Sunday, July 27, 2008

Childbirth Education Is A BIG Mistake

I finally bit the bullet and signed up for an all day childbirth education class. For some reason, I felt inadequate and irresponsible NOT taking a class. My sister in law never took one and she had the easiest experience ever...but I felt like I HAD to do it.

The class turned out to be the most horrifying thing in my life. Before I got pregnant, the thought of giving birth totally freaked me out. Everytime I tried to read about it, I would faint. Just THINKING about it made me sick. That all changed when I actually found out I was pregnant. The farther along I was, the more my excitement drowned out any of my past fears. As long as I had drugs, I could do anything!


First of all, it was super lame. I would say that this class is for someone who knowns absolutely NOTHING about pregnancy and labor and has never read a book about the subject. This class would be more effective as a birth control method- let them teach THIS stuff to highschoolers! Things I DID learn from the annoying instructor included: how waves move on the ocean, exactly how heart rate monitors are like submarine sonar machines, how baby cats nurse, and how if we tighten one of our muscles the rest of our body will tighten as well (she made us all practice this too).

Then came the videos. OMG. Everyone else seemed to handle them just fine. Some people turned away during the graphic parts (including my husband). Some people watched with fascination while others expressed their feelings with eeeew's and uuugh's.

Me? I hyperventalated. Tears ran down my cheeks as I sobbed violently into my jacket. I found myself breathless and suffocating, forcing deep breaths as I emitted sick wheezing sounds. I wanted to run away. Not just from the class but from my pregnant, walking, time-bomb of a body.

When I caught my breath, my husband asked me if I was ok. Looking purple in the face, I softly told him, "I changed my mind. I don't want to have a baby."

Next came the "Intervention Methods" video. This is the one where they talk about and show you procedures to aid the childbirth process, including pain relief and happy drugs. Phew, this would make me feel better right? WRONG. The "pain relief" methods seemed JUST as painful as the labor itself. From the long epidural needle, to the episiotomy incision, catheders, IV's, forceps, c-section delivery. I felt trapped. No way out. Pain at every corner. OMG HELP ME. NO SEX EVER AGAIN!

I freaked out again. I felt naseous and dizzy. I couldn't breath. I felt like I was in a nightmare. Like I was slowly awaiting execution by guillotine. What the hell was I thinking? Can't there be an easier way to bring life into the world? Exactly how cruel can god be? I left the class feeling sick, shaky, depressed and scared.

My advice to pregnant women is to go into the process of labor knowing nothing more than the basic options your doctor explains to you. Just trust the doctor. DO NOT watch a video. Do not learn about the icky stuff. Education is over-rated. Just know that it's gonna hurt but be worth it in the end.


LEO said...

I've been reading for a while now, but obviously have never commented before. I love your no-nonsense approach to pregnancy and everything that goes along with it. I have a feeling you're right about those classes, the anticipation of the pain only makes it worse. Anyway, good luck with the next month or so! I'm jealous you're almost done :)

CM said...

Don't Panic!

Some labor is easy, some is really hard, but it always ends relatively quickly. I thought pregnancy felt like a chronic disease at times, but then suddenly it's over and the baby is out. So if it doesn't hurt at all, great, and if it hurts a lot, you can impress people with your labor story later. But either way, so what -- it'll be over and you'll have your baby!

By the way, I got an epidural after many hours of labor, including about 10 hours of induced labor, and even though the needle looks scary it's really not a big deal. Especially after all that! I was all into the idea of a natural birth and held off on drugs for as long as I could manage, but once I got the epidural I wished I had done it at the beginning of the day.

Portia said...

I agree 100% with CM. My advice is get the epidural, get it as soon as your doc says it's OK. Don't try to be a hero. It's the most amazing thing EVER. Seriously. I was chatting it up with my husband and doula while I went 2-10 in literally 2 hours. And the epidural didn't hurt at all. (Incidentally, neither did pushing!!)

LEO said...

Thanks for the comments, it sounds like we have a lot in common ;) I'm due the day after Christmas(so in between semesters) ... we'll see how the cats react to that! That's so nice that you will have a few months to adjust and enjoy before going back to school!

Also, I have a feeling the other commenters are right about the epidural (I am still contemplating natural birth, but I'm pretty sure I'll chicken out and want the drugs). I'm sure whatever you choose it will be fine!

Erica said...

Love your blog! I'm pregnant with number two, so labor can't be that bad....

Seriously, if I could choose between enduring labor but no 9 mos. of pregnancy, or 9 mos. of being pregnant but no labor -- I'd go the labor only route.

The one caveat: it would need to be labor WITH epidural. I was all set to go the natural route -- I had visions of a blissed-out, orgasmic, water birth type thing in a birth center, not a hospital. Hah! Developed pre-eclampsia in week 38, and was promptly admitted to the hospital for inducement.

I felt pretty smug in the first few hours, shooing away the nurses who seemed really intent of giving me narcotics. The anesthesiologist stopped by to talk about epidurals, and I just sort of smirked and said, "yes, doctor, thanks for introducing yourself, but I don't think I'll be needing your services..."

The hubris!!!!

Okay, labor before your water breaks isn't so bad -- there's a big cushion between the baby's head and your pelvis! After your water breaks...entirely different story.

As soon as that happened, the pain magnified about 1,000 times! I started to shake uncontrollably ALL OVER, and felt like I was going to either puke or crap myself -- I probably did both, I can't even remember.

My breathing and visualization techniques went totally out the window -- I croaked out something that must've sounded close enough to "epidural.....please god...", b/c next thing I know, the anesthesiologist is back.

What a guy -- I still get a little misty-eyed thinking about the gratitude and relief I felt.

Moral of the story for me: childbirth education is a misnomer -- you can't ever really teach someone what it's going to be like, because so much depends on a million different variables. Some people get even more freaked out, some people (me) feel like education somehow innoculates you from painful birth. I think most of us are a little surprised when its all said and done. I've never heard anyone say, "You know my birth went exactly the way I thought it would and/or how I planned it."

Just keep your sense of humor, be flexible, and as others have said, don't try and be a hero. If it hurts like hell, take advantage of the pain relief options available to you!

All the best to you -- sounds like you've got lots of folks rooting for you!

P.S. Can't wait to hear your post-birth blog entries: labor, learning to breastfeed, the entire "fourth trimester" litany of complaints (no sleep, jelly belly, feeling insane) -- they provide an endless source of anecdotes, musings and general rants.

Take care and good luck!!

LL said...

Yeah it's ALL about the epidural. I actually had exactly the birth and labor story that I wanted, but I think that's because I went into it open minded and ready for whatever. My labor and delivery was calm, quiet, and the pain was controlled by the miracles of modern medicine. I talked to JP, slept a little, and pushed out a baby in 12 minutes. Now that baby ended up in the NICU, but that had nothing to do with the labor.

Educate yourself on what you want and then go with the flow. I always roll my eyes when I hear someone has all these rules and plans for birth - it's really not in your control. And don't snub modern medicine - all those women who were forced into natural childbirth for all those centuries would probably think anyone who does it now by choice is insane.