I get to use my artistic freedom here. A childbirth class does not focus on parenting or on being a stay-at-home Dad. But the childbirth class that Wife and I took helped with our transition to parenthood and it is worth talking about. It not only prepared us for Sweetie’s birth but also helped us develop our parenting attitudes. The Bradley Method childbirth class that we attended was one of the first “tools” that we added to our parenting toolbox.
On the recommendation of a friend we sought out a birthing class in the Bradley Method. In short, this is husband-coached natural childbirth. The Bradley Method gives Dad more active roles during the pregnancy, labor and birthing experiences. It promotes Dad’s involvement – no sitting on the sidelines. The method also teaches parents about the changes in Mom’s body during the pregnancy as she prepares for labor and delivery. Parents are empowered with the physiological and medical information so they are better prepared for the whole pregnancy and labor experience.
While the information on the Bradley Method is great, I think the dynamics of our particular class had more impact. Our class was taught at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago by instructor Juli Walter Billings. For 9 weeks we met for a 3 hour class to focus on Mom and the pregnancy and Dad’s role as support and coach. Juli works as a doula, a lactation consultant, and most importantly, a mother. She brought these combined experiences to the class in an honest and open way. Juli worked to develop the participants into informed and active parents. She set an environment that allowed the parents-to-be to relax and ingest all of the information, without feeling overwhelmed. The most poignant part of Juli’s instruction was her motivation for teaching the classes. She told us that she was not pushing a natural birth or demonizing the medical interventions, but rather she was working for Moms to have a birth experience free of trauma. She stated her intentions clearly on more than one occasion. This relieved anxiety about “getting it right” so we could focus on being informed and active in our birth experience.
The class also helped us align our attitudes for our pending parenthood. We understood the pregnancy and birth better and we understood the changes in Wife’s body better. This allowed us to shift more of our thoughts to the new baby. Parents need a lifetime to learn about raising a child – it was nice to start thinking along those lines as soon as we could. And I took lessons from the class with me as I returned home.
As my role shifted from work spouse to house spouse, I thought back to Juli’s class and her teaching style. They were good motivations for the “tweaks” that I had to make. She encouraged parents to be knowledgeable and active. She presented good information in an accessible way. She encouraged parents to arm themselves with this knowledge to better adjust to changes. I absorbed these lessons as “keep digging”, “keep it simple” and “stay flexible”. These basic things have helped me along this stay-at-home adventure. Things happen with Sweetie where I don’t know how to handle them, so instead of getting worked up, I just dig up answers. Entertaining Sweetie doesn’t require a bunch of fancy toys, it can be as easy as reading a book and just focusing a bit of attention on her. And our plans change every day, sometimes by the hour. While keeping a schedule is nice, flexibility is foremost. These concepts seem like “the basics”, but our childbirth class aimed me in the right direction to develop them in to habits.
Obviously this post comes late for current stay-at-home Dads, but attending a childbirth class is a good idea for potential Dads, and really all would-be parents. There is so much information available today that there is no excuse not to be an informed, active parent. Apply the idea of the “informed consumer” to pregnancy, labor and birth. Dads, don’t sit on the sidelines. Following Juli’s lead, I won’t force the idea of a natural birth or speak negatively of medical procedures. I will encourage attending a birth class, especially one in the Bradley Method. Wife and I appreciate the insight we gained and we talk up our experience to friends and family. We felt that our preparation was important for Sweetie’s birth, and we still see the benefits. If you want to contact Juli to check on her class availability or her other services, check out her website at www.juliwalter.com.