Veronica: I met Deena Blumenfeld, owner of Shining Light Prenatal Education in Pittsburgh, at the Lamaze International Conference last October. The number of independent educators at the conference was small, and the number of women who owned our own businesses was even smaller. Last week, Deena wrote Book Review: “Lamaze: An International History” – Breath Control: The Rise and Decline of Psychoprophylaxis for the Science and Sensibility blog. That sparked a discussion between Deena and I about the current methods being taught in childbirth education and how they are modern versions of psychoprophalaxis. Below is a wonderful post Deena wrote on her blog in 2012 that so echos my feelings on “method-based” childbirth education.
Bradley, Hypnobabies, Brio Birth, Birthing from Within, Lamaze and so many others…Does it matter which flavor of childbirth education you take? Maybe.
Every method has its benefits. However, every method is not for every mother. Not every mother needs a method; not every method will work for an individual mother.
I note that we all have different personalities and different learning styles. We come from different socio-economic backgrounds. Some of us have been abused during our lives and that will impact our needs during birth.
Some women need a more flexible class. Others do need to know what to do at all stages of labor and birth; they need the method, the prescription. If a woman feels more comfortable with a specific method for birth, then she should use it. If she feels more comfortable knowing her options and selecting those that work best for her, then she should go with what she knows to be best.
Yes, I am a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (and proud of it!). No, I don’t teach a method. So, how does that work? I teach the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices. I teach the evidence-based best practices. I keep current with the research, studies and policy changes that are released. I help my parents make informed choices regarding their pregnancies, births and babies.
I incorporate my yoga into class with the breathing I teach; the names of the postures and positions for labor and birth; the meditations, and visualizations come from my own experience.
I give women a selection of options from which they can choose to use, or not, as their body tells them. I remind them not only to follow their body’s instincts, but to trust in their baby and their placenta to know how to give birth.
I do not prescribe certain breathing techniques for women to use. Nor do I prescribe a series of positions for a woman to use during birth (like a certain Yoga Birthing method). I do not prescribe any specific mantras, music or meditation.
Why not teach a method? Why not give more specific instruction as to what to do when? Because no one method will work for everyone. There is no one right way to give birth.
If I tell you do X, Y and Z while breathing this way, I’ve stripped you of your autonomy. I’ve taken away your ability to trust in the process of birth.
If I tell you do X, Y and Z while breathing this way and you fail to do it, for whatever reason, you will more than likely perceive your birth as a failure or perceive yourself as a failure. This is simply not true.
The method failed, not the mother.
I work with pregnant women and new mothers all the time. I run a yoga-based workshop called Healing from Traumatic Birth. I’ve been teaching it for the last 3 years. One thing that surprised me is the number of women who feel like failures because they didn’t have the “Bradley Birth”. They “gave in” to the epidural, therefore their birth was traumatic. Their mantras or affirmations weren’t enough to get them through, so they requested pain medication – and it was devastating for them.
Perception becomes reality.
These mothers perceive themselves as failures, therefore their births were traumatic. Their perception is valid, their pain is valid. However, this is not their fault.
This is a failure of the method, not the mother. This is a failure of that educator, not the mother. By not following through with an (somewhat) arbitrary set of predetermined, prescriptive behaviors, the woman perceives herself to have failed not only herself but her baby.
On the flip side when a birth is “successful”, and we credit the method we take the power away from the woman. We strip her of her right to say “I DID IT!” Instead we hear her say, “I couldn’t have done it without method X!”
In response to a shared birth story online:
Mom #1 – “Thanks so much for sharing! I love reading Hypnobabies stories since I’m using that method this time…”
Mom #2 – “I agree. I of course thought it was awesome that it was a Hypnobabies story to…“
My response – “Credit where credit is due. It’s not the method, it’s the mother. Kudos to her for birthing her baby the way he needed to be born.”
It takes the power away from the mother to credit the method for her birth “success”. To credit the method is called “advertising”.
About the author:
She has been practicing yoga since 1994.She became a certified Yoga instructor through 3rd Street Yoga in December 2008. She completed her 60 hour Prenatal Yoga training in February 2009 in Los Angeles at Golden Bridge Yoga with Gurmukh. Her Lamaze certification was completed in October 2010, through Magee Women’s Hospital and Lamaze International. She is an advocate of empowered birth for women.
Through the teaching of Prenatal Yoga and Childbirth Education classes, she helps women become more confident in their choices regarding pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Deena has also studied yoga with Doug Keller, Max Strom, KK Ledford, Shakta Kaur Khalsa and others. Her ongoing professional development as a Childbirth Educator has been with Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, Gail Tully of Spinning Babies and other childbirth professionals.