Editor's Note: Today's blog post is from guest writer and EmDo Childbirth Educator, Mary Martin Vance (or as we know her, MK!). MK has a deep-well of experience as a health and reproductive educator, and is a former social worker. She's research driven, meticulous about providing evidence for her class information, and dedicated to adult learning. All of that to say, when MK develops a cirriculum, we pay attention; and so should you.
I get it. Childbirth Education can feel like just one more thing to check off of your pregnancy to do list. If you're anything like me, it was at the bottom of the list.
The idea of sitting around with a bunch of people “hee-heeing and hoo-hooing” and talking about my feelings and fears around birth sounded awful. As a health educator, you would think I would have seen the value in this seeming "parental rite of passage", but no.
Fortunately, my midwives required it and schooled me on why I should not just attend a childbirth education class but I should engage in it.
It’s easy to feel in this day and age, with ALL the information available at your fingertips, that one should be able to glean and digest all that we need to know via books, the Internet, and friends. We’re all so busy, it’s tempting just to take the two-hour online class, or read the usual suggested book or two. While there are lots of great books out there and you can learn a lot from our friend Google, the experience leaves a lot to be desired.
In-person childbirth education offers so. much. more. Things like:
- Factual up-to-date information: Childbirth educators are trained not just in the latest research on pregnancy, labor, and delivery but also continually keep updating their materials and know how to sift through what’s good research and what’s not. A great childbirth educator updates their materials often to keep their class current and relevant.
- Interactive experience: Here's the thing. You don't know what you don't know. And your instructor doesn't know what you don't know. When you take a group class, you have an opportunity to ask questions and get them answered, not just by the childbirth educator, but also by other couples in the room. Having a class with other families from your area not only gives you a breadth of perspectives (and possible opportunity to hear questions you wouldn't have thought to ask yourself), but the opportunity to make connections that will last beyond your class together.
- Opportunities to talk with your partner: Unlike the Internet, in-person childbirth ed classes offer the chance to process information with your partner or birth support team when it’s fresh in your mind. Use this time to learn what each of you are expecting from the birth, what you need from the experience, and most importantly, what you need from each other to make your goals happen.
- Skill-building and practice: An excellent childbirth ed class puts knowledge in your brain, and also skills and tools in your toolbelt. You should get opportunities to learn a variety of skills that you can apply to your labor, delivery, and early parenting experience and should walk away with practical tools you can use. You should also get a chance to practice these skills with your partner or birth support team so that you will walk away from the class feeling confidently prepared for whatever bring might bring.
Obviously, I am biased towards our classes at Emerald Doulas. That's partially because I teach them! But more importantly, there are a few things that make our classes different than your "typical" childbirth class:
- We don’t tow the "Party Line". Since we are independent and not affiliated with a hospital or medical provider, we just don’t teach you how to be a good patient, by focusing on policies and procedures. Instead, we focus on helping you become an informed patient, by giving you information and skills that you can actually use, when and if you need to use them.
- We don’t focus on one kind of birth experience. Want an epidural? Great! We’ll talk about the benefits, risks and what to expect. Don’t want an epidural? Great! We’ll talk about ways to cope with discomfort in labor. Not sure? We’ll talk about all the options! Emerald Doulas is a judgment-free zone, and that goes for our classes too. There are no "methods", and we firmly believe that there is no single "right" way to give birth.
- We take the time to be comprehensive. Yes, it's a lot to ask of families to commit to an entire weekend to learn about birth. But I promise you it's so worth it. It is virtually impossible to cover all you need to know, and have time to put it into practice, in a single-day, shortened class format. Intensive classes that "cram it all in" are forced to leave something important out, or they have to speed through it all, blasting you with so much information you may not be able to actually retain it!
This is why we prefer a weekend-style class. Spreading the information over two days allows you the time to soak in the details, have space for questions without feeling rushed, and most importantly, it provides the opportunity to go home, process the first day with your partner, and come back on Day 2 with your questions or clarifications.
- We're inclusive of all families: You already know that Emerald Doulas is committed to providing support to all families and we know that there are so many ways to make a family. That support extends to our classes, where we use inclusive and gender-neutral language. We ask questions like, "What are your pronouns?", "What are your family names?", "What words do you use when referring to parts of your body?" and then... we use those words. If you're looking for a class that doesn't feel awkward or weird, give us a try.
- We have fun! Our classes are super interactive with plenty of time to digest information in-between activities and information. The most common feedback we get from our previous students is that the weekend flies by because it's fun, funny, 100% NOT boring. Our classes are perfect for adult learners of all learning styles and our students leave class feeling confident for their birth, and not afraid.
If you want to join in on the fun, join us at any upcoming childbirth ed classes. We teach them monthly, and tailor the content and format to each class' needs. Plus, we limit the classes to just six families so that there's time and space not just for questions and discussion, but so you can actually move around and get comfortable!
Photography generously provided by Kallyn Boerner, of Heart and Hands NC.