Is it worth attending antenatal classes?

antenatal class

So this is the question I asked myself. Reason being;

  1. the time it would consume mine and my partner’s time to attend and was it really worth it?
  2. the cost involved to attend those classes and again was it worth it (I was astonished to find that most antenatal classes were charging $300 for attendance! I mean how can people with not a lot of money afford to pay this and justify spending $300 to learn how to give birth?) and
  3. I really didn’t want to watch a birthing video! I’ve gone 31 years without watching one and the thought of watching one horrified me and I know that they would show this at the antenatal classes.

 

But given that fact that me and my partner had ZERO clue about labour. Neither of us have had friends who have been through labour so we literally had no clue about the process and the stages of labour. So I decided that it was best that we both attend antenatal classes.

I decided to see if we could find a free class somewhere as I couldn’t justify spending $300 on top of all the money we have spent on things for the baby so far.

I managed to find free antenatal classes at the RPA but the only catch was it was on during the day and during the week. Me and my partner were both working but thought we could try to fit it in during our work day.

We signed up for a 6 x 2hr per week class and a separate 2 hour breastfeeding class.

We began my antenatal classes when I was 28 weeks.

Within the first 10 minutes of our first class, they put a birthing video on and I just sat there trying not to cry. I wanted to cry not because it was beautiful or amazing, I wanted to cry because of the pain that I could see the woman go through and knowing that its something that I would need to go through just scared the hell out of me and as I looked around the class, I also saw the same horrified faces of the other pregnant women.

My partner looked at me and held my hand. He could see I was shocked and scared as hell.

I walked away from the first class thinking that was so unnecessary to do. To put a birthing video within the first 10 minutes of your first antenatal class! Anyway, we had signed up and proceeded to push ahead.

I found each class to be quite repetitive. They would go over the same things at some classes and I found it to be a time waster at times. They also spent time on doing “group activities” which I think was also a time waster. One group activity was listing the things a support partner should do and say. I just think those things are quite obvious. They are there to support but we wasted 30 mins going over that.

Another class that I think was a time waster was post-baby care. They go over how to swaddle a baby (with a doll), how to bath a baby and certain ailments of a baby that are normal or not normal i.e. colour of their poop, certain skin rashes etc.

The reason why I found this a complete time waster is because you don’t remember any of that stuff when the baby arrives and when you are at the hospital, the midwives teaches you how to swaddle a baby, there are also various classes at the hospitals for mothers to attend. They teach you how to bath a baby, breastfeeding classes, how to settle a baby and physio classes (well these were the classes at my hospital. Not sure if this is the norm at other hospitals).

We also spent a good hour going over the various ailments a baby could have. Now looking back, I don’t remember a thing and if I found something strange on my baby, I would be calling one of the 24 hour helplines to ensure whether its normal or not. To think you would be able to remember what is normal or what is not is unrealistic and the reality is, when you have your own baby in your hands, you are going to want to check with the professionals as opposed to relying on what was taught to you months ago.

Apart from that, it was also very time-consuming attending these classes. 6 weeks for 2 hours each class, it was exhausting and as I got more pregnant, I just didn’t have the energy to want to go but I did attend every class.

By the end of it, I did learn things that we needed to know. Things like when to go to hospital, the different pain relief available, the tools of intervention and what to expect after the birth although I don’t think it needed to take 6 weeks and 2 hour classes to learn all the vital things.

I did find the breastfeeding class very useful. It goes over the signs a baby gives when they are hungry as well as showing you the various positions you can breastfeed. I did remember this when my baby came along and watched for the signs to know when to feed her before she starts crying as well as trying the various positions to see which she liked best. This by far was the most useful class.

And if I had paid $300 for these classes, I would be mighty upset. It’s definitely not worth that amount of money.

So we finish the class and a couple of weeks after I finish the class I’m at home on my iPad looking at pregnancy apps and come across a really interesting app that I proceed to download.

I download the BabyCenter Birth Class application. This app is amazing! I wish I came across it before I signed myself up to attend the antenatal classes because this app went through everything the antenatal class went through and for me, in better detail.

I can’t rave on about this app more. First of all you have someone who talks you through the classes so you’re not having to read (I am so over reading! I feel throughout this whole pregnancy there is just more and more stuff to read!). The app is broken up into sections so you can refer to areas that you really want to know about now or you can just go through the class in order.

The app is very thorough in covering all aspects of labour as well as post-birth. They also have a section where you can jot down notes.

There is also plenty of references to links for further information on certain topics.

