Giving birth is not just a means to becoming a parent. It is, by its very nature, a transformative experience that not only turns a woman into a mother, but her partner into a parent, their parents into grandparents, their sisters and brothers into aunts and uncles….While there are few sizable studies exploring the lasting impact of a birth experience on a mother, a small research project by Penny Simkin illustrates how mothers remembered details of their births 15 to 20 years later. I certainly remember my first birth experience in vivid detail and today my mom can tell me the story of my birth just as easily as the first time she shared it with me in my childhood. So why is it that the average person does not bat an eye at spending tens of thousands of dollars on their wedding, but calls a birth class, which costs a fraction of the average wedding dress, “expensive”?
My wedding was great and all, but I don’t have much to show for it besides a fun time and an awesome husband. (And I didn’t need the fancy wedding to keep the guy.) My births, on the other hand, have left long-lasting impressions, both good and not so good- emotionally, physically and mentally. Every penny I spent on my birth education and maternity care was worth it!
Birth classes and doula services (and anything else, for that matter, that will contribute to a positive experience) are not expenses- they are investments! Bonding with baby, connection between partners, confidence in parenting, a healthy body and mind- these are all things that are impacted immensely by the birth experience. Living in Silicon Valley, I am no stranger to a budget, but there’s nothing more valuable than starting a lifetime with your new family off on the right foot. It’s absolutely worth giving up Starbuck’s for a year or skipping that monthly date at the movies. (You'll have plenty of time to catch up on Netflix those first few weeks glued to the couch with a nursing baby.)
As you consider your options for a birth class or a healthcare provider, remember that you get what you pay for. It may be worth it to pay a little extra out-of-pocket to have a doctor or midwife who spends the time to get to know you and truly supports your wishes when it comes time to meet your little one. Resigning yourself to a particular provider or birthing facility just because it’s the easiest given your insurance, may result in compromising the things that are most important to you regarding your birth.
As for your birth class, taking one through your hospital may be less expensive than through an independent educator, but may not offer you all of the information to arrive at your labor with confidence. Is the focus of the class on your options as a maternity-care consumer or on you following their rules and being a “good patient”? In this area, the average hospital birth class is only six or eight hours long in total, may have ten or twelve (or more!) couples, and may not have the time or resources to adequately cover labor coping techniques, pros and cons of standard medical procedures (and how to know if they are in your best interest), or time for your questions. By contrast, the average out-of-hospital class, has six to eight couples, runs for twelve to twenty hours, and focuses on giving you the tools to navigate all aspects of the birth experience, from coping physically with contractions to understanding all of your options and communicating them to your maternity care team. Check out Blossom Birth in Palo Alto for a variety of birth class options and let me know if you have questions. When I’m not teaching prenatal yoga or herding my three kiddos, I’m wearing the hat of Blossom Program Manager. For classes further south, I recommend Harmony Birth and Family. There are also numerous independent educators in our area.
There is no one right way to give birth, and you have every right to make it the best possible experience for you. Having the information and support to navigate the experience can make all the difference. Birth classes, doula services, a doctor or midwife who sees you as an individual, and prenatal yoga classes are just some of the ways to prepare mindfully for birth and all that follows. I can think of no worthier investment!