A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to our first prenatal class.
It was mostly about relaxation techniques that could be used during labour, and that aspect of the class was very informative. There was, however, little information provided on drug-related pain relief like epidurals and the instructor seemed to discourage the use of any “interventions” that could ease pain and/or speed up delivery. I left the class feeling judged and unsupported in my possible choices during childbirth.
In my life, I have struggled through several abdominal surgeries, painful procedures, side effects from different medications and several hospitalizations. Because of these experiences, I am choosing to have an epidural. Actually, I want any and every pain medication they are willing to offer me! There has been enough medically induced pain in my life and I’m not interested in “being a hero”. I also want a C-section. A natural delivery could cause problems for me that end in emergency bowel surgery. My OBGYN and I have both spoken to different surgeons with different opinions on what to do and the risks. We are still undecided at this point, but a planned C-section is a possibility for me.
While I understood that the instructor of the prenatal class wanted to demonstrate various pain management techniques, it was surprising that there was no discussion about epidurals and C-sections. They were mentioned, but with an underlying level of judgment. The instructor herself was a registered nurse who had given birth twice, both at home, and with the help of a midwife. The video we were shown was described as “a variety of labour experiences”, but was actually four women who all gave birth without any medication. You call this variety? Where were the women getting epidurals or having C-sections? I left the class feeling that my birth plan was somehow “the wrong way”.
Our second prenatal class was about breastfeeding.
Since breastfeeding is something I’m interested in doing, I thought it would be a better class. It wasn’t. When one woman asked about pumping breast milk so that her partner could help feed the baby and allow her to take a break, the instructor was clearly hesitant. The instructor mentioned nipple confusion, which encouraged others in the class to make negative comments about bottle-feeding as well. Although I was expecting a pro-breastfeeding lecture, I was taken aback by the negative feedback related to pumping my own breast milk! I left the class again with feelings of inadequacy and guilt. I had not expected to experience that level of judgment and shaming from first time moms. Weren’t we there to support and help each other?
Why do we judge each others choices so often?
With regards to breastfeeding and labour, the choices made will affect you and your baby, no one else. So why all the judgment? At the beginning of this post, I used the expression “being a hero”. Why does that expression even exist? It implies that women who deliver naturally are “heroes” and women who don’t are what? Cowardly? Going through pregnancy and labour is overwhelming enough without attaching these labels.
There are many women who want natural deliveries at home, some using midwives or doulas. Some women want to solely breastfeed until their child is two years old or more, while others use formula. All of these choices should be respected, whether or not you would choose the same thing.
Becoming a parent is daunting and there is so much to learn.
I am open to suggestions and help; but at the same time, I would like to feel supported in the choices I make.