Friday, February 19, 2016

How I Benefit from Childbirth Classes

I used to think that pregnancy and childbirth were a fairly standard event that didn't require much planning:

Woman gets pregnant. 
After nine months, she goes to the hospital.
The baby comes out (usually while the woman is lying in bed, screaming and red-faced). 

As I learn more and more, I see that childbirth does not necessarily have to be this way, and and that it is important for women (and their husbands) to prepare!  As we prepare for the birth of Baby, I've read tons of books to talk about with my husband. We've also started taking childbirth classes.  Why would we take classes if I've already read loads of books? Why would we even take classes at all? 
Let's look at an interesting analogy for a moment:
" make a blunt comparison, a woman who doesn't know how to swim is given nine month's notice that she will be thrown in deep water. Let's assume that during that nine-month period she does not avail herself of classes where swimming is taught. This is as unreasoning as one who knows she is pregnant, does not know how to act in labor, and then during her nine months does not bother to attend classes in the conduct of labor. The results in both cases would be horrible to behold, particularly by someone who loves the participant." ~Dr. Robert Bradley, Husband-Coached Childbirth
It's one thing to read books on how to swim and to talk with people who swim-but it's another thing to actually take swimming lessons. Similarly, while I have loads of book-knowledge about childbirth, it's another thing to actually learn how to put that knowledge into practice! As I go through the classes with my husband, I've been thinking about a few of the different reasons why I'm spending the time and money to do this, and how the classes have benefited me so far (and I'll list a couple of the well-known classes out there). 

Childbirth is a huge event, mentally and physically, so I want to prepare for it!
If I was going to run in a race (especially a longer one-not that I would ever do that!) wouldn't I prepare myself? In a similar way, if I'm going to go through the marathon of childbirth (which can be a mega-marathon, according to some of the stories I've heard!), shouldn't I prepare? While I can obviously do some preparation independently, it is nice to have guided preparation from a trained person who has gone through this. 

As I prepare, accountability helps me to stay on track.
Before I took childbirth classes, my husband did a pretty good job at making sure that I did a couple different exercises. But, being assigned homework each week that we have to mark down in our workbook is a whole different level of accountability! Especially since each week that we complete our homework, our names go in a drawing for an exciting prize at the end of the course :) 

I don't know what I'm doing, so it's helpful to have a certified instructor help me improve.
My husband and I eat fairly healthily, with balanced diets that include regular servings fresh fruit, grains, and protein. As part of our class, I have to keep a chart of what I eat and calculate the protein that I consume each day. I was shocked to see that, when I outlined my meals, I had been eating far less than a recommended amount of protein, and was not consuming enough fruits and vegetables. The instructor (and some of the other couples) all had great suggestions for ways to improve my diet, and I've been able to increase my protein intake! Having other people support and work with me in the process of being healthier and preparing for childbirth is awesome!  

Physical practice, guided by an instructor, is really helpful.
I had thought that I was doing pretty good with pregnancy exercises. Then, in class, I found out that I was not doing squats in the best possible way. In fact, I can (embarrassingly) only hold a squat for about a minute and a half! The other night after class, my husband and the instructor took several to work with me, so that I could learn to squat better. I've also been told that in the future, we will participate in labor rehearsals, which sounds super helpful in learning about the different postures and positions that may help during labor! 

It's a great way to strengthen the relationship between my husband and I.
I don't go off to classes to learn stuff without my husband. Nope, he comes with me and learns right alongside myself and the other couples in our class! This has definitely helped me grow closer to him. Not only does he learn what exercises I should be doing (so he can help hold me accountable), but some of my preparatory exercises are for us to do together! For example, I'm supposed to spend two segments of 10 minutes daily in complete relaxation. This week, one of those daily segments is supposed to involve him massaging me, to find out a good way to help relax me later on in the pregnancy and once labor begins. Together, my husband and I get to learn all about the process of childbirth and labor, and how he can best coach me-and this is great for our communication, as well! 

Now that I've run through some of the benefits I've experienced, I want to briefly touch on the different types of childbirth classes, and why we chose the type we did. 

I believe that every couple is different, every pregnancy is different, and each woman has different needs. So, while some childbirth classes work great for you, those same classes may not be what I need. Thankfully, there are different varieties of childbirth classes! I'll just run through the main ones that I found in our area (but there are probably lots more out there!) with a tiny little blurb each:

Lamaze: This method is pretty popular, and I've read that while it mainly focused on breathing patterns in the past, it has broadened its perspective to a wide range of confidence-building techniques for women. Baby Center has a list of some of the elements that are covered (I couldn't find an actual course description). 

