Years ago I was a first time expectant mom and while I was excited, I did not realize just how big birth is. Birth is not just a moment, it is the beginning of a new chapter and a new life. Every pregnancy and every birth shape us in some way. I chose a care provider and thought that was the only big pregnancy decision I needed to make. Fortunately I made a good choice in providers and she recommended I take a Birth Works childbirth preparation class where I learned more than just the stages of labor. This is what I learned:
1. I had options. From birthing at home with a qualified midwife to delivering in a high tech facility, and everything in between, I could choose where I wanted to deliver. I learned the pros and the cons to different locations and different types of providers. A key Birth Works philosophy is, “A woman gives birth best where SHE feels safest.” Birth is not one size fits all.
2. Self reflection is a great tool. Through writing exercises, talking and more I learned to figure out how I was feeling about my different birth options. Making the choices that feel right to you is empowering.
3. Working together. The class facilitated conversation about our beliefs and desires so my husband and I could navigate a birth plan we both were comfortable with. He learned how big of an experience birth is for a woman and I learned to voice my needs. It became an important step in learning to parent together even before our son arrived. We also learned the importance of having an open dialogue with our healthcare providers.
4. Birth matters. The experience and how you feel about it matters. Being an active participant in your birth helps to create a positive experience. Feeling heard and cared about is important. I learned how to be that active participant in my care and how to choose a care provider that recognizes that importance.
5. Confidence and instinct. I learned to be confident in trusting my instincts. Certainly education, facts and input from professionals is helpful but instincts play a huge role. Throughout the entire class our overall confidence in our ability to give birth and to make decisions was built up. The confidence about birth and decision making translated into confidence as new parents.
6. Parenting options. While it was a birth class the open dialogue led to many parenting discussions. I learned about breastfeeding and bottle feeding and the evidenced based information to navigate those options. I learned about babywearing, about local parent support groups and resources, and a variety of parenting styles. I went into parenthood with a variety of information and the confidence to trust my instincts. I learned that just like birth, parenting is not one size fits all.
7. Bonding. My husband and I bonded while participating in the class. We also learned, and later experienced, how labor and birth can be an intimate bonding experience between couples. We learned how different birth decisions can impact initial bonding with baby and how to overcome any unforseen obstacles.
8. There is not one way. There is not one right place, provider or way to give birth. There is not one right way to parent. This was comforting as a new parent faced with options but it was also eye opening as a person in general. Every situation is unique and parents are making the best choices they can given their unique situation, support and education. This is one reason I love supporting parents, support allows for more options.
Obviously we also learned about the physiology of labor, prenatal wellness and postpartum healing but the above were lessons I had not expected from a childbirth class. I am so glad I had the opportunity to learn and am humbled to be able to help other parents learn as they journey into parenthood. If you are in the Philadelphia area learn more about childbirth preparation classes: www.Philadelphiapostpartumdoula.com/childbirth-education