Beyond Hee-Hee Hoo-Hoo: Choosing the Right Childbirth Class

Two generations ago, if you’d asked women what childbirth education was, they would have looked at you blank faced.   One generation ago, they would have started doing the ‘hee-hee hoo-hoo’ breath of Lamaze.  (this seems to be the only coping tool that Hollywood knows about, as every movie and tv show shows mamas panting like dogs as they give birth)  Through great leaders like Lamaze and Bradley, families began to look at birth as something you could get prepared for, with tools to help!

Now families have so many choices, it can be hard to slog through all of the different options, and feel confident that you are making the right choice.  As with all of the decisions that you will make for your child, it’s important to make an informed choice, gathering as much information as possible, and finding the right choice for you.  Families that begin making decisions this way in pregnancy find it easier to make the tougher decisions like vaccines, and where to send your child to preschool (believe me, these decisions are closer than they sound!)

And forget the images you might have about childbirth education.  No longer a passive lecture lead by a woman with a tight bun and stirrup pants, your class will most likely be dynamic and fun.  Hopefully, it will be one of the best memories you have about preparing for baby!

When selecting a childbirth class, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind.

1.    What kind of tools do you want to learn?

From the ‘hee-hee hoo-hoo’ breathing of Lamaze, we’ve come a long way.   Childbirth classes of today may have hypnosis, yogic breathing, visualization, birth art, massage, birth positioning, videos, hands-on-practice and more!

If you know that a certain tool is something you might respond well to, seek out a class with that tool.  If you want a broad class with a ton of information for both you and your partner, and time is not an issue, a Bradley class might fit you well.  If you want to dive into your creative side, you might love Birthing from Within.  If you want to really harness the power of your mind, a Hypnosis based class like Hypnobabies or Blissborn might be perfect for you.

It can be hard to know what you will need in labor, so it’s nice to find a class with multiple tools, so you’re covered no matter what labor brings you!  Our signature Inspired Birth Classes cover the best of Bradley, Birthing from Within, and has a customized hypnosis program.

2.    Where do you want to take your classes?

There are classes offered in and out of the hospital setting. There are a few advantages to taking a class in the setting you will be birthing in, like getting used to the space.  However, hospital classes are often limited in what they can share, and focused more on making you a great patient, familiar with their protocols, and all the possible detours that can happen in birth.

Taking a class out of the hospital will ensure that the teacher can tell you everything, including things that might not make you the best ‘patient’ but will give you the most empowered birth. (like the fact that you can lock the bathroom door to create privacy, or ask for things like delayed cord clamping and no IV)

3.    When do you want to take a class?

As far as timing, some mamas start their classes as early as 24 weeks and others start as late as 35.  (which is a little tight) Many classes run for 4-6 week sessions over a six week time period, although a few (like Bradley) are 12 weeks. I would say the best thing to think about for timing is when you’ll be really to dedicate time to getting ready to give birth. You’ll usually have some ‘homeplay’ between classes, so having some time outside of the weekly class is helpful.  Taking the class later in your pregnancy, some advantages are a ‘freshness’ to the information. However, the later in pregnancy, the less practice time you have after class is over, and the more uncomfortable your body feels in class.

4.    What kind of experience do you want?

There are very ‘nuts and bolts’ classes, and even one-day workshops that will walk you through the basics of childbirth, and the possible interventions.

Then there are classes that have a more spiritual side, coming from a deeper place, encouraging connection with your partner, and focusing on birth as a journey, and bringing you closer to your partner and birth team along the way.

Some classes even offer a home study course, although I recommend going to a class, for the community, and hands on practice.

At Yo Mama, I am thrilled with the quality of classes that we offer.  I truly feel we have the best of the Childbirth class offerings.  We offer Bradley classes with Judith Nowlin, Hypnobabies with Cassie Friesen, Blissborn with Kimberly Love, and coming this fall: Birthing from Within with Rebecca Chenowith!  And we continue to have packed classes in our Inspired birth series, created by me, and co-taught with Maria Gonzalves Schimpf.

I created my Inspired Birth series after getting frustrated with the options out there.  (9 years ago).  I (being the birth addict that I am) used to go with my doula clients to their classes if they were taking a class that was new to me.  I sat through probably 25 different classes, trying to decide which method was ‘best.” Some methods had great fun exercises, but lacked the grounded information.  Others had tons of information, but presented in a fear-based philosophy.  I also watched as mamas would go into labor how sometimes their class would fit perfectly the kind of birth they had, but other times, their birth wouldn’t quite fit the skill set they had prepared for.  It’s hard to know what you are going to need, since birth unfolds so differently for different folks.

So, I ended up creating my own.  Inspired birth has a very unique set of coping tools:  Hypnosis, Birthing From Within, some from Bradley, Massage (for partners to learn), Labor positioning, etc.  The hypnosis program I designed to supplement the weekly classes and support the breathing techniques and tools from class, as well as offer you great coping tools in labor.  The program also includes a ‘hypno-doula’ track that families can use during labor, having my voice cue you surge by surge through your laboring process.   I love hearing women say “Your voice lead me through labor all night!”  and I was at home sleeping. 🙂

Couples also find it a great time to connect and get ready for baby.  And the overall philosophy of class is affirming birth as a natural, normal, and sacred event, in any setting.  I would say the class is geared towards natural birth, but with plenty of wiggle room and space for other choices.

The partners usually like the down to earth humor and gentle approach to preparing for childbirth.  One dad said “I had no idea I would laugh so much getting ready to have a baby!” I have seen hundreds of couples move from a place of fear to a place of excitement and adventure getting ready for their birth.  And I really love the community that is created in class.  Some of the classes have continued to meet weekly for a long time after class is over.  Some of the moms have ended up creating moms groups to connect as their baby grows.

Here is the webpage link, with the upcoming classes: http://www.yomamaboulder.com/inspired-birth/

I can never decide which part of my job is my ‘favorite.’  When I’m teaching yoga, I think that’s my favorite, and when I’m at a birth, I think ‘being a doula is my favorite.”  but I truly love teaching childbirth classes.  It seems to bring all the aspects of my past career as a comedian, my deep passion for birth, and my desire to share all that I have learned and continue to learn as a doula to give folks the most inspired, empowering birth possible.

And here’s what Jen, who just graduated from class had to say:

Inspired birth offers a variety of techniques (hypnosis, breathwork, visualization, hands-on support) for helping your labor be as smooth and comfortable as possible – in other words, you don’t have to want to have a natural birth to take the class, although the class is designed to support you in that process. It does a really good job of creating a strong connection between you and your partner around the birth/labor/postpartum process and supporting you and your partner in becoming the best team possible. The contagious energy of the facilitators and their love and passion for the birthing/laboring process create such excitement around an event that can easily be viewed as scary.
If you have questions about which class might be best for you, please feel free to contact me for a chat!

All the best,

Katie

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