If we're being honest, most of us (at least as first-time moms) know jack about giving birth. It's a gap in the modern birthing system. Busy midwives and obstetricians just don't have the time to fill us in on the ins and outs of hospital procedures and pain management. That's why childbirth classes are an essential piece of the puzzle. There are crappy instructors and poorly-planned sessions, sure, but overall you benefit from in-person preparation. You'll feel especially awesome when you experience certain birthing class moments that prove you're a badass.
My husband and I wanted to get as much education as possible. As a military family, we had some free options on post, but since we were both working full time, we just couldn't swing it. The hospital where I was to give birth had some reasonably-priced Saturday options, though, so that's what we did. We attended half-day newborn care and infant CPR and first aid courses and a full-day childbirth class. We left with a ton of information, from the best kind of massage balls to pack in my hospital bag to the pros and cons of an epidural. Most important, I knew exactly how to proceed when my water broke and contractions began.
It was a great experience, and instead of being terrifying, the following moments showed me that I could absolutely handle not only labor and delivery, but being a parent:
Not all childbirth classes are a one and done situation. In fact, if your schedule allows for several sessions, that may be the way to go. It just wasn't an option for me, so I did it all in one day.
I have trouble paying attention for eight hours in a normal situation, but at eight months pregnant, it was an especially tall order. Just making it through the whole day felt like an accomplishment, and I rewarded myself with dinner on the town.
I'm not exactly a shrinking violet, but I distinctly remember how I felt when I watched the childbirth video in junior high health class. Let's just say I handled it a whole lot better as an expectant mom. That's saying something because, unlike middle school, you know it's for sure going to happen to you in the near future. So props for not blinking.
I'm not sure this is standard practice, but my instructor had us simulate contractions by sticking our hands in ice for a minute. It's not that that's what a contraction feels like, but it's an effective way to force you to practice your breathing techniques through your discomfort.
Partners had to do it, too. My husband managed it once, but I did it something like five times so, yeah, I felt like a boss.
In most birthing classes, you'll have the opportunity to practice different birthing positions. If you're on the modest side, it can be a little awkward to try ye olde standing supported squat in a room full of strangers.
I think you'll find that in no time, however, you're using that chair, birthing ball, and your partner with no embarrassment (you're all in the same boat, after all). And when you can do that, you know you've got it in the bag come game day.
Your birthing class will likely cover instruction in breathing techniques, visualization, and massage. Not everything is going to work for you, but when you find the thing that does, it's a pretty great feeling. There's something about going into labor and delivery knowing you have an effective relaxation method in your back pocket that gives you a surge of confidence.
This is big. Your instructor will go over alternative pain management techniques (like Lamaze breathing or a warm bath), as well as medical interventions such as epidurals, analgesics, and narcotics. Your choice does not affect your badass status; being informed does.
My class helped me decide to try to labor unmedicated for as long as possible (so I could have more freedom of movement), but to keep the epidural option on the table.
Childbirth isn't always a straightforward process, so you'll be learning about possible complications. Pitocin, C-section, and episiotomies, too. There's also a show and tell section where they pass around instruments for assisting in vaginal deliveries, such as the vacuum and forceps. Let me tell you, when one of those bad boys comes around, and you know exactly what part of your body it's for, you get points for not passing out.
You don't have to leave feeling like a goddess who can handle anything labor and delivery throws her way in order to qualify as a badass. If all you picked up was where to sign in at the hospital, that counts. But I'm willing to bet you learned a whole lot more and, believe me, that knowledge and preparation will pay off in a few weeks.
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