The first thing to say is that antenatal education is SO IMPORTANT. The only thing more terrifying than the unknown is that which you think you know about birth, courtesy of our One Born Every Minute style birth culture. The show itself, your friends (if you can still call them that…) and their stories, the world and his wife weighing in on your choices from a place of utter ignorance, and your caregivers frozen in a policy obsessed NHS with fear of litigation at the forefront of every decision process.
If you’re pregnant for the first time, the chances are that everything you ‘know’ is wrong.
It’s ok though, because you can book your spot on your antenatal course, free or paid for, and you’ll emerge feeling confident, informed and empowered. Or will you?
SO many women are telling me, yes I made some friends, BUT- it just wasn’t enough, it was WAY TOO MUCH, it was without substance, it was scaremongering, it was meh.
Here are some specifics:
“No pros or cons, just information, so didn’t help to make a decision about any intervention”
“Wouldn’t give a view about anything, just kept asking us what we thought or what we’d heard”
“An epidural needle/ set of forceps were passed around for inspection without warning and I almost threw up/ passed out”
“No science or reasons behind things- I like to know the whole picture-why things are the way they are”
“We were told that when you’re in labour you can’t do anything as the pain is too bad”
“I wanted a home birth with little pain relief and this wasn’t catered for- it was just overlooked”
“Wouldn’t deviate from ‘the line’ when things came up, unwilling to offer a view or suggest where else to look, it didn’t feel like it related to real life”
“The teacher wouldn’t talk about her own birth experience at all, even when asked, which felt strange”
Now I am all for independent decision making- no one should be telling women what to do, whether that’s to get the epidural going early, or to forego all pain relief. You’re adults. You’re capable, you’re intelligent, you’re mothers for crying out loud- you are as invested as it gets in making the right choices.
But how are you to do that without a bit of context? Without someone who has not only been there themselves, but has also supported dozens of others through it to say, “Here are some scenarios in which this was a positive choice for a couple, and these are some examples where people felt they could have made different choices and seen a happier outcome.” Of course, this needs to encompass a whole spectrum of choices and outcomes, rather than be leading women to believe that a particular option is always for the best. Yes, it’s only anecdata, and must be presented as such, but the simple facts alone are impossible to comprehend in isolation when this is all so unfamiliar.
If you ask for a view from someone who has seen an array of situations evolve, shouldn’t you be able to get it? A balanced one, of course, but something that goes beyond the text. Otherwise, you could have just read a book, right? When continuity of care is as poor as it is right now, don’t pregnant women need a community of experienced mothers to lean on more than ever? When I see women for second births, the points at which they feel it ‘went wrong’ first time round are glaringly repetitive- shouldn’t someone be prepared to share these nuggets with a group of first timers to save them learning the lessons themselves?
Birth is transformative. Totally, utterly overwhelming- there is nothing like it. For generations, women would have been around their mothers, aunties, sisters labouring in the home. The would have had a very real awareness of the emotional side of pregnancy, labour and birth- the way that the softness and the strength of a woman come together uniquely to allow a baby to be born in any way it turns out.
If we stick to a script, if we are towing a party line, we are denying women and their partners the very essence of what they’ve come for- support. That means their worries are heard, are addressed, and the whole reality surrounding them is shared openly and honestly. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the evidence, and the experiences of families we know who have birthed in this area (because believe me, there are enormous gaping gulfs between what is ‘allowed’ or done in one hospital vs another up the road).
I LOVE a fact, a piece of evidence (I have a degree in Management and Maths- read economics, accounts, calculus, statistics etc) but that isn’t the whole picture- I’ll say again- positive labours are not born (sorry) out of facts alone.
Women want to know- how does it feel? And I’m not just talking about the P word. Yes, how does it feel in your in your body, what’s the sensation like, but how does it feel in your mind, in your heart and your soul. That’s right- I don’t tolerate nonsense, but this is a moment like no other- it’s all hormonal of course, but this journey is all encompassing- lets prepare for that.
This is one of the reasons I feel thrilled when I have a mix of first timers and veteran parents on one of my groups, or in my Pregnancy Relaxation sessions. It replicates some of that organic, supportive sharing of information that we miss in our modern lives, and it’s safe. The environment is clearly set out as a space for honesty and empowerment, but no scaremongering- the way that the info is shared is critical, and my clients just get it. We don’t shy away from discussing what could have been better, but it’s sensitively positioned so that others can learn from it, not run from it. Importantly, women share how they felt about how it all went for them, and help to embed the importance for your emotional wellbeing of knowing that the right birth happened for you in your circumstances. When women happen not to get this mix at one of my groups, it’s ok, as our online community is brimming with support and wisdom from those who’ve been there, done that.
We cannot just prepare for birth ‘on paper’. Facts are not enough- it’s not a factual experience. It’s a bit like having a checklist of essential qualities for a romantic partner. It all seems to add up, and then you meet someone who only ticks half your boxes, but makes you feel so….you know.
So before you book that antenatal class, ask yourself, “How do I want to be left feeling about labour and birth?”. Is information enough to get you there? Or do you need something bigger?
Click here to find out what our course is all about, and a bit about what’s covered. If you fancy feeling super clear about what you want, and what you’re capable of, and knowing I’ve got your back throughout, you can book your spot here.
Any Qs, you can find me at email@example.com