Hypnobirthing: This method uses self-hypnosis techniques and other elements (like visualization) to help create a relaxing birthing experience (For a couple of articles about hypnobirthing from a Catholic perspective, see here and here). The five-class outline can be found here!

Birth Boot Camp: These classes talk about everything from nutrition to birthing locations to the end of pregnancy and stages of labor. The ten-class outline can be found here!

The Bradley Method: These classes are also very comprehensive, and they place a large emphasis on the husband/partner as a labor coach. The twelve-class outline can be found here!

Looking at these four different methods, I started to weigh them against each other-my husband had told me that I should figure out what I thought would be best for us. As I went through the list, I wasn't took keen on Lamaze. I know it's gotten better than it used to be, but it still didn't feel quite right for us. I've heard loads of good reviews about hypnobirthing from different Catholic moms, but I didn't feel like that was a good method for me, either. 

So, with my last two options down to BBC and Bradley, I started to compare and contrast them.  I had already heard lots of good reviews for both classes, and I was leaning more towards Bradley (I really, really like the huge emphasis that Bradley Method places on the husband as a birth coach, though I think all methods involve the husband at some level), but I wanted to fairly consider BBC. When I put the course schedules next to each other, I started thinking that the Bradley course content and schedule would work better with us. I liked how the Bradley schedule has classes for basic labor techniques for the two stages of labor, as well as classes for "advanced techniques" for the stages of labor. I also liked how the Bradley outline specifically mentioned multiple labor rehearsals. 
23 weeks gestation! At my ultrasound and
midwife appointment today, we found out that
Baby is doing well, active,
and weighs 1 pound, 7 ounces!

Keeping all of this in mind, I e-mailed every Bradley and BBC instructor in the OKC metro area, since I didn't know who would be offering sessions that would work with us-and if there wouldn't be a Bradley class available, then we would probably go with BBC. A Bradley instructor got back to us with a class schedule that worked perfectly, so God arranged it all quite nicely! 

I really encourage childbirth classes. Being taught by a certified, experienced instructor is really helpful, and getting to interact with other couples in our class is good, too! Childbirth classes have been so reassuring and confidence-building for us. Before we took the classes, I was excited for labor. Now, I'm way more confident, and even more excited! 


  1. My husband and I took the Bradley classes 7 years ago. They were great for us! I have used the relaxation in all four of my labors and all the nurses have been super impressed with my calmness during labor. You are doing great! Practicing the relaxation is key, plus for me it meant a daily back massage. It is also really helpful for dealing with pain in other circumstances as well, like blood draws and whatnot. I always pull out my bradley books at some point during pregnancy and remind myself of all the good things in them. The emotional signposts are great for figuring out stages of labor. :)

    1. Susanna, that's so neat that you two went through Bradley as well! Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective, especially as someone who has benefited from this method many times! It's really helpful to hear you mention the importance of relaxation; that was something that I didn't take quite as seriously at first (I would focus more on the physical exercises), so I shall keep that in mind and keep working on relaxing! I agree-I think it will be helpful in other circumstances, especially since I hate getting my blood drawn! When I initially had blood taken at my first appointment, I had to stare at the ultrasound picture the whole time so that I didn't go crazy haha. I'm really excited to continue learning and practicing more with this method, and getting to put it into action this summer! :)

  2. My pleasure! Taylor, I think it's so cool that we both were going through the last stages of engagement at the same time and now we're going through pregnancy at the same time! It's awesome :) It's neat that you and Sam have been looking into classes, and that you're going to start them so soon! That's really exciting (though I should probably warn you-the Bradley videos are pretty old, so you'll see plenty of laughable outfits)!!! I hope that you three are able to benefit from the classes, and that they help you prepare well for childbirth!

  3. In addition to the benefits of classes that you mentioned, it's great to have camaraderie with other couples who are experiencing the same things you are! You can laugh together, share about the changes you are undergoing, cry together, bounce ideas off of each other, etc.

    1. Shannon, that is such a good point! I love the communal aspect of class time. I also think it's neat that 2 of the other couples already have gone through labor and childbirth, so it's helpful to hear their perspective (especially pertaining to breastfeeding), too!