June 22, 2005

Pre-Natal Classes: Do You Want To Talk About It? No?

While searching around for dads and postpartum depression, I came across this study from Birth (Sept. 2000) which looks at how men approach prenatal classes and how the classes, in turn, affect their perspective on the kid's birth and afterwards.

From what I can tell, if you're a "high blunter," or avoider, classes, birth, and a child are more likely to freak you out a bit. And a Caesarean will freak you out more.

Somehow, I have a hard time accepting the researchers' implied conclusion: some dads react negatively to childbirth after attending classes, [so maybe they should skip the classes?]

How about, [so maybe they should design some damn classes to address the concerns, styles, and needs of dads?]

Fathers' Coping Style, Antenatal Preparation, and Experiences of Labor and the Postpartum [birth, via ingenta]


I'm not sure all those movies did much for me either--I mean, I knew were babies came from already. The classes freaked hubby out for sure, but he ended up watching the birth with nary a hint of fainting, and was a trooper during those early, painful days of nursing.

I thought the classes idealised the labor & delivery process--even with all the gory footage. For a first-timer (and who else would bother attending theose classes), the info isn't really comprehensive. I learned more from hearing the hour-by-hour labor stories of friends.

During my pregnancy, in a haze of Netflix-induced movie addiction, we watched The Miracle of Life (Nova). The conception-to-birth approach was instructive and thought-provoking.

Just a quick "Amen!" to the "maybe they should design some damn classes to address the concerns, styles, and needs of dads." We took what really was, after all, an excellent Bradley class to prepare for birth, but I never stopped to think at the time what kinds of overwhelming pressures its "husband-coached" philosophy was engendering in me. It seems that the core assumption of most every prenatal course is that mother and child are/will be the only ones in need of any support. I learned in a very hard way that this simply isn't true.

Iím going to speak for my husband here who wrote about his hatred of our childbirth classes at length in the blog entry ìChildbirth Class with Josef Mengele's Head Nurseî (http://meetthebreeders.blogspot.com/2005/06/childbirth-class-with-josef-mengeles.html)
Though itís more likely that we just have a bad teacher who doesnít respond to freaked out looks during videos of bloody C-sections (which brought one Mom-to-be who just found out she would have to deliver this way to tears), the class is certainly geared towards women and does little to extrapolate on the role men should play during the labor process besides instructing women ìYouíre doing great!î and distracting her during contractions. In one rather hilarious video sequence we were shown (you see, our teacher is like the gym coach with the VCR) one husband holds up a picture of the coupleís cat to his wife -- îFocus on Sparky. Focus on Sparkyî he says (note: Iím not 100% sure of the catís name). It was difficult not to giggle. But it really wasnít funny at all -- surely thereís better advice to be had than that?

The "focus on Sparky" technique may be chuckle inducing, but it's a great alternative to the video we saw of this father-to-be hovering over his wife with his face about 3/4" away from her's loudly counting, "1...2...3", and wildly gesturing with his fist. The one thing I learned from our class is the wife definitely does not need that kind of coaching.

I found the child-birthing class at our local hospital to be attentive to fathers. The fact is, when it comes to the actual birth, its the mother's show. But by supporting fathers and offering info geared toward them, I felt seen, heard, and supported. I asked the instructor about how she considered including fathers. She told me that they tried to run father-only sessions with a male instructor. The problem was, not enough fathers showed up. So they re-designed their class to be sure to include fathers more in the main class. Still, of the ten pregnancies in our class, only six of them came as a couple. Part of the issue is getting systems and our culture to recognize fathers, but it is also important for fathers to actually show up, too. Each of these factors feeds the other.

My conclusions, after going to pre-birthing class with the wifey for kid #1, and a special twins birthing and other info class for kids #2 and 3, are:
1) As my brother in law would say: "Stick with the head" Your wife's, not the baby's. No need to see what's going on down below.
2) A good birthing coach/ participatory Dad is like a good waiter: "Ice chips, honey? Towel? Fluff your pillow?"
3) If'n you puts a knife under the bed, it cuts the pain in two. As long as you have an epidural also.
But seriously, those classes are never going to be fun. The best you can hope for a decent information, delivered by someone other than Nurse Ratched, and accompnied by videos that are not to happyhappy nor too stern.

My husband and I, after reading this article, realized that we had a rather extrordinary expierence with our birth classes. We enrolled in Bradley classes (our instructor was admittedly less military than many) and loved them. She was warm and funny. She made us both very comfortable with the process, and niether disillusioned us nor scared us. She encouraged us to use a Doula so that there would be someone there to help David in his helping me. She actually introduced our class to a doula offering her services for free in order to gain a reputation in the area.

Our experience with Bradley classes was wonderful.

We just finished our classes and had a pretty good experience. Mom2be has been on disability for 6 weeks and was glad to get out of the house. Our main and most aggregious complaint was the videos. Seems all these videos were made in the 1970s and no updating has ever been done. We were dying to see a normal looking couple and a mom that was not so obese that you couldn't tell if it was labor or a reaction to a big meal. All our friends have told us to take the classes with a grain of salt. Nice to be familiar with the process, but most of it goes out the window and there is plenty of help around to coach.

We didn't do the normal pre-natal; instead, because of my wife's nationality, we did a class at the local Japanese-Canadian community center... there were no videos, and all in all it was a good experience. The nurse was a little biased toward the "and you lazy men better help too" side, but I think that was somewhat culturally motivated (considering that in Japan, the dads generally are pretty hands-off compared to North America) so I took it with a grain of salt.

Oddly, I didn't enjoy watching the birth videos on a cable TV show we watched later on, but when it came to my own daughter's birth, the blood and so on didn't bother me at all.

I think a lot of the fainting and so on you hear of probably is just as due to exhaustion and lack of energy as it is to squeamishness; my wife's labor was relatively short, and I made a point of polishing off the extra turkey and mashed potato dinner that was accidentally brought to the room... :)

I know this is extremely old post but still came across it on google.

Just wanted to answer your point- How about, [so maybe they should design some damn classes to address the concerns, styles, and needs of dads?]

Well finally they are here! Born out of my own experiences I have trained as antenatal teacher and now created classes very specific for dads. DaddyNatal is running pilot courses for Peterborough City Hospital


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