What I also loved is that they did include various birthing videos of various mothers and their stories around labour. So labour with pain-relief, labour without pain relief, a c-section and I watched all the birthing videos. I guess it’s because I was more prepared that I was about to watch a birthing video and I was intrigued to see the various labour stories (the videos used in my antenatal classes was from the 90’s! They were so old).

The other things I loved is that you can do the app at your own pace and also at a time that suits you and your partner. The both of you can watch it at your own pace, pause the video if you need to discuss something and when you close the app and open it again, it starts where you left off.

If I had known about this app before signing up to the antenatal classes, I would not have signed up to the classes and stuck to just using the app.

And the best thing! The app is completely free to download! And because its made by BabyCenter, you know it’s a reliable source of information and seriously the app has been put together amazingly. I was really impressed.

So my suggestion, if you and your partner are time poor, don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars and want the flexibility of learning at your own pace and time, then I highly suggest downloading this app as it really has all the information you need.

The only suggestion would be to take a hospital tour (which they usually do in the antenatal classes) and if there is a breastfeeding class, I would also suggest attending that only.

 ***

What are your thoughts on antenatal classes? Worth attending? Have you done any online ones such as the BabyCentre app?

My labour story – A lesson in not being in control of everything in life

It's a girl!

We have a girl!

So I finally had my little angel on the 4th June 2014 at 1.15am. She weighed in at 3.04kgs and was 51cm long.

I have been MIA for this reason and I have other topics around pregnancy that I will go back to but I wanted to post about my labour before I forget about it! If you think you get baby brains when pregnant, I think it actually gets worse once you have your baby. My ability to remember things is ridiculous.

So I went into this pregnancy initially thinking I wanted to get a c-section. My preconception of going into labour and giving birth was of utter horror and never could I imagine myself going through that kind of pain and agony.

When I brought this up with my partner, we had a long discussion around natural vs c-section. He wanted me to try and go through a natural birth as he thinks it is the natural and normal way for women to give birth. He agrees with a c-section, only if its needed and required.

I sat thinking about this dilemma of being scared to death about labour and birthing and doing what I thought was “right” for my baby (everybody has their own concept of what is right for their own child).

My partner convinced me start researching about labour and births and to find some good stories around labour as opposed to holding onto the bad stories I had heard.

So I did.

I googled and looked at blogs and spoke to other mothers to get a wider variety of stories.

I also began our antenatal classes which was also very informative and factual about birthing and labouring.

Until one day, after all that researching and listening, I felt confident. I felt confident that I could do it and I went from hating the thought of it, to looking forward to this once in a lifetime experience. I also had my partner by my side who gives me the strength and support that I need. So there it was. I had made my decision to go natural.

I began looking at ways to give birth. I wanted to have an active labour. I practised positions to help me through the contractions. Looked at various positions to give birth. Was adamant that I would labour at home as long as possible (according to what I read, it makes for a faster labour).

So 11pm on Monday night 2 June I had my first contraction. It felt like a bad period pain and I hadn’t had that kind of pain throughout my pregnancy. I remember just holding my tummy until the pain went away. I had no idea at the time it was a contraction. I went about my business when about 30 mins later, the same pain came back. I knew something was going on. I went to the bathroom and had some blood show. I freaked out at that point and called my hospital. At this point in time I was 41+3 days so I knew labour was imminent.

As I explained to the midwife the pain and length of it, she then said to me “that is a contraction”. Even though I knew it was going to happen any day now, hearing those words still sent me into shock. It was actually happening now.

She said to me “feel free to call me as they get stronger and closer together. We recommend you come in when the contractions are 1 minute in length and 5 minutes apart”. So began my labouring at home.

Since it was about 1am I thought I could get in a sleep before the contractions got worse, so I went to bed. The contractions were getting stronger so while I was laying down and trying to fall asleep, a contraction would come and I would slowly moan through the pain. Obviously this would wake up my partner and I thought there isn’t any point for the 2 of us to get no sleep so I went to the living room.

The contractions began getting stronger and closer together and I started recording the time they started coming and the length.

My partner couldn’t sleep anyways as he was worried about me and I guess the reality of a baby really coming hit him at the same time so he came and checked on me throughout the morning.

Finally at about 1pm on Tuesday 3 June the contractions were about 45 sec-1 min in length and 5 mins apart. We called the hospital and let them know we were on our way. So that turned out to be 14 hours of labouring at home. The contractions were definitely stronger and more painful and I was gripping and groaning harder to get through them.

I was convinced that given how long I laboured at home, I should be about 5cm dilated and shouldn’t have long to go to deliver my baby.

We get to the hospital and the midwife plugs me into their monitors and checks baby heartbeat which was perfectly normal and strong.

