If you checked into KERF, you probably know that this past weekend Matt and I attended a “Fast Track” childbirth class at our hospital, Martha Jefferson.
When I first started to think about childbirth classes, I looked into what was available here. There wasn’t a ton. From what I heard, there’s a Bradley-like class 45 minutes away for 8 weeks, a few classes at a birthing center nearby and the standard class at the hospital where most women deliver. I do think if the Bradley-like class had been held in Cville we might have done that instead, but neither of us could even imagine a regular hour and a half of driving on weeknights (we hate to drive 5 minutes!), so that one was quickly crossed off the list. As someone who is hoping to deliver naturally in a hospital with a doula, I felt that the hospital’s class was the best for us. I wanted to hear what the place where I would be had to say. Having completed the class, I’m SO glad we went this route.
I’ve listened to tons of podcasts on birth options and different hospital procedures, and it was invaluable to have the class taught by a L&D nurse who knew all the protocols we could expect. And for the most part, I really liked what I heard.
We had the option of doing an “every Wednesday night” class or this one weekend one and I asked some of my mom friends around which they did and was it enough. Two of them had gone through the Fast Track and also had natural births with the same doula that I am using and they said they felt more than prepared, so we moved forward with our $100 weekend course. I think I can probably gain everything I would have learned in a long weeknight regular class from lots of reading, minus the mingling with other couples, which I’m trying to get in through other outlets, so this was definitely the best investment of time.
The Friday night portion of the class talked a lot about the stages of labor and what to expect in a normal birth. Here are things our instructor shared that I found helpful:
-The instinct to clean the house by scrubbing the floors on hands and knees is actually a really good position to get the baby prepared for labor
-Women need to feel safe and secure in a relaxed mental state before their bodies will allow them to go into labor (this is obviously not scientific, but it makes sense). When you think about animals who go find a quiet place alone to give birth, you can imagine we humans might mentally seek a similar peacefulness for labor to begin. (Ina May’s book confirms this!)
-A big part of labor is pain perception. What are you focusing on and how does that affect the hormones in your body? Are you allowing the maximum oxytocin to flow or are you fearful and scared? If you’re tense, pain will be perceived as worse. If you’re relaxed, you will feel less pain (again, not necessarily scientific, but I like this concept)
-Laughter is a great tool to minimize pain perception. Our instructor listened to comedy during her labor and laughed her way through
-Getting in a tub with the water line at the nipples stimulates them and can help progress labor (while the warm water relaxes)
-Hands should be placed to the side during pushing because putting them under the knees actually makes the pelvic floor more tense
I was glad to hear so much information on how to handle labor naturally in the class – because you never know when the epidural won’t work…
Much to Matt’s happiness (I kid) we did have some role playing, but it was pretty fun : ) Clothespins on the ears and ice in the palm simulated early and active labor. I loved being all over the ball and rolling around while Matt put his hands on my back.
After practicing with the pain, going to prenatal yoga for a few months and thinking about my personality and previous pain experiences, these are things that I think I will like during labor:
- Moaning (because I have a history of moaning during hangovers to make me feel better )
- Popsicles (duh!)
- Getting in the tub to relax
- Yoga ball and yoga-like stretches
Interestingly, during my prenatal yoga class when we are asked to hold poses that I find really tough, I do my best when I take my mind outside of the class. I think about what’s for dinner or an upcoming event and before I know it the pose is over. However, if I really focus on the pose – the pain in my quads, the teacher telling us to put our breath into our quads – I can’t handle the pain. It’s too much perception. I think this is one of the most helpful realizations I have made in preparation for labor. I would have predicted that I’d be the kind of person to really focus on a contraction and what my body is doing to cope. But I actually think I’m going to be one of those “mind goes to a deserted island” types who gets in a zone to get through a contraction. Only the real deal will tell!
I really enjoyed learning more about our hospital during the class, and I got a lot of my questions answered. Here are a few facts about where I’m headed:
- The hospital has jacuzzi tubs and yoga balls in every room (although water births are not permitted)
- They have a security system to prevent the theft or mix up of babies (I had never heard of this! It’s like a clothing store alarm!)
- Skin to skin is promoted
- You can request to have the first bath done in the room
- Eyeball antibiotics and vitamin K shots are standard (although you can opt out of either…we probably won’t)
- Babies stay with the mom in the room and don’t go to a nursery unless requested
- You are asked to give a blood sample upon admission to type your blood for a transfusion and the IV will stay in while you’re there. (I am NOT happy about this at all and will probably agree to the blood draw but will decline the IV line unless I actually need an IV. I don’t want the psychology of having that in my arm..)
- Monitoring is done once an hour in early labor, every 30 minutes in active labor and every 15 minutes during transition
- The beds are really cool and can morph into all kinds of pushing positions – including a squat bar and mirror capabilities
- They don’t do walking epidurals or the kind that are patient-controlled in intensity
- 2010 stat: 62% of vaginal birth moms got epidurals (that means 38% didn’t!)
- 2010 stat: 32% c-section rate (This surprised and disappointed me)
We did talk about interventions and role-played an epidural and a c-section. Obviously if the baby’s health is a concern, thank goodness for interventions, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I am scared of anything but natural birth.
My only wish for the childbirth class was that they combined a hospital tour with it. The tours are separate on Tuesday nights and require another trip there yadda yadda. It would have been nice to see the L&D area either just before or just after class and save an extra trip back.
Overall, the class made me much more confident in myself, my husband and the place we chose to deliver (sans the C/S rate number..). I’m glad we took the weekend to go through the class together, as the partnership was something we could not have gotten from a book.