“Imagine if our culture told us that birth was one of the greatest things a woman might ever do. Imagine if the stories and images we were exposed to taught us that labour is an incredible and transformational experience, a rite of passage into motherhood.”
Childbirth education has fallen out of favor for most expectant parents these days. Most couples take a quick hospital course that teaches them how to be compliant patients, what will happen when they get an epidural, and possibly a relaxation exercise or two. However, with NJ’s cesarean rate hovering right around 40%, abysmal breastfeeding rates, and postpartum depression running rampant among our new mothers, a thorough childbirth class is worth the investment of both time and money.
We all bring history into our experience of becoming parents. Family history, cultural preconceptions, and inconsistent nuggets of information from the internet, friends, and pregnancy books. In many ways, women are told that how they give birth doesn’t matter as long as they don’t drink alcohol or eat sushi for the nine months leading up to the big event, and it is best to leave the whole process behind closed doors and in the hands of experts- doctors and nurses who know what is best for a woman’s body and her baby. However, parenting happens at home, and taking ownership of your experience during pregnancy, labor and childbirth with knowledge and good choices will define your early experiences as mothers and fathers.
Childbirth is the perfect preparation for motherhood. Making smart choices during your pregnancy about who will take care of you, where you will give birth, and how you will manage the challenges of labor can empower you and your partner to be confident parents, comfortable caregivers and advocates for your new baby. Discovering your inner strengths, and the ways that you cope with life’s challenges on a daily basis will allow you to approach childbirth fearlessly and with joy. Knowing what to expect from the labor process, physically and emotionally, leaves parents free to surrender to the experience, and to relish the everyday miracle of birth.
How does a childbirth class help you achieve this confidence? It’s true that much of labor and birth cannot be controlled. However, you can take charge of the way you deal with the unpredictability of birth. You and your partner have the power to choose a provider that has the same philosophy of childbirth and newborn care as you, you can nurture your body and soul throughout your pregnancy with diet, mindfulness, and positive influences, and you can educate yourself about the things that are proven to help women and men manage the extreme physical and emotional challenges of childbirth. Hearing stories about real women and men who have taken charge of the births of their children is empowering. Learning about and seeking medical care practices that are scientifically proven to benefit mothers and babies can transform mothers- and fathers- to- be into powerful advocates for their babies, and for other moms and babies in the future!
Childbirth education is not just about the birth. It is about looking at the process of pregnancy, birth and postpartum as an opportunity to think about what kind of parents you will be, how having a child will transform you as a couple, and what kind of childhood you want to give to your daughter or son. Giving birth is hard; both women and men are tested by the awesome nature of the experience. But knowledge is power, and when you are having babies, you will need to be powerful. Throughout pregnancy, as your body changes and your baby grows, your physical transformation is inseparable from a broadening sensitivity to the child that you are nurturing within. Don’t ignore that inner voice- the heightened senses of pregnancy is deep wisdom guiding you to take charge of your experience as a mother. Your baby deserves the best, and educating yourselves about your choices is time well spent.
By Britt Sando CD (DONA), LCCE