Today I’m happy to share a guest post by Taryn Leary on Childbirth Advice. She teaches childbirth classes here at Sweetbottoms and has some fantastic tips for women (and their partners) preparing for labor. Knowing I have less than two months to go until my little bundle arrives prompted me to read her expert advice very carefully!
One of the first things most women do when they find out that they are expecting is to run down to a book store or the library and pick up a book or two! From What to Expect when You’re Expecting all the way to Ina May’s Guide, you can learn a LOT about pregnancy and birth from cracking open a few good books– but some things just aren’t found in the majority of pregnancy books. Taking a comprehensive childbirth class will not only ensure that you have the basics of “what to expect,” but can provide in-person, hands-on instruction that applies specifically to you and your journey into parenthood!
1- What to expect from your provider and birth setting
Books can tell you what to expect in a “general” hospital from a “general” practitioner, but practices can vary greatly. Talking to someone (a childbirth educator or doula) who has worked with many local practices and birth settings will be able to give you an accurate picture of what to expect when you arrive to have your baby.
2- Community matters
Okay, you probably already knew that community matters, but for pregnant women and new mothers community is absolutely necessary– and sometimes difficult to find. During pregnancy, many women find they feel the need to talk to other pregnant women or women who have recently given birth. Attending a childbirth class affords a built-in small community of other families who are roughly in the same stage of pregnancy. These families may ask questions you forgot to ask (or hadn’t thought of!), reaffirm for you that your goals are important and achievable, or provide a safe place to let out your concerns and be supported by others who probably feel the same way.
3- What labor REALLY looks like, sounds like, and feels like
Recently, I had an epiphany about “Transition.” I hear from time to time that people read about transition, heard about it in classes, and when it arrived…were completely shocked by the things that they felt and did. This lead me to put together an activity in which one or two (willing!) class participants assist me in acting out what transition may look and feel like. Needless to say, those parents are not likely to forget the signs of transition. As an added bonus, attending a class will afford you a place in a very small group of people who have heard me imitate a sound that I refer to as “The ghost/goat.”
4- Your partner needs preparation, too.
If we’re honest, most partners do not read the same books, go to the same websites, or talk to other women about their birth stories the way expectant mothers do. They probably also won’t be found watching “A Baby Story” in their free time. Your partner needs to know what to expect during labor and birth not only to be able to better support you, but because they also deserve to experience birth in a positive, confident way– just like the birthing woman. I strongly feel that childbirth classes are more beneficial for partners than they are for pregnant women in most cases because it creates a pre-scheduled time just for learning about everything they need to know!
5- Positions for Labor
In fairness, plenty of books show some great positions for labor and birth, but I find that most women do not try them out unless time is cut out of a busy schedule to do so. It makes sense, really– we think: “Well I know how to get on my hands and knees, no need to practice that,” but the fact is that most women are not going to try something they are unfamiliar with in the middle of labor. Practicing a few common positions for laboring and pushing can help you not only get comfortable doing it, but sometimes can also alert women to which positions are likely to be most useful for them (some women love squatting, some women hate it!) when the time comes.
6- “The Double Hip Squeeze”
The double hip squeeze– I tried to fit this in elsewhere, but it really deserves a number of its own. This relatively simple technique is lauded by pregnant women (and new moms) everywhere! It basically involves using both hands on mother’s lower back (read: butt) to shift the rear plates in the pelvis, opening the front and lower portions of the pelvis and when done correctly, almost always resulting in a resounding “Ahhhhhh!” You, too (partners), can learn this magic trick and be cheered on as a hero for years to come.
7- How to use a Rebozo
I got you there, didn’t I? What on earth is a Rebozo! The Rebozo is a long piece of cloth used to help laboring women get comfortable and relax, as well as being useful in helping a baby get into an ideal position for birth. It sounds a little wacky, but pregnant women LOVE rebozo techniques and it is a fantastic tool for partners to utilize to stay involved in the birth process.
8- What May Chang smells like, What a rice sock is, and what on earth a tennis ball has to do with labor
Okay, so that’s three things, but they amount to the same thing: Reading about it is not the same as trying it out! Learn about essential oils to encourage calm (or energy!) and progress, make a rice sock to take home and use throughout late pregnancy and during birth, and use a tennis ball to give a fantastic lower back massage all in one class! Coming to a childbirth class brings everything you wanted to try out together in one place, helping you efficiently prepare for your birth.
9- You might “give up” around 9cm– and just need extra encouragement!
I talk to so many women who were surprised at their change of heart late in labor, and meet many women who say “I got an epidural and then found out I was 9cm, I wish I had known it was almost over!” Most women (in my experience) start to feel a little overwhelmed and may “give up” on their original goals right in the middle of transition, and almost all of those women just need to hear “You are almost done! You are doing great!” a few times, until the storm has passed. This is great for pregnant women to know as well as important for partners, as anticipating this moment will help you prepare and know just what to say to get over the last big hill before meeting your baby.
10- How to wear your baby!
Babywearing–much like the Ghost/Goat sound– may be specific to my class, but it is just as important! New parents do not receive much instruction in how to care for and comfort a fussy baby, and while I am probably biased (I am a certified babywearing educator through Babywearing International), I feel that keeping baby close in a carrier is not only an ideal way to keep baby happy (and a happy baby makes a happy Mama!), but also allows caregivers to care for baby without feeling trapped in a chair or bed all day. Do the dishes, fold the laundry, go on a walk and dance down the hallways, all with baby in tow– I’ll bet your pregnancy book can’t teach you how to do that!
Pregnancy, labor, birth and early parenting are exciting and challenging transitions; I encourage all families to do everything they can to prepare for these changes and be confident in their ability to be great parents!
Taryn Leary is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. She offers a 7 week comprehensive childbirth series on an ongoing basis at Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique
in Raleigh, NC. Learn more about her classes at www.birthisajourney.com.