A certain TV presenter has once again waged war against a certain national charity about its ability, or lack of, to properly prepare women for birth. I am not going to defend the charity as it let me down badly, which is one of the reasons I stopped teaching for them. However, as an antenatal teacher, the Celeb’s words did make me want to defend my job, which I love and which I am dedicated to.
My aim is to inform and to empower, to provide confidence in expectant parent’s abilities to handle the birth of their baby. I aim to equip parents with information and skills to have a positive birth experience – whether it is sans drugs, with all the drugs or by caesarean. Birth is birth, it is still the first time parents and their baby meet each other, and all births can be as positive as each other and it would be wrong to say that one is better than the other.
Through my antenatal classes I aim to provide support in pregnancy so that parents can gain information and ask questions to help them feel ready for the birth of their baby, so they know different ways of working with and handling the contractions, so they feel confident about seeking support when they feel they need it, so they don’t panic if labour is longer, tougher or more complicated than they thought it would be.
It’s about coping strategies; it’s about assertiveness and confidence rather than medical knowledge; it’s about doing what feels right for them so they feel comfortable, safe and supported; it’s about asking questions and getting the information and support they need in labour; It’s about information to normalise labour and birth – what to expect from their midwife, whether at home or in hospital; it’s about what to expect if a Caesarean is needed; it’s about what to expect when they first meet their baby; it’s about feeling a sense of control if they are in the middle of a busy maternity ward.
This supplements the medical support provided to women by their midwives, which can be about nine appointments throughout a straightforward pregnancy. So I have the time to provide this additional support.
I am not a midwife, nor do I want to be a midwife. I am trained to provide childbirth education, I am experienced in teaching and listening to parents in pregnancy and after they have had their baby. I get to spend more time supporting expectant and new parents than I ever would as a midwife.
Midwives are awesome – they support women in labour, they catch babies, they keep women and their partners informed and calm for those hours during labour and birth, they constantly juggle and they work bloody long hours – what I do supports and complements this.
Labour is emotional, it is powerful and raw and each birth experience is unique to every woman. Some labours are easy, some are bloody tough and, as an antenatal teacher, it is not my job to tell expectant parents what to do or what it will be like. It is not my job to tell women that they can do it without drugs if they can’t or don’t want to. But what I can do is provide balanced information, a forum for open discussion and simple but effective coping skills so parents can use their breathing to stay calm and feel able to ask any questions they need to in order to feel better informed and reassured.
Good antenatal classes are important and they do make a difference!