Yesterday, I watched a short clip on why people don’t take birth classes. The comment that I found most interesting from the expert interviewed was: “The instructors in a lot of these classes –are a little bit doctrinaire about their point of view. They made an issue out of saying ‘You’re not a real woman if you need drugs. She should go through labor and childbirth on her own with help from your spouse with breathing techniques. They made it a kind of a contest. A lot of mothers today don’t want it — they want to go in and have their baby with a pain free a time as possible.” I find this perspective about “a contest” sad and disheartening and inaccurate. It is also slightly amusing–seriously, I know NO ONE who would say to someone else “you’re not a real woman if you need drugs” least of all a professional person teaching a birth class! I think this might be an example of what someone says being different than what someone else hears: i.e. the instructor says, “all medications have an impact on the baby. Additionally, many women find a very satisfying sense of personal mastery from giving birth without medication.” The person hears, “you’re not a real woman if you need drugs.”
This reminds me of an excellent section I’m re-reading in the book Mother’s Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth about judgment and bias. The author also address how the word “balanced” is misused in childbirth education–as in, “I’m taking a class at the hospital because it will be more balanced.” Balance means “to make two parts equal”–what if the two parts aren’t equal though? What is the value of information that appears balanced, but is not factually accurate? Pointing out inequalities and giving evidence-based information does not make an educator “biased” or judgmental–it makes her honest! (though honesty can be “heard” as judgment when it does not reflect one’s own opinions or experiences). She says, “Every person has a lens. Every opinion is biased, including the ones you hold. The question is, what created the perception leading to a particular bias?…When it comes to childbirth and parenting, when someone dismissed information as ‘biased,’ what it actually means is the information does not fit their already held biases. It is our insecurities that bring up defensiveness in the face of judgment, or perceived judgment, as the case may be…You may never even have a thought in your head that the other person could have or should have done anything differently, but they are seeing your actions through their own lens and making assumptions.” (i.e. if a mother had a homebirth it may be assumed she hates doctors and hospitals). I think this is exactly what was happening in the video clip–because a birth educator shares the benefits of natural birth, the assumption is that she “hates epidurals” and thinks you’re “not a real woman” if you have one!
As far as the “contest” idea goes, I’ve mentioned this before–just because someone runs a marathon, for example, doesn’t make the person who opted out of the marathon bad or “less than” 🙂
The expert in the video clip referenced above also emphasized several times that the time investment in classes is just too much and parents just “don’t want to invest.” So, now perhaps this IS “doctrinaire” or unpleasant of me, but I also find it a little frustrating that people are apparently unwilling to invest the time in preparing for their children’s births–most people watch more than 8 hours of TV a WEEK, but 8 or 10 hours of birth classes total is too much to invest? I hope my classes are exciting and informative and useful to the parents that come to them. I also realize that week after week CAN feel like a lot, which is why I designed my single session classes. I get a lot of interest in the single session classes and I’m glad I came up with them, because I think it allows me to better meet more people’s unique needs! In fact, so far this year, I’ve done only mix-and-match classes (from 1-4 weeks), no full six-week-series’ (perhaps they are a thing of the past?). I find I get clients who are very well-informed and interested and that these classes “hightlight” the things they are most interested in learning about, though they often tell me at the end that they wish they had signed up for more classes!