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When I got the phone call from the hospital telling me when my first birth class would start, I got so excited. I was excited about it for several reasons:
- It meant the start of my third trimester, the last leg of the pregnancy journey
- It was a chance to confirm and compare the information I had gathered on pregnancy, labour and delivery
- It was a chance to meet other mothers-to-be
- It was a chance to get an idea of the hospital’s procedures and practises for labour, delivery and postnatal care
If you were to ask me, at 4 weeks pregnant, what kind of birth I wanted, I would have responded, “drugs all the way!” I didn’t want to feel anything. I probably would have even considered an elective c-section.
After I passed the 20 week mark of pregnancy, I started doing a lot of research on labour, delivery, birth plans, hospital procedures, doulas, etc. I also talked to colleagues and friends about what kind of births they had and found that among my circle of friends in Italy, almost everyone had a drug-free, natural birth. The women that had c-sections only had them because their babies were breech or had other complications. Generally, in Europe, drug-free births and low rates of c-sections are quite common. Since it was such a normal thing to do here, I started to consider a drug-free birth.
RESOURCES FOR LABOUR AND DELIVERY
I believe the documentary that really convinced me to go the natural route was Ricky Lake’s, “The Business of Being Born.” Not only did it make me feel lucky to be giving birth in Europe but it opened my eyes to the idea of trying out a water birth.
I must have watched 150+ videos on youtube on natural births, home births and water births and kept running into the famous hypnobirthing methods for pain management. Unfortunately, hypnobirthing classes aren’t available near me so I did not sign up for any classes. (I later found a course in Milan.) I did the next best thing, which was to buy a hypnobirthing book, The Hypnobirthing Book: An Inspirational Guide for a Calm, Confident, Natural Birth and the accompanying mp3 audios.
After I finished the book, I continued to practise the visualizations and meditations from the mp3 audios.
Kindle conveniently recommends similar books after having purchased/read e-books and one of them was The Birth Partner – Revised 4th Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin. I decided to get this one for my husband since he was going to be my birth partner and needed to be prepared to handle me and all the surprises labour and delivery had to offer!
Apart from e-books, documentaries and mp3 audios, I also regularly listened to pregnancy podcasts like Preggie Pals and and visited well-known sites like whattoexpect.com, babycenter.com, parents.com, babycentre.co.uk, thebump.com and pregnancycorner.com. One youtube channel in particular that I found informative was pregnancychat. I mostly get a kick out of the lady that seems to read off her notes because sometimes she loses her spot or tries to improvise, messes up and awkwardly tries to get back on track. It’s actually quite cute.
MY FIRST BIRTH CLASS
Armed with this information and my new abilities to visualize, up breathe and down breathe, I attended my first birth class. The first person to introduce herself was the obstetrician. I liked her vibe right away: she was easy-going and a “get-to-the-point” type of person. Right away, she told us to speak to her informally (because in Italian there’s a formal way to speak someone and an informal way) and then she said something that made my heart sink a bit:
“So if you think you’ve come here to visualize and learn how to breathe for your labour, you’ve been mistaken. I’m not that kind of obstetrician. You can visualize and practise breathing all you want but when it comes down to it, you’re going to do whatever the hell you want to do when you have to push a 3.5 kg. baby out of your body. Obstetrics is on the 9th floor. Do you know how many women have asked me if they can jump out the window? Haha. No one has jumped but I’m just saying that I won’t waste time breathing and visualizing because it’s not going to make a huge difference. What will make a difference is dancing! Do you guys like Beyoncé? One Direction? Get up, we’re going to dance!”
And that’s how the birth class started.
Most of these dance moves consisted of swaying hips back and forth, bending over, snaking back up. Just imagine a reggaeton club with pregnant women. She explained that the hip swaying would help direct the baby into the birth canal and also with rotation. All of this dancing was to encourage us to always keep moving, especially during labour.
After that class, I didn’t think that all my visualization and breathing practise was a waste. I am sure that it will be useful for early and possibly, active labour. At the same time, I am also feeling more realistic and open to the idea that I might find my own methods of pain management when the going gets tough. Maybe dancing will be a better coping method. Better put Beyoncé on my hospital playlist, just in case!