I took the train to Chicago yesterday afternoon for a class and parked at the Amtrak station in downtown Milwaukee, and it never fails – the car is always covered in huge blasts of bird shit when I return. Then this morning I stuck my hand in a big smear of it when I closed the car door. Awesome. I really hope it’s not a sign of things to come for today.
But anyway… I bet all you moms-to-be have heard how terribly important the birthing classes and birth plan are. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, though – they’re not. Gasp! I know I just turned your pregnancy world upside down with that revelation, so I’ll let you right yourselves before we continue…
See here’s the thing – labor and delivery is SO unpredictable (i guess unless you have a planned induction or c-section) that even if you have the way you want yours to go nailed down to a T with each minute planned out and choreographed to the perfect playlist, chances are that baby will flip you the bird and toss all your well-laid plans right out the window. He’ll be like birth plan? You expected me to follow a birth plan? Hahaha, suckers! Ready or not (no, we’re not!), here I come!!
Like I’ve said before, the actual labor and delivery process was what scared me the most when I was pregnant – what does it feel like, how much will it hurt, how long will it take, will I survive? (my answers: a lot of poop, a lot, 20 minutes, yes) So I did look into birthing classes. I mean after all, these people have gone through this numerous times so they should be able to give me some sort of hints about everything, right?
Well have you checked out those class schedules lately? At my hospital, at least, you had to go 2 hours a week for 6 weeks or 3 hours on a Friday night plus all day Saturday. Yeah right. Have you checked out our household schedule lately? We didn’t have time for that. Plus, getting R to attend a childbirth class? Hahahaha. Yeah, I might as well have tried to get him to take ballet lessons with me. Not a chance.
Now I still wanted to learn at least a little something about this process that was going to put the contents of my insides on the outside, and my hospital did offer online childbirth classes, so I signed up for that instead. Too bad it cost the same amount as the in-person classes and basically told me the same things I had already read in my books and online. So I’m going to do you a favor and just tell you what you’d pay to learn in those classes. Well, at least my version of it anyway, lucky you!
- 10cm – that’s the magic number. Your cervix has to open that far, then the baby can come out. Here’s a totally harmless geometric representation of the expansion from 1-10cm to give you an idea of how big that is (no really, it’s just circles, not vaginas).
- There are 3 stages of labor – early (latent) labor (0-3cm. not really painful at all, can even unknowingly start weeks out from delivery whenever your cervix begins to dilate), active labor (3-7cm, usually lasts a couple hours. ok, it’s probably really starting to hurt. if you’re having an epidural you need to get it now, before you reach about 7cm), and transitional labor (7-10cm, generally the shortest phase. holy shit this is killing me! get this baby out!! fortunately now is when you do, and then it’s all over. drinks for everyone!)
- Breathing really does help during the painful contractions. During our whole ride to the hospital (when I was really already in transitional labor and didn’t even know it. um, duh) I kept trying to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth when I felt the pain, and continued doing so until delivery, and it honestly did help. My head never once exploded. I didn’t even need a class to tell me that! When you start pushing they will give you instructions on how to breathe too, so if you’re unmedicated at that point and in so much pain you can’t even speak your name (see my delivery story), you don’t have to worry about how many numbers you have to count to or how many times. They’ll count, you just breathe in, out, then push. Just don’t hold your breath until they tell you to. It’s really hard to deliver a baby when you’re passed out.
Now who needs a class just to learn that? See, told you.
And I know that list only has 3 things on it and that can’t possibly be all you need to know when you’re going to have a baby, but in all honesty, that is the crux behind childbirth classes. Just for liability’s sake, however, so no one goes into labor and says, “but SM said I didn’t need to do that!”, I do suggest doing a bit of research on your own about the whole process. I certainly didn’t want to go in blind, and I don’t recommend you do either.
I just don’t think you really need to take a class when there are so many free (and much faster) resources out there. This site alone does a great job of breaking out and explaining the various stages leading up to childbirth, some techniques you can use to manage pain, different childbirth options, etc. It’s from the same people as the “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” book, which I’m sure many of you have, so the information on that site will probably be very familiar to you.
And I do realize many people want a much more hands-on experience in preparation for childbirth and love the classes. I get that, I really do. It just wasn’t for me.
And a birth plan? Nope, don’t need that either.
Practically everything I read while I was pregnant said make a birth plan, a birth plan is so important, you can’t have a baby without a birth plan, don’t you know?!?! What the? Why do I have to have a birth plan? Labor was such an unknown for me, I thought how could I possibly even begin to try to plan it out when I didn’t have the slightest clue what was going to happen? Even the doctor who is now D’s pediatrician thought it was a ridiculous notion when I was talking to her for the first time last summer, before D was born.
So for me, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to try to go as long as I could without pain medicine, but if it got too unbearable I definitely wasn’t averse to asking for an epidural. Ha! Little did I know I wasn’t even going to get the opportunity to ask anyway.
I do recommend having at least a little idea of how you’d like to deliver in a perfect world (meds, no meds, water birth, birthing ball, music, who’s in the delivery room, what you want them to do or not do for you, etc.), but don’t get too attached to that plan. And if things don’t end up going according to your agenda, try not to let that ruin your birthing experience. Just go with the flow and remember that the most important thing is that your baby gets out here safe and sound and you live to tell the tale. If you didn’t get a chance to have your calming Enya playing in the background and the candles lit when all that happened, too bad. It doesn’t matter.
Maybe I should start my own childbirth class. It’d go something like this – do this, don’t do that, now have a baby. Ready? 1, 2, 3, GO!