Birth School Drop-Out

I was so excited to sign up for a birthing class. We’d learn about the stages of labor, how to breathe with the pain, get tips for my husband on massage, and more. I was even more excited that a yoga teacher would teach it, at a yoga studio—my natural element as a long-time practitioner.

And then, the first night of class hit, and suddenly sitting on the floor for three hours with a throbbing lower back (I’ve had bad sacral pain for months) didn’t seem so fun. Sure, there was a brief break for yummy kale salad and organic strawberries. But not even the interesting stuff about how all your internal organs get stuffed up under your ribs (how is that even possible?) could distract me from the squirming and shooting pain. And the awkward feeling that I was changing position 9,000 times, while, weirdly, the seven other more-pregnant ladies stayed beatifically still and serene in their backjacks. (Do they have magic babies in them?)

My husband, almost equally squirmy on the floor and naturally school-averse, felt like those three hours could have easily boiled down to 15 minutes. And so, when I suggested we, gasp, drop it (bad mommy-to-be!), he was elated: “I’ll do whatever you want, but I would be very happy if you never wanted to go back.” Done. Cancelled, with the studio owner generously offering credit despite a no-refund policy.

But now what? What’s a birth school drop-out to do?

Well, so far, the what has been some things that may suit you if a full-on birthing class is out of reach, for whatever reason.

1)   Pea-in-the-Podcast

My honey and I spent our entire five-hour drives to and from our vacation listening to Pea in the Podcast, a great free program by Bonnie Petrie. The podcasts are super-informative, covering everything from preparing financially for baby (ugh) to what to expect in each trimester to the ins and outs of baby names to how to plan a baby shower. She interviews top experts and has a melodious, calm voice and attitude that makes you feel like it’s all going to be OK. Really fun to listen to together and the seating was MUCH more comfortable.

2)   A One-time Three-Hour Class

I think our butts and brains are better suited to a one-time class that’s more experiential. So we signed up for my prenatal yoga teacher’s class in a couple of months, that does this, in three, non-seated hours: “Birth partners will learn to use hands on techniques to offer support and comfort. We will practice positions and see how breath and posture can be used to encourage the progress of labor, ease pain and take pressure off the pelvic floor. We will learn how to use breath as a tool for both body and mind, a support to ease tension and fear.” I’m in! (And it’s at the same studio as the dropped course, so it’s “free.”)

3)   Birthing Books Galore

I’m a reader, so when I’m anxious about something, books soothe me. Hence the stack beside my bed on pregnancy and labor. Some of my favorites:

–  Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England

I’ve just started this one, but it’s already a favorite. It covers the inner journey of pregnancy and labor, with suggestions for keeping a journal, meditating, and making art—plus lots of tips for coping with labor pain.

–  The Whole Pregnancy Handbook: An Obstetrician’s Guide to Integrating Conventional and Alternative Medicine Before, During, and After Pregnancy by Joel Evans, M.D.

Mostly about pregnancy, but there’s plenty on labor and delivery. The author is an M.D. with holistic leanings, which for me is the best of both worlds. Enormously soothing and helpful.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

A classic by the mother of the resurgence of midwives in America. It’s chock full of info on easing labor pain, postpartum care, collaborating with doctors, and so much more. A must-read.

–  Preparing for a Gentle Birth: The Pelvis in Pregnancy by Blandine Calais-Germain  and NĂşria Vives ParĂ©s

For better understanding of (and geeking out on) pelvic anatomy. It’s not generally for laywomen, but I’m finding it very helpful in envisioning how, exactly, a baby gets out of there!

4)   Birthing Movies, Too

There are so many great documentaries now to balance out the culture of fear that surrounds birth. Get tested! Be careful! Do this, not that! But relax! These films are a relief and highly educational—no matter if you’re planning a hospital or home birth. (And they’re available to watch online.)

–  The Business of Being Born 

Ricki Lake’s game-changing film about birth in America. No matter where or how you give birth, this will open your eyes to the possibilities and help you navigate the medical system so your birth is as happy and healthy as possible.

–  Birth Story 

A lovely doc about the Farm Midwives and their leader and founder, Ina May Gaskin. Shows birth not as a scream-fest, but a natural, loving action.

Orgasmic Birth

It’s a little more out there than the others, but still miraculously possibility-opening. My brain can’t even quite compute: Birth can be pleasurable? Indeed it appears to be for the women birthing in this fascinating film. I plan on carting its wisdom to my hospital birth.

That’s it for now! I’m hoping between these and my DNA being partially ancient and packed with the wisdom of millions of birthing mamas who’ve come before me will get me through. Then, the hardest part—early motherhood—begins! And I will need a whole new set of classes, books, and movies. Is there a breathing exercise for that?