Here is a fly on the wall moment for you from my classroom:
Hello everyone and welcome to our session, we have a lovely session in front of us in which we will be focused on, labor and birth.
Suddenly I notice a couple of the women prickle with tension; smiles disappear as their anxiety is raised with the mere mention of labor and birth.
And this is about where this course differs tremendously from most other “typical” pre-natal classes whether in a hospital or not.
I recognize and respect their anxiety, and move straight into reassuring them and relating to where they are at, at that point in time.
I am well aware of the horror stories they’ve been subjected to, the awful movie scenes, Hollywood nonsense and recognize once again that a lot of my work as a natural active birth educator is about undoing the harm that has been done to these women, in their past, whether it’s a well meaning school teacher showing scary birth videos to frighten them off sex as teenagers, or negative details they have heard from their mothers, sisters other family and friends.
Interestingly enough, the pregnant women in my courses are also reporting the men/fathers at their work are the new horror birth story experts, who are entertained by frightening the heck out of them and finishing their tale with “You wait and see I’m right you’ll definitely be screaming for the epidural when you’re in labor – my wife did!”
And of course we are well aware of the more sinister damage of sexual abuse, whether as a child, teenager or adult, impacting on women whilst they are pregnant and trying to prepare for birth.
When I cover labor with them I will usually discuss it by commencing with the following:
“OK let’s look at labor and contractions… actually before we really begin let’s play a little game of word association.
I’ll say a word and I’d like you to respond out loud with the first thing that comes to mind – ready?
CONTRACTIONS… (their response): PAIN, PAIN, OUCH, IT HURTS, EPIDURAL, SCARY… then they laugh nervously at what they’ve all blurted out and I nod my head and explain how our culture in Australia is very influenced by the USA.
They all agree nod their heads and understand where the conversation is going – the fear driven culture of the USA spills over into our culture via the media; newspapers, magazines and Hollywood movies.
The group as a whole will often bring forth plenty of examples they read, seen, heard in the media that has had a powerfully negative effect on them.
They will also provide examples of horror birth stories from family and friends – it turns into a cathartic exercise.
Quite often someone in the group will begin to identify truths such as “women having been having babies for millions of years” and then some perspective is found again.
I then ask the group:
“Would you like me to describe for you what many women have found as a more realistic and helpful description of labor and contractions?”
They nod yes.
Then I proceed with the classic textbook description of labor “Dull rhythmic backache, lower belly period sensation and deep pelvic pressure…” I encourage them to place their hands on their belly and I gently describe the normal feelings women have…
It does not take long and women and their partners feel quite safe asking me questions and checking or challenging what I have told them, often with statements like “Well my friend who had a baby last week said it was an absolute nightmare…”
Which I love because it provides me with the wonderful opportunity to ask a variety of questions to help the group explore issues such as “Was she induced?” …. “Was she well supported by her partner and support team?”….
“Was she in a birth place with good facilities?”…. “Did she and her birth team know how to use those facilities?” etc. ….
Which leads me on nicely to all those issues.
The course walks people through the logical progression of their concerns and then what to do about it, which helps to empower them to know what to do and feel well prepared when their turn comes.
End of fly on the wall moment.