My friend Rachel and I are in the process of developing some childbirth education courses to serve the English-speaking expat community here in Seoul. I believe that different programs work better or appeal to different women and we want to expand the range of options available.
Rachel and I are reading a lot of books and looking at programs to figure out how and what we want to teach. There are some philosophies of birth that say that women will find their own ways of coping in labor and technique-based classes are not necessary and even counter-productive. I know one thing for sure, I do not agree with this. (I do understand that there are women who this philosophy would really work for, though. I think they would have to be extremely committed to it and very well supported to get through if things did not go smoothly). This philosophy came about in response to the failure of the old Lamaze method on the part of many women who were told in the classes that they should be able to relax their way to avoid pain. When they felt pain, they grew anxious that they were "doing it wrong" and felt a lot of disappointment. I understand where the reaction against the method comes from, but I do not agree that method-free is the best way for most women to go. Since most women go into their births without prior experience of birth and very little body awareness or relaxation training, their natural ways of coping are often inefficient and counterproductive leading to longer, more painful labors and higher rates of intervention. If we were giving birth in a rural area without access to interventions, most women would eventually find their way through, but I think it would be rougher than it needs to be. I believe that birth can be enjoyable! I do think that the real point is not to be a slave to a particular method, to have a range of tools to use.
Currently, Lisa Fincaryk teaches a wonderful general childbirth education course that focuses on the differences you encounter in Korea such as the standard procedures in most Korean hospitals, how to negotiate with your Korean doctor and writing a birth plan. One of the strengths of this class is role-playing negotiating with the Korean doctors and staff. It is a great class with lots of good information, but it is not a method. While I think that the information in general childbirth education courses is essential preparation, I think that they give you enough information to HAVE birth preferences, but not enough to prepare you to carry out your preferences. Many women are prepared intellectually (through childbirth education classes), but not physically and emotionally. In the Passion for Birth Childbirth Education Lamaze seminar we learned lots of great and engaging ways to teach general childbirth information, but since most people lack time or resources to take both a childbirth education course and a labor preparation/method course, I would rather teach a method course.
Lisa also teaches Hypnobirthing classes here in Seoul as well. We are so fortunate to be able to have that option here as well. Hypnobirthing (I finally read the book) says that birth can be painless and enjoyable. The philosophy is that pain is caused by tension in response to fear. By eliminating the fear and training yourself to relax completely, you can work with your body instead of against it and have a pain-free, or very manageable birth. Having experienced a near pain-free and very manageable birth using Hypnobabies, I believe that it is possible. Where I disagree with Hypnobirthing is in their coverage of interventions and problems in labor. The coverage is minimal because the practitioners believe that covering undesirable topics will plant strong suggestions that will manifest themselves because they will override all the positive work you are doing by entertaining those thoughts.
I disagree. The culture through family horror stories, horror stories from strangers, fearful images from movies and television and lack of confidence in the body's ability to birth have already put the fear in us. Also, most women give birth in intervention-friendly hospitals and if you do not have a good understanding of when interventions are necessary or helpful and how to evaluate that, your whole plan can be derailed if you have something unexpected come up in your birthing. I think that by teaching women about the range of options between a zen, pain-free natural birth and an emergency c-section, you will actually reduce their fear and improve their satisfaction about their births because they will have a greater ability to make choices about their care. I believe that education, support and choice are keys to a women having satisfying birth experiences.
I do think also that Hypnobirthing kind of makes it seem like if you have a problem in your birthing time, it is your fault. Breeches are explained as being caused by fear. Having had two breech babies, this is really hard for me to hear. I did not feel afraid, but I had breeches. With Eva, I did fear release hypnosis sessions and the Hypnobabies breech track and nothing worked. An External Cephalic Version finally did work and I went on to have a very easy Hypnobabies birth, but I don't think that being told it is your fault is really helpful. I think I have the same reaction that Gayle Peterson and others had in response to the old Lamaze method. However, I do think that there is a lot of good information and technique in Hypnobirthing and for some people, it would be a very good fit.
I would like to become a Hypnobabiesinstructor because Hypnobabies does cover interventions and changes in labor. Unfortunately, they are not holding teacher training until 2011. So, I will continue to encourage women to look into Lisa's Hypnobirthing class or order the Hypnobabies Home Study Kit, but I realize that not all women find the hypnosis method appealing.
So, what are we going to teach? Well, Rachel used The Pink Kit for her birthing. The philosophy behind The Pink Kit is that women need to do the work to develop skills to use in their birthing time. Birth can be easy or difficult. If you follow your natural instincts, you may have a very quick and easy birthing time. However, sometimes our instincts lead us to positions and breathing that works against our bodies instead of with our bodies. By developing body awareness and an understanding of the potential impacts of our own anatomy, we can work with our bodies to get the baby out. The Pink Kit does talk about the impact of fear, but gives women (and partners) confidence by helping them build skills to use no matter how your labor progresses.
Yes! This philosophy really speaks to me. It is proactive and not fear-based. It is good preparation for the birth partner as well because there are things that the birth partner can practice. You can do The Pink Kit as a home study as Rachel did, but many people, especially first-time parents or those with previous birth trauma, prefer a live class. We know we want to use The Pink Kit as a basis for our class called Birth Skills. We want to include information on birth in Korea as well as the best elements of other books and philosophies to round out the class. We are in the early stages of trying to decide what to put in the class and how to present the information.
Here is where I need your help. If you can answer the following questions that would be great. If you don't want to answer in the comments, you can send me an e-mail mamaseoul at gmail dot com.
1. What childbirth education/ labor preparation classes did you take?
2. What other resources (books, films, groups, etc) did you use to prepare in addition to or instead of the classes?
3. What did you learn in your classes or other preparation that you feel helped you the most during your birthing time?
4. What did you feel unprepared for? What do you wish you would have known, but didn't?
5. If your partner attended classes, what did your partner learn in classes (or other preparation) that helped the most during your birthing time?
6. What do you think would have better prepared your partner to help you?
7. General impression of your classes/additional comments/anything else that you think will be helpful to us as we put together our classes: