me to get up and move around. (Maybe they didn’t know because they only ever saw medicated births?) So, I didn’t. Culture had me believing that I was supposed to stay in the hospital bed, even though no one ever actually said that to me. Given that I was in tremendous pain, had no coping skills and my husband was equally at a loss to help me, I requested the epidural. While the epidural was very effective in relieving my pain, I felt disconnected from my body and the birth experience. I was an observer; just another person in the room waiting for a baby to emerge. I knew if I was going to do this again, I’d need to seek out a different kind of class to have a better birth experience.
Fast forward to my second birth: we took a birth preparation class that was 12 weeks long. It was a popular method that celebrates husbands. We got a lot out of the class and I think it did a great job preparing us. But there were weeks we *really* didn’t want to go. I think if we were not already parents, we probably wouldn’t have taken that class. The things that drove me to do it were a.) a “night out” without our oldest, b.) I really needed support from my instructor in navigating things with my care provider (another story for another time) and c.) I was determined to have a natural birth. Long story short, I coped with all of my labor at home and in the car. I don’t think my husband actually did any of the physical support he learned in that class. Most of what I did to get through labor in those three very intense hours was primal and instinctive. The main thing I got out of that class was that my body was made to do this. The class convinced me that I could give birth without interventions. (and I did!) I appreciated that my husband learned how to identify the different stages of labor by observing my behavior. He knew I was further along than I thought I was and thus, contacted our support people to come before I probably would have. I believe the classes were a good investment of our time and money.
Third birth: To prepare for our first homebirth, I read a book on self-hypnosis for labor which was accompanied by a CD. (The book is also available in class format with instructor, which we did not take.) I was confident in my laboring skills after my second birth but I felt like maybe I just got lucky to have a 3 hour labor last time, so thought it wise to add some more tools to my toolbox. It was a little weird for me, to be honest. I didn’t get into it, even though I love “new-age hippie” stuff. Maybe self-hypnosis just didn’t resonate with me at the time, or maybe it was the scripts, or the voice on the CD. I could not “connect” with them. I also don’t believe calling contractions “surges” made them any less painful for me. So, did it help me during labor? What that book helped me do was understand that I had to be in a different part of my brain. I suppose I inherently knew this already because I made the effort to plan a homebirth; I couldn’t see myself laboring like I wanted in a hospital having had the previous experiences I had. I think the birth hypnosis book most helped me engage in the idea of seeing contractions in different ways; waves, colors, etc. to help cope with them and brought me to understand the value of birth affirmations.
Fourth Birth: By the time I was pregnant with my youngest child, I had already been a Childbirth Educator for several years. I knew that all of my laboring instincts would kick in and that I could trust the process. I had another homebirth and added a doula this time for good measure. My doula was able step in and provide physical comfort/support while my husband took care of setting up the birth space and preparing supplies. It was SO NICE to have someone 100% dedicated to my physical and emotional needs while Chris managed other equally important aspects of the birth setting. The thing that stands out most to me, though, about coping with my fourth labor is that I had been able to turn inward and completely surrender to the will of my baby and my body. I didn’t have to use my thinking brain to remember things to do . . . it was instinctive. After reflecting on that birth, I came to the conclusion that the practice most closely associated with how I “turned inward” is known as meditation.
A pregnant mother practices meditation to prepare for birth.
I had never taken any classes in meditation until long after my fourth birth. But when I started meditating, I knew instantly that this place in my brain seemed familiar. It was just where I had been during the deepest, most divine part of my birth experiences. After researching, I understand now why practicing meditation is so profoundly useful for pain relief during labor.
I believe that the efforts I made in preparing for birth during my pregnancies helped to get me where I needed to be for labor. These classes and books gave me tools I may not have had otherwise. Because I had experience with several approaches to childbirth preparation, I was able to make the informed decision to become certified by an organization (CAPPA) that doesn’t teach/promote/utilize a specific method, but rather draws from evidence based practices as well as the varied experiences and expertise of many mothers and birth professionals. Coupled with my training, I am able to draw upon my own experiences and knowledge to teach expectant couples a wide variety of tools to help them through their birth journeys. I firmly believe that a well prepared birth team has the best chances of having a beautiful and positive birth experience. Now that I am also an Evidence Based Birth® instructor, I am able to offer even more support in the way of preparing families for navigating birth in a medical setting.
If you are deciding on a class that best suits you and your partner, there are many factors to consider including your schedules, your birth intentions and your birth philosophy. The vast majority of out-of-hospital group classes are going to be great for most couples, but there are sometimes limitations with scheduling and availability, so be sure to explore your options around your community and even a little further out from home. You might find a perfect fit just a little bit out of the way and it could make all the difference for you, your baby and your birth.