West Valley Medical Center - November 16, 2016

“How many of you have held a newborn before?”

Cam’s hand shoots up immediately. Show off. Another soon-to-be mom raises her hand as well. I knew it, I just knew it. I knew I would be the only person in Childbirth Preparation Class who has no idea what they’re doing.

One could argue that’s the entire point of going to a childbirth prep class. If every first-time mom instinctively knew everything there is to know about the birth process and caring for a newborn, then we wouldn’t have any need for childbirth education classes. Or the Internet, come to think of it. But the world is filled with people like me, who — despite months and months of Googling — are still completely clueless about babies. That’s why West Valley offers these classes free to its prospective parents on the second Saturday of every month.

You’ll be relieved to know that I did learn how to hold a newborn. And swaddle one. The nurse instructor, Cindy, had us practice on a very realistic doll and proclaimed me, “A natural.” That’s a direct quote ... not that I’m bragging or anything. Here are a few other things I took away from Saturday’s class:

The Water-Breaking Myth

Did you know only about 10-15% of women actually have their water break? And very few of the ones who do experience anything close to what you see in the movies — the sudden gush of fluid at the most inopportune time. If it does break, it might be a very small amount. You may think you just peed a little … which, when you’re pregnant, happens quite a bit anyway.

Feeding Options for Every Family

West Valley has several lactation consults (including Cindy) on hand to support breastfeeding moms, but they also offer breast pumps and formula to ensure that every family finds an option to meet their needs. There is so much mud-slinging and name-calling online about infant feeding; it was nice to hear that the nursing staff doesn’t get involved with that. They really are there to support new families and help them find the right solution.

Natural or Epidural?

Another thing the Internet leads you to believe is that — in terms of pain management — you’ll have a completely unassisted, natural childbirth or an epidural. Two choices. That’s it. Thankfully, it turns out that’s not the case. Some women choose an epidural, that’s true. But as far as pharmaceuticals go, Demerol or Stadol are also options. And under the umbrella of natural childbirth, there are endless techniques to test and try. Positioning, movement, baths, meditation, warm compresses, cold compresses, massage, aromatherapy … the list goes on.

To Birth Plan or Not to Birth Plan

People ask me often if I have a birth plan, and the answer is no. I hate those websites that present you with a laundry list of ridiculous options: I want only organic, Egyptian cotton linens; I want the room to smell of roses and French baguettes; I want my baby immediately placed in a basket of kittens. No. 1) They make it sound like every hospital in America offers these things as a matter of routine. They don’t. And No. 2) Childbirth is perfectly safe, but things can go wrong. I’m far less concerned with thread counts and fragrances than I am with simply delivering a healthy kid. But Saturday’s class kind of changed my perspective on what a birth plan really is. Cindy urged us to consider things like: What do I want in my hospital bag? Do we have an alternate route to the hospital if the freeway is jammed? Will I inform family and friends that I’m in labor? Who will be in the room? How soon do I want visitors? These are the kinds of questions I can get behind — practical, useful, kitten-free. Cam and I now have a goal to discuss and write down our thoughts on these subjects so we’re both in agreement well before the big day.

Even if you think you have all the answers, even if you’ve already had 10 kids, I’d highly recommend the childbirth prep class. Contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t a firehose of things I didn’t know. It was more like a confidence booster; a gentle reminder that I already know quite a bit, with some helpful hints added along the way. PS — free snacks.