~I often hear this sentiment :
"Women have been giving birth for 1000's of years. You don't need a class to give birth."
What is interesting about this quote is that I hear it both from medical doctors who are very intervention happy or dislike natural birth and from people planning to home birth.
At the risk of offending everybody who reads this, I have got to address this idea. Because frankly, this just usually is not the case. Let me tell you why.
Women HAVE been giving birth for 1000's of years-
Yes, women have been giving birth for a long long time. The mechanisms of birth worked the same with the first birth as they do today in the modern woman- contractions, dilation, pushing, baby, placenta. But the CULTURE of birth is constantly changing.
How many of you have attended a live birth? How many of you have attended multiple births in person? How many of your husbands have?
A woman a thousand years ago most likely was around birth. She was at the births of her siblings or cousins or nieces and nephews. She learned to help the mother after the labor. She saw women breastfeeding. A 1000 years ago women were actually AROUND birth. Birth was something that really only women understood.
They didn't hide it in hospitals and close it behind a door and a cloak of mystery and fear. It was a normal part of life.
Not only did they see it, they talked about it, supported each other in it, and had traditions surrounding it. We have traditions surrounding birth too, but they don't do much to teach women about the actual mechanics and how to cope with birth and labor naturally. Today when women talk about birth they talk about epidurals and pain and what they were allowed to do. This can be wonderfully helpful in preparing you for the typical hospital induction birth. It does not however do much to prepare you if you are planning on birthing naturally.
Women being surrounded by other women who had birthed naturally also creates a very different birth culture. Being in a weekly class with others in your same situation and with the same goals can re-create that "birth culture" for you today. Having a teacher who has done what you are planning a few times herself also gives you somebody to ask questions and proof that natural birth is possible, even if you don't know many people who have done it.
A 1000 years ago women didn't birth in the hospital-
A large part of the classes I teach focuses on preparing women to navigate the hospital system. The truth is, if you are planning on birth in the hospital and going natural, you need to really know what you are doing. You need to know how to relax well without medications in a place where they are readily available. You also need to be aware of the purpose and ways to avoid common interventions, drugs, and procedures in the hospital.
Women didn't have to do this 1000 years ago. There are huge advantages to hospital birthing- but combining it with a natural approach is often tricky. Thus the class.
And your partner? What was he doing a 1000 years ago?
The modern woman almost always wants her husband at the birth with her. Not only that she wants him to be involved, helpful, loving, and basically fantastic.
I don't know how to say this nice, but....good luck with that if he doesn't know a thing about birth and is scared crapless of the entire idea of something huge coming out of your vagina.
Many women are self motivated enough to learn about birth and study and practice relaxation on their own. After all, they realize that THEY are the ones who have to give birth. Women are often very invested in baby and the experience long before it happens.
Men a 1000 years ago were probably not part of the birth process. But today, women expect them to be there. If you want him to be helpful, to understand what is normal, to know what a crowning baby looks like, and to know how to do a double hip squeeze, he needs a class.
My classes focus on the partner a LOT. If I can get dad comfortable, excited, and confident in your ability as a couple to have a natural birth, then I feel much better about the couples ability to do this. If mom is looking forward to this and knows her stuff, but dad is scared, doesn't know why you sound like a ghost, and just wants you to get an epidural because he wants you to be helped but he doesn't know how to help you, then we have another beast altogether.
But I am birthing at home-
I know- I still think that a natural birth class can be helpful in preparing a mom to birth at home. There are two reasons for this.
1) A good class won't just cover birth- it will cover preparing for a healthy pregnancy and staying low risk. I have seen more than one home birth mama end up having a baby in the hospital because baby came early because of poor nutrition. Some things just go wrong and can't be prevented. But some things CAN be helped with an awesome diet. You can learn about this on your own, but I notice that people focus more on how they are taking care of themselves when they are asked about it weekly by their friendly birth teacher.
When I ask people to keep track of everything they eat, they really pay more attention than they do just because they read something about the Brewer Diet online. A class helps keep you accountable while surrounding you with a supportive group of women and men.
2) Even if you birth at home, you still need to actually LABOR. Birthing at home might prevent some common interventions, but it doesn't get you out of the work involved in birthing a baby. I have talked to many a midwife who has home birth mamas who have no coping mechanisms in place for their birth.
Losing control is a natural part of birth- but knowing how to relax and do it well can help keep that to the normal, baby is almost here, minimum. A mother who is very stressed out, fearful, and unfamiliar with the birth process, can have difficulty with laboring from the very beginning and throughout the entire process. If you throw in a partner who also is freaking out, you can really change the process in a negative way.
A good birth class doesn't just talk about what happens in a chart- it teaches you how to handle it.
~The truth is that not everyone really needs a class. I am not going to tell you that I KNOW that you do. But I do often see people who don't think they needed a class and it turns out they really could have benefited from the knowledge, the confidence, the time to prepare with their partner, the skill it gave their partner, and the nurturing friendships with like minded people.
One of my favorite things to see is how a couple's relationship grows in class. They learn to rely on one another. They learn to trust each other more. They grow together as we discuss relationship issues that arise during the time of pregnancy.
In the end a great childbirth class really just teaches you how to tune in to what you already know how to do innately. Then, you CAN birth more like women did 1000 years ago- naturally and with faith in your body.