We know that part of this experience is going to classes. This knowledge alone; however, was not sufficient to make us “want” to take childbirth preparation classes. I guess one reason we waited to take these classes is that if we didn’t take them, maybe the baby wouldn’t come. It was sort of “ignorance is bliss” meets hardcore Freudian denial. From a more rational point of view, we figured if things are important to know they will (1) be in a book that we already have paid for (2) the doctor will tell us. Despite this, we took some classes and learned served some other purposes too.
Good things about classes
(1) You both get the information at the same time. This is important. Books are great sources of information but getting information from books at different times can lead to disagreements. Without spilling all the beans, here’s some friendly advice for both of you, what you know about childbirth is all about how it is delivered. Dads, it’s better to not be (or be perceived) as a “know it all” since as far as mom is concerned, it’s all academic to us anyway. Moms, just because dad has read something first doesn’t mean that you should ignore it. While he may not know what he’s talking about, whoever wrote the book and got it published presumably does. This is a great advantage to classes.
(2) You can ask questions to someone without a vested interest in the process. The doctor is always your first resource, but he/she has a role to play and a perspective that comes from their training and experience. Plus, they are the last people you feel like disagreeing with since they hold all the cards, so to speak. The educators are experienced people that can answer your questions generally without you having to worry that they will hold things against you or you will feel foolish. Jenny is a great questioner and is always the one to ask the “embarrassing” questions that no one else would feel comfortable asking. In the nursing classes when she asked about “drinking during nursing” and “leakage” there was a palpable sigh of relief in the room.
(3) Supportive atmosphere. Books and doctors are great repositories of knowledge, but they can’t offer you the support of a group of people all going through the same experience at the same time. We got to hear from other couples and learn that we weren’t out on our own in our feelings and experiences. Even more telling and reassuring for us has been reading other people’s body language, seeing the places where they wince, hold each others hands, or laugh. This shared educational experience simply can’t be replicated even reading a book together.
Bad things about classes
(1) Times. While most people work 9-5, increasingly more people work odd hours or work multiple jobs. If classes are only offered at night or on the same night every week, there will always be a group of people who can’t go to certain classes. While we realize that educators have families too and don’t want to be gone all weekend every weekend, the one weekend class we took was our only choice for the “prepared childbirth” option. Offering classes with flexible schedules is more important than ever.
(2) Cost. Although some classes have no cost (nursing was free) and others are really not that expensive ($45-60), even middle class families with a child on the way may not be able to afford even minimal costs. (Have you priced strollers and diaper genie’s recently?) If these classes are so important, shouldn’t health insurance cover them? Just a thought.
(3) Fear of judgment/comparison. While there is something to be said for a supportive atmosphere, people being people, judgment, comparison, and competition are always a fear. In one class, we stopped at an infamous coffee chain to get hot tea and coffee. When we walked in carrying the hot, potentially caffeinated beverages, stares and glares were cast out way. Caffeine is a real no-no amongst “bobo” (bourgeois bohemian) parents-to-be and since Jenny was obviously pregnant at the time, the stares were bound to happen. In the classes where we showed up only with the requisite sports bottle of water and healthy snacks, no one seemed to notice us any more than other couples. Although this may all be more in our head than reality, the feeling was the same, judgment on those who do not do everything correctly! Given that it was just tea (yes, it was caffeinated), this feeling must be even worse for moms who come to classes alone, either by choice or circumstance. In our “prepared childbirth” class a mother was there by herself. In her introduction she clarified that she was “not alone” but simply did not want her partner present during delivery. Even knowing better, we felt ourselves questioning her motives and saying derogatory things when we got home. The shame of being human.
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