I’m a big reader and have gone through most of the “must-reads” as recommended by my midwife, family, and friends who have recently had babies. All have the critical info about “the day” and in fact all the days leading up to it are described in cringe-worthy detail therein, so I can’t really say I won’t be prepared intellectually.
However being ready emotionally, not just for the day but for all the days after, seems to be where these classes shine. Over the last seven weeks I’ve learned valuable things like how to breathe calmly and information to help me decide what drugs to take or not take, how to get my partner to massage my back, and what to take to the hospital, but I reckon these sessions are most valuable to:
1. Prepare your partner – Pregnancy (especially with the first child) is almost a self-indulgent time when you as a woman experience new feelings, your body changes shape, and you can obsess for 9 months over what the nursery should look like, while your partner can feel on the outside. Granted they can hold your belly to feel those kicks, but it’s just not the same as feeling that little life growing and turning inside of you.
These classes help you as a couple flesh out your expectations of one another, maybe touching on some things you forgot to discuss – what do you expect of your “support person” during delivery (men like to try to fix things, but you may just need a hand to hold), once one of you goes back to work who will take on night duty, who will cook, clean…
They also allow him to commiserate with the other future fathers about your wacky cravings but also how they will deal emotionally with being the sole breadwinner for a while or feeling like a bystander during the delivery and first weeks of breastfeeding when it seems the whole world revolves around mother & child.
2. Provide a support group – These classes that run over several weeks are really good at helping you as a couple build up a little support group of other couples going through the same things at roughly the same time. Everyone in your group is likely to be within 4 weeks of your delivery date and during breaks before and after class you can empathize about those back pains or field ideas about what to do during your maternity leave to keep from going stir crazy. Although you have other friends who have gone through pregnancy before, there is something special about talking with someone who is at the exact same stage as you and comparing notes on life and future plans.
One of the areas these classes seem to lack though is preparing you practically for the future. We touched on settling techniques, but so many women in our generation didn’t grow up with large families and some, such as myself, have never even held a newborn baby. I want to know how to cope AFTER the big day. How I will get by on the little sleep everyone warns me about, etc. The impression I get is that you just figure it out and so much depends on the personality of your little bub. Luckily there are so many support organizations here to help afterwards, but sometimes you have to search for them.
I intend to utilise as many of these services as possible including the hospital’s weekday breastfeeding clinic, Australian Breastfeeding Association meetings, join a mother’s group (which everyone I know raves about) through the local Early Childhood Centre, and generally try to get out of the house every day.
Wish me luck on the “big day” but wish me more for every day thereafter.