We are excited to share with you the perspective of a childbirth educator, doula and mother of three — as she looks back 19 years on the birth of her daughter, and visits all of the wonderful things she’s learned through her experience in the world of birth.
I am writing this blog while sitting in a dorm at the University of California-Davis. I sit here in disbelief. Just 19 years ago, I gave birth to this child that I am moving home today. She has just finished her first year at college, and college is more than 500 miles away from home.
No one prepares you for the experiences of motherhood that begin when you birth your child, the experiences that ultimately never end. The work of hauling home nine months of accumulated clothes, room supplies, and assorted trinkets — not to mention an older, wiser and (hopefully) more mature child. For me, it has been nine months of freedom — no disagreements, no discipline, and no extra kids hanging out at the house. For her, it has been nine months of freedom — no disagreements, no discipline, but lots of kids hanging around, lots of new experiences and lots of memories. We are both unprepared for what’s next — the new schedule (for her), the new person in the house (for me), and our lifestyle changes as we grow further from the day I brought her into this world.
As a childbirth educator, one of the topics that we typically cover during the first class is how a new baby changes the lives of parents. Many share that their lives have already begun to change, as this precious gift grows inside of its mother. As a childbirth educator, it is my job to guide them — to educate them and help them understand the choices and options — choices and options that merely begin during labor and birth, and continue through the lifelong task of parenting. Birth is really the beginning of a journey called parenthood.
The hard work of labor prepares us for the hard work of parenting. There are emotional highs and lows of pregnancy (commonly referred to as mood swings), emotional highs and lows of childbirth (obviously!), and emotional highs and lows throughout parenthood (although these are typically less hormone-driven).
Our body changes to accommodate a growing fetus when pregnant, and then beautifully accepts the task of labor and delivery. After pregnancy, we have to work with our bodies to get them back to where they used to be — pre-birth, pre-pregnancy.
During pregnancy, we begin to fully realize that the female body is truly (and skillfully) designed to nourish our babies — to go through these changes and childbirth. Once a parent, your child will inevitably give back the gift you provided to them, and nourish your soul.
Our partners learn to understand and appreciate what the women go through during pregnancy, and they learn to support us during the physical and emotional changes — they comfort us. The process of pregnancy brings couples together, building a strong team for the task of parenting that lies ahead.
Childbirth education classes can take a couple through all of these amazing first steps with preparation. Studies have shown that people who take childbirth preparation classes feel more equipped, not only for the birth process but also for the parenting process, and in fact, are better parents.
To quote comedian Bill Cosby, “Childbirth is a natural thing. Intellectuals go to class to study ‘natural childbirth.’” Correct. With all of the negative, scary, and extreme dramatization of childbirth on TV, it is easy for pregnant couples to become scared of the process, or to think that they can learn what they need to know from TV. They come into the hospital scared of pain, concerned of the well-being of mom and baby, and unaware of their options. Such negative thoughts and associations can lead to increased complications during the birth experience.
Childbirth education leads to easier births. Educators recognize the process that nature allows. There is an absolute reason to learn breathing methods, natural pain management, and all of the other techniques that can help a laboring woman achieve her optimal birth experience.
There are many choices that surround birth: where to deliver, preferences for interventions, and who will be attending the birth for support. Preparation classes provide you with options. Labor can empower you as a person, and bring you and your partner closer — especially when you approach it clearly, educated and inspired.
My daughter is almost done cleaning her room. Soon, we will be making the long drive home. I am prepared for her to be home again for the next three months, all the while knowing that she’ll return to school this fall, perhaps to never move home again. Our lives are changing, and all my husband and I can hope is that we brought her into this world and raised her the best we possibly could. My husband and I are on to the next chapter and then …
I am taken back to her birth — slow, deep breaths …
Stacey Scarborough is a certified childbirth educator, certified lactation educator, fitness instructor and labor and postpartum doula. She has been married for more than 30 years and has three wonderful adult children. She is also co-founder of Beautiful Beginnings Labor and Postpartum Doula Services. For more information, please visit her Web site.