Birthing Class

Dan & I recently attended a birthing class at Reston Hospital.  It was a truly excellent experience, and I recommend it.  For someone like me, it was especially helpful: I’m the kind of person who is comforted by facts and statistics.  We learned a lot about exactly how labor progresses, why someone would need a c-section, pregnancy complications, lamaze breathing, what to bring to the hospital, different kinds of pain relief, what to expect after birth, and lots of other stuff.  We also had a visit from an excellent pediatrician (funny guy), from a lactation consultant (who reassured us that most of us won’t even need her services) and representative from cord blood bank (informative, but definitely one sided).

Prior to attending the class, I was apprehensive (as I am about most things unfamiliar).  I had no idea what to expect.  Most of the information I had about giving birth came from the Discovery Channel, WebMD and the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  Of course, I’ve spoken to my doctor, but a lot of questions come up between visits.  I’ve also gotten advice and information from my family and from friends.  Overall, I felt pretty well informed — I wasn’t even sure I needed birthing class.  But, it was so highly recommended, and a friend of ours (a NICU nurse) recommended this particular class, so we signed up.  Overall, it was a very relaxed atmosphere.  We learned a lot, and questions were welcomed and were answered thoroughly.  The nurse who was running our class obviously knows her stuff, and she had a great sense of humor.

The plus side to the Discovery Channel, WebMD and books is that there is a ton of information available.  The downside is, after getting my information from these sources, I had distinct visions of a pregnancy riddled with diabetes, preeclampsia, c-sections, placenta previa, fetal distress, etc.  I felt pretty prepared and well-armed for these inevitable challenges.  The single most important thing I learned in class was the statistical reality behind all of these complications and experiences.  Yes, these things could happen to me.  Yes, they could all happen to me.  But I was really comforted by the small statistical likelihood of even things I thought of as foregone conclusions (like an episiotomy).  Chances are excellent that I will have a very positive birth experience.  And since our expectations contribute to our experiences, the fact that I believe that things will go well increases that chance significantly.

We learned a lot about the options regarding natural childbirth and different kinds of pain relief.  I know there are people who believe in natural childbirth without medication.  Intellectually, I understand why they go this route, but I know it’s not for me (at least not this pregnancy).  I fear the pain.  I understand it’s going to hurt more than anything else I will ever experience.  However, I want to get by with as little pain relief as I can manage.  I had no idea how many options there are in childbirth.  Everyone talks about epidurals.  I may do that, if I need it, but I want to at least try to start with something less extreme.  The biggest issue for me is that I’d like to be able to continue to move around when in labor.  I don’t like the idea of being confined to my bed.  I’d like to be able to walk around, and to change positions to let gravity work with me.  The idea of being desensitized to the point of paralysis is uncomfortable to me.  We’ll see what I end up choosing, but I like knowing my different options.

I also really enjoyed the tour of the labor & delivery floor, as well as the maternity recovery floor.  I had seen the maternity floor when my friend Pam had her baby in January, but it was nice to get the actual tour.  The facilities at Reston Hospital are really nice.  It looks like a pretty comfortable place to spend a fairly uncomfortable time.  I’m glad that Dan will be able to stay with me, and that they encourage parents to have their babies stay in the room with them (which I would like).  I also really like the “baby lo-jack” technology that they have.  The babies are pretty well protected against being taken from the recovery floor, which, although unlikely, is still a comfort.

The class was definitely more geared towards getting the baby out, but we also did a bit on diapering and swaddling the baby.  Everyone says it’s something you get good at quickly, and I certainly hope so.  Our plastic baby’s arm came off while we were swaddling him.  (In our defense, I swear it was loose before we started!)

In addition to the statistical probability of something going wrong (small), I learned one very important thing.  10 centimeters is really big.  Enough said.

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