I just wanted them to check how dilated I was as I needed to call my parents once I was 5cm.

The midwife checked me and said “you are about 2cm dilated”. I was shocked! I said to her “that can’t be right!” but she was adamant and I knew she obviously knew what she was talking about but I was really upset knowing that I was so far away from delivering this baby and I was so exhausted already since I didn’t get any sleep the night before and with the pains stronger and closer together now, there was no way I could get any sleep.

The midwife suggested having a warm bath and walking around more to get the labour going. So that’s what I did. The midwife said she would check in on me in a couple of hours and see how I was going. By this time I had to start using the gas to get through my contractions and it helped to get the edge off the contractions, at the beginning.

At about 7.30pm the midwife came back to check on me and it was 4 hours later from when she first checked on me. I was convinced that she was going to say “5-7cm dilated”. I was anxious to call my parents but kept on waiting until I heard I was further along. She checked me again and she said “you are barely 3cm”. I wanted to cry at this stage from the frustration, pain, exhaustion and pure anxiousness of why things were not moving along even though I felt I was doing all the right things.

The midwife called my OB and told him my status. He spoke to me on the phone and asked how long I had been labouring for. By that stage it was 20 hours. He said he would come into the hospital and check for himself how dilated I was as after 20 hours I should have been further along. By this stage, the pain was much worse and the gas was not giving me the kick it was before but I was still holding on and trying to get through them.

My OB checked and confirmed that I was only 2-3cm dilated. He said my options were a) break my waters and induce me or b) go for a c-section now.

I looked at my partner and whilst I was tempted to take option b, I thought we have come this far along, we might as well try option a first. He warned me that the pain after breaking my waters and inducing me would get more intense and so I requested an epidural because I knew I couldn’t handle the pain much worse than now.

My OB broke my waters and said he would check back on me in 2 hours and see how much I have moved.

So the pain was at the point where I really really needed an epidural. The anaesthetist was in a c-section delivery and wasn’t going to be able to get to me for another 45 mins-1 hour. I take my hat off to those women out there who have been able to go through a drug free birth because for me personally, it was one of the most excruciating pains I have ever been through.

Finally the anaesthetist arrives and I worry that because my contractions are so close and I’m in so much pain, that I wouldn’t be able to sit still for the needle. I ask the anaesthetist if this will take the pain away. He assures me that it would and that I would even be able to sleep for a bit which is what I really need after being awake for over 20 hours. The needle goes in and he says it should kick in within the next 10-20 mins. And so I wait. I had 2 or 3 contractions that tapered down and I thought finally it is kicking in. Then the 4th contraction comes in and its even worse than all the previous ones and more and more contractions come. I’m telling everyone at this point that its not working and the anaesthetist puts up the dosage, and nothing still… the contractions were even more painful and closer together. The anaesthetist couldn’t believe it wasn’t working and didn’t really know what to do next.

The epidural failed!

 

By that time over 2 hours had gone by and my OB came back to check on me to see how dilated I was. Once again he checked and confirmed what I didn’t want to hear “you haven’t dilated since I last checked”. I just wanted to cry at that point.

By that time the OB checked on the baby and saw some distress and made the decision that I needed a caesarean as he didn’t want to put the baby under any further stress so off they want to prep me for surgery.

By that time, my only concern was the baby and the need for me to go through a natural labour went out the door. I just wanted a healthy baby any which way they had to do it. A feeling of calm came over me knowing there was some sort of solution and that it was going to happen very soon.

They took me into surgery, gave me a spinal tap and I couldn’t feel a thing. My eyes were wide open and for the first time in what seemed forever, I was able to breathe properly and just relax. My partner held my hand next to me and I knew everything was going to be ok.

The caesarean was fast and painless and at 1.15am they delivered my gorgeous baby girl. After 26 hours of labouring, it all came down to this extraordinary moment.

At that moment all I could do was cry to finally have her in my arms.

So whilst my plan of going through a vaginal birth didn’t happen and no matter how much work and prepping I put into trying to have a natural birth, the circumstances that happened for my labour wasn’t conducive in putting my plan into action.

At the end of the day, the most important thing was that I delivered a healthy baby girl.

And whilst a part of me is upset that I didn’t get the chance to go through the experience of having a natural labour, I am grateful that I was able to feel the intensity and the pain of contractions because I can only imagine how it feels when you go through the pushing stage.

My only advice I could give after my experience is to keep an open mind about your labour because things can happen that are out of your control and you need to be in a level headed frame of mind to take the curve balls and roll with it.

I wouldn’t change my experience for anything in the world.