Once your partner gets pregnant, you learn that there are all sorts of classes out there for parents-to-be. There are the “traditional” classes usually put on by major hospitals – childbirth, infant CPR, hospital tour, maybe a “Dad” class. If you start branching out more, you’ll find classes on “natural” childbirth, yoga, water births, the list goes on.
Where to start depends a lot on what’s important to you, and, to a bigger extent, your partner, when it comes to labor and having a baby. Does she want the most advanced science and medicine nearby, or is giving birth at home more important? Want to know about everything that can go wrong, or would it be less stressful to not know? Have these conversations before you’re sitting in the back of a conference room drinking bad coffee and wondering why you’re wasting a Thursday night.
We went the “traditional” route and took childbirth and infant CPR classes through our hospital. They were filled with other similar-looking couples, she with the bump and he bringing along the bottles of water and maybe a pillow and whatever else the couple carries around. I’d recommend the Infant CPR class to anyone; you’ll learn how to administer CPR to infants and children, and though you hope you’ll never need the information, everyone should have it.
We also got pretty lucky with our childbirth class, since it matched the way we thought about the process. The instructor was focused on “evidence-based instruction,” which meant that she wouldn’t recommend an approach unless there were well-respected studies backing it up. And the information came without judgment. For example, you’ll hear some people touting the benefits of “natural” childbirth, which is usually code for either “no epidural” or “no drugs at all.” Instead of pitching a no-drugs childbirth as “better,” our instructor set it up as “here are the benefits of going without drugs” (mainly no potential side effects or complications from drugs) “and here are the potential downsides” (mainly exhaustion and complications that can stem from it). She also walked through the potential complications of childbirth, where and why they might occur, and what the doctors would be likely to do if they occurred.
This whole approach was good for us since it fit with how my wife approached her pregnancy – without much in the way of moral judgments and with the end goal of getting the best odds of ending the process with a happy and healthy mom and baby. That may not be the case for you and your partner, and if it isn’t, that’s fine, but make sure your class fits your approach.
The Question of Fit
Things go sideways if the class doesn’t fit the couple’s approach. I have friends who have gone into classes fairly certain mom would be getting an epidural only to get “natural is best” shouted at them for hours on end. And that sort of mismatch does nothing but cause stress, which does nobody any good.
So, sit down with your partner and determine how you’re going to be coming at all of this, and try to find a class that matches that, if you feel like you need a class at all. Some people are happier not knowing what might happen so they don’t worry about it, and they may not want to do a childbirth class at all. Figure out what suits you. But regardless, sign up for Infant CPR (saving your kid’s life suits you), and a hospital tour is a good idea as well, since you don’t want to be rushing into the hospital at 3 am and reading the hospital directory while your wife’s water leaks onto the floor next to you.