As a teacher at heart and a moderate-to-severe birth nerd, I am a huge proponent of childbirth education. Our culture is saturated with ridiculous misinformation about birth and birthing options, which undermines moms’ confidence and makes it harder for us to choose what’s best for us. No matter how you you want to birth, it is so important to understand how birth works so you can make informed choices that can help you avoid regrets down the line. That being said, let’s be real: there are certain things no one actually wants to do in birthing class, even though some of them may, eventually, be fairly useful.
Every birth is different, and all birth is different from the cartoonish depictions we frequently see in the mass media. So going in with the mindset that “Oh, it’s natural, so I’ll just let things happen,” or “Oh, I’m just gonna get the drugs, so I don’t need to know anything” could be a really bad idea. Unchecked misunderstandings about birth might cause a person to panic once birth starts in real life, and could interfere with a person’s ability to birth the way they hoped. Or they might end up having a way faster or different labor than they expected, and not have time to get the pain meds they planned on receiving. For anyone who’s planning to have someone (a partner, a friend, whoever) in the room, it’s an especially good idea for them to learn how to be a good birth partner, supporting and advocating for you if you have any issues with your care provider(s). Well-informed childbirth educators can give you both a broad base of solid information so you can adjust if things don’t go as you imagine they will, which can help you avoid unnecessary fear and even trauma.
So yes, birthing classes have my full endorsement. No matter which kind you choose, if you have the time and/or money (if the one you like actually charges; some are free) please do yourself a favor and make the time to attend a class that aligns with your values and the way you want to birth. Just know in advance that there may be some awkwardness involved. In my opinion, though, awkwardness is ultimately a small price to pay for the personal power that comes with knowledge, so it’s still worth it even if you end up doing any of the following.
Mime Giving Birth
This is super awkward. Honestly, pretending to give birth while surrounded by a bunch of random people you don’t know might possibly be more uncomfortable than actually giving birth surrounded by a bunch of random people you don’t know. At least if you were in real labor, you’d be too focused on birthing to care about these people seeing all your weird faces, and whatever odd pose you end up pushing in.
It’s so, so important to ask questions and learn all you can in these classes. Still, that doesn’t mean anyone actually wants to do it. As uncomfortable as it is to raise your hand and ask a question in a regular class, it’s that much more uncomfortable if your question is about, say, the likelihood that you’ll poop while giving birth. (Bet raising your hand for clarification about the Pythagorean theorem seems like a cakewalk now.)
Watch In-Depth Birth Videos
Like a lot of other birth and baby nerds, I’ve seen a number of birth videos on my own time, so I can only imagine how this feels for folks who wouldn't choose to watch a birth video on purpose. Unless you're training to be a midwife, a doula, or an obstetrician, watching a birth video in a room full of strangers is a weird situation. So much potential for other people to see you make a weird face.
Watch Unrealistic Birth Videos
Here I’ll note that, while childbirth classes are a great thing in general, that doesn’t mean that all childbirth classes are equally great. Definitely ask around to find which ones are better in your area, lest you get stuck watching some outdated, low-budget film where an overly-chipper mom and family make the process seem way simpler and cleaner than it will actually be. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Practice Birthing Positions
Maybe it’s just me, but this is another one that is on the one hand, very useful, but on the other hand, is something I’d prefer to practice in the privacy of my own home after seeing it a few times in class. Real birthing positions, especially beyond the "laying back with a doctor at your feet" pose, can feel a little silly when you're not actually in the throes of labor.
Practice Massage And Other Hands-On Comfort Techniques
See above. Again, might be my anxiety talking, but I feel kinda weird about my partner giving me a massage in front of other people.
Buddy Up With Strangers
My partner and I really preferred to keep to ourselves in this kind of setting. Even as much as I ordinarily like talking to and meeting new people, I’m a lot less into talking to strangers if it involves a face-to-face convo about ripening cervixes and amniotic fluid and whatnot. Sure, we’re all adults here, but like, I don’t normally make a habit of talking to random other adults I don’t know about things like protecting my perineum unless it’s from the safety of the internet.
Make Small Talk
"So...uh...you guys freaking out yet? No? Yeah, us neither, uh huh..."
Listen To Mansplainers
This one's just not useful or helpful in any way. To the Random Birthsplainer With Way Too Much To Say And No Uterus: nobody paid money and/or hauled their tired, achy, pregnant behind all the way to birth class to hear you pontificate about epidurals or goddess woman power or anything else you are blathering about. On behalf of everybody everywhere, stop talking. If you have a question — and that means a real question, not a long-ass comment punctuated with some uptalk in a weak attempt to camouflage your true intentions — ask it and move on. You see all the other good dads, taking notes and making sure their partner is comfortable? Be like them.