I'd like to think I know a thing or two about birth. I've attended dozens of births, read hundreds of birth books, and observed a number of birth classes. In fact, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on how what "we" say to pregnant women can affect their perception of the outcome of their labor.
So when students ask me what kind of birth class to take, I have a few opinions on the subject.
Consider the benefits of live, in-person childbirth classes:
- In contrast to books and media classes, live classes are interactive which means you get your questions answered, but also those of other students. Questions you didn't even know you had!
- You get to move around. Rather than just looking at pictures or video of birth positions, you can actually move and get feedback from the instructor.
- Accountability to attend each class for you and possibly your partner, too. Even the best-laid plans to read books or finish seminars at an individual pace can quickly be usurped by the parts of birth preparation you think are more fun, like baby registries, showers, and assembling baby furniture.
Five reasons to look beyond the hospital (for class):
Sometimes hospitals offer a very inclusive and tremendous birth class, but often they are short and focus on the hospital procedure rather than the robust variety of topics and perspectives you're likely to get at an independent childbirth class.
1. You learn about birth (which is a normal thing, BTW). Literally everyone walking around out there was born, so this happens.... every day! You will learn about how your body will move through different stages of labor, learn tricks and tips to make yourself as comfortable as possible, and so will your partner.
2. You will meet other couples who you will get to know for many weeks. Most hospital-based classes are a little shorter and much larger in numbers than the other classes, which means you don't get the opportunity to connect with the other couples. This is great for partners who don't get the connection at prenatal yoga, and often don't seek out other parents-to-be. Many times these childbirth classes hold reunions a year later. If you don't yet have a village, this may be a great place to start forming yours.
3. Lending Library. Your hospital may also have a lending library, and certainly your local library has hundreds of books about birth. How will you choose? An out-of-hospital childbirth instructor often has a few go-to books that they know students appreciate and will typically lend them to their current students at no additional cost.
4. Personalization. Hospital classes typically need to cover a list of particular objectives, which may or may not be relevant to you. Independent childbirth classes are more fluid and customizable. Depending on where you live, you can find classes for high-risk mamas, first-time mamas, single mamas, mamas of multiples, lesbian mamas and more. Even if your class isn't specific for a particular group, your instructor will quickly learn about your values and help offer the information you're looking for.
5. They acknowledge that birth can happen outside of the hospital. They will not force an out-of-hospital agenda on you, but if you are the kind of person who is curious about the differences, they will share them with you. I know several mamas who planned their births in the hospital and wound up spontaneously delivering outside of the hospital because they could not transport in time. An independent childbirth class prepares you for the spectrum of birth possibilities.
Questions to ask the teacher:
Do you have any preference about where I choose to birth my baby?
Can I ask you questions outside of class, via email or phone?
Do you have a lending library that I can use?
How many mamas/couples will you accept in a particular class?
What is your birth-background?
Where were you trained as a childbirth educator?
How to tell if the teacher is one of your people:
Do you welcome same-sex couples?
Is there a faith background that you utilize in your teaching?
Will I be uncomfortable in your classes if I do not share your faith?
Will we be using art in this class?
Kari Kwinn, ERYT500, RPYT, Doula, Midwife's Assistant is one of Enso's co-owners.
Why did you start teaching childbirth classes?
Prior to having children, I worked as a Clinical Social Worker. I worked with pregnant women and teenagers, and on the job, I got trained to be a Birth Doula. It was at this training that I learned about the benefits of natural birth, and fell in love with the idea of being with women during pregnancy and birth. After my daughter was born, I resigned from my job so I could be home with her, but I couldn’t stay away from the community of pregnancy, birth, women, and mothers. I became an accredited La Leche League Leader facilitating local support groups on breastfeeding and volunteering on the local phone line. Shortly after this a friend took me to lunch and tried to recruit me on to her Arbonne team. Afterwards I knew I was not going to join her Arbonne team—I just didn’t have the passion for beauty products that she had, but I did have a passion for birth and empowering women. And then it was like a light bulb went off above my head: I could teach childbirth classes! I became a certified childbirth educator in 2007 and have enjoyed every minute of this amazing journey.
What is your favorite part about teaching?
I love everything about teaching because the subject matter is near and dear to my heart. But if I had to pick one thing, I would say that I love watching my students transform into strong, empowered, confident parents. I love hearing their amazing birth stories, seeing the joy and priceless love enter their every cell as they introduce their new baby to me, I love meeting these precious little humans, and I love being able to witness the birth of a new family.
Tell us about your classes.
I teach a six week series of natural birth classes. I pack in A LOT of information in six weeks, but I promise you will learn everything you need to know to have a successful natural birth. I throw in some holistic practices as well, such as herbs for Pregnancy and Lactation, essential oils, and homeopathy. We watch videos, play interactive games, do relaxation exercises, and practice a Labor Rehearsal. I have put together a comprehensive and evidence based curriculum that covers every topic discussed in the class that students get to keep when the class is over. I have students emailing me years later telling me that they used “the binder” to prepare for the birth of their second (or third) baby and that they were so glad they had it.
Tell us a little bit about you.
I married my “college sweetheart” Ryan. He is my biggest supporter and best friend. I am a mom to two lovely little people: my daughter Delilah is 10 and my son Quinn is 8. They are pure joy, love, and happiness, and being their mom is my most favorite job. I have a Masters in Social Work but haven’t worked as a “social worker” since Delilah was born, but from that change came the birth of my new career and the beginning of Birth’s Journey. In addition to teaching childbirth classes, I am a La Leche League Leader providing information, support, and counseling to breastfeeding women. I am also a Certified Lactation Educator and a Certified Postpartum Doula. I love to spend time outdoors with my family hiking , going on bike rides, playing four square, and walking our dog Katie. I love to read, learn new things, and practice yoga.
Laura teaches her six-week natural childbirth education classes on Thursdays at Enso. She also offers a Newborn Care workshop for parents and caregivers interested in learning the basics of caring for a new baby. Learn more about her company Birth's Journey on her website.
This blog is not intended to be a source of medical information or advice. Please discuss all of your concerns with your care provider.