One of the thoughts that hovers in my mind a lot is: why don't more expectant parents attend childbirth education classes. Now, I am of the belief that expectant parents will get something out of any childbirth education class they attend ~ but is the information more "harmful" than helpful is my next question.
This is not to insinuate that any childbirth educator teaches harmful things. No, please don't misconstrue. Perhaps I should say it is the way that certain topics are presented, the time spent or NOT spent on other topics...this is what can be harmful.
Here are some examples:
Susie The Childbirth Educator has been teaching independent classes for nearly 15 years. Her feelings is that since labor and birth basically do not change, what she presents in her classes does not have to change either. Babies still come out either vaginally or by cesarean surgery. Susie does not change the curriculum to fit the needs of the individual learners in the class and side-steps specific questions when her well-learned clients ask about some of the events happening in the birth world such as placenta encapsulation or delayed cord clamping. Susie's answer is "those are questions to ask your careprovider".
Bev The Childbirth Educator has been teaching classes in a hospital environment for 6 years. She learned much of how she teaches from the other educators in her department and what she teaches from the curriculum presented to her. Her classes sound very much like this: "When you arrive, we'll take you upstairs and we'll help you get settled into one of our rooms". "We will hook you up to the EFM to get a reading to make sure that the baby is tolerating labor properly". "Once the cervix has dilated to 10 cms (not centimeters but "cms"), your nurse will give you permission to push".
Both Susie and Bev have essentially disempowered the women and their partners in their respective childbirth classes. How? Susie, by not staying current in childbirth education, displays an air of "it doesn't matter". She then counts on the care providers' 6-10 minute appointment with the expectant parents to fulfill this educational gap, which may or may not happen. Parents may then put their questions in the "its too hard to learn about" pile and may not show up at the next class. Bev, on the other hand, disempowers those in her class by implying that the mind/body/spirit connection between mother/partner/baby is not functioning and that medical intervention of some kind is necessary for the baby to move down the most dangerous 4 inches in the world ~ the mother's birth canal. Fear, then, may keep expectant parents from continuing the class series.
Ok, the last comments may have been a bit dramatic, I agree. But do you see how important words and how they are crafted during a childbirth class can make a desired or undesired impact on not only the thought processes but also the emotions and confidence of expectant parents?
I challenge you, as childbirth educators, to take a strong look at your curriculum AND how you phrase topics in your childbirth class. I challenge you to take a look at one topic at a time and figure a way to make that topic more empowering. When you do this, you will find that the responses to your classes will be well worth your time!