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Amanda Jo Greep

I spend a lot of my work time talking to clients about the importance of a good childbirth education class. Part basic education like anatomy, part "what to expect," and part "how to cope," they're particularly beneficial for first timers, though useful for those going into second or third pregnancies as well. Especially if the parents are aiming for a different outcome or improved experience over their previous one(s).

Being a professional doula and second-time mom-to-be, I questioned whether I needed to do any special preparation this time. I'm obviously pretty well schooled in the basics of childbirth and have helped a diverse group of women work through their own labors and births. I was fortunate to have both a healthy and positive first birth experience and have already worked hard to pull together a good birth team with the hope of repeating it all come February. But I couldn't shake this feeling that I could still use help of some sort. Or, at the very least, some structure that forces me to stop moving and think about this baby on a regular basis -- more than just in passing or when I get thumped in the bladder.

I looked into a couple of classes and being in NYC, there are a slew to choose from, of all "brands" -- Lamaze, Bradley, ICEA, etc. There are even homebirth-specific series and series designed as "refreshers" for the veterans among us.

The last time I was pregnant, my husband and I did a Bradley class together. It was an 8-week series focused on helping couples achieve a natural birth and although we found it useful, overall, I've since come to find a couple of fatal flaws in it. First is the assumption that the husband (or other intimate partner) has a "coaching" job to do during labor. If anything, T was my waterboy. He was vital to the operations, sure, but he was certainly not running the show.

And, second, was our status as a homebirth couple. All too often, the class discussion took a sharp left turn into "I know hospitals will want to do x, y, and z to us, but we don't want to do x, y, and z. What are the best strategies for avoiding this?" Having chosen homebirth, we were avoiding that struggle altogether and it made for a lot of wasted time on our parts. If we ended up transferring to a hospital, it wasn't going to be to avoid unnecessary routine interventions, but rather to get very, very needed ones.

So it was after a little research and talking to friends and colleagues in the birth community that I started to explore hypnosis. Seeing as my first labor and birth were fairly textbook in nature (down to my predictable screaming and hollering through transition), I didn't feel like there was much more I needed to change from the last time, but thought my performance could use some tweaks.

From what I was reading, hypnosis in childbirth is essentially deep relaxation. The preparation you do in the weeks leading up to your birth is a form of meditation and reinforcement of positive affirmations ("I think I can! I think I can!"). After working and/or chasing around a rambunctious toddler all day long, meditation and relaxation sounded like a lovely way to spend my evenings. I looked into an in-person Hypnobirthing classes and although I found a good one, the logistics of making such a thing a work started to feel like a huge burden, what with my unpredictable professional life and needing to hire a weekly sitter for the toddler. Fortunately, I found an alternative in the Hypnobabies home study course.

I've now had the Hypnobabies program for about two months, however, and am struggling. Not with the program or the materials, but with the motivation. I thought being able to "work from home" in this area would be a benefit, but if anything, I'm finding it simply makes it easier to skip. I have managed to sleep through a couple of tracks, but although everyone assures me this is totally ok, I sort of don't buy it. Really? Learning while unconscious? I'm not so sure.

I'm also struggling a little with getting my cynic's mind to fully embrace the idea of hypnosis, period. As I read through the materials, I am doubtful. Calm? Peaceful? In control? Though I've seen it happen firsthand on a couple of occasions (and am always blown away by the mamas who manage to make it all look so easy), I guess I'm lacking in confidence that I can do anything but lose my mind in labor. Clearly, I need to listen to the Positive Pregnancy Affirmations track a lot more.

So, here I am, already blowing through my 23rd week of pregnancy, sort of doing childbirth education. But not really. I keep promising myself that I'll get better, but then chores get in the way. And work. And those emails I have to answer. And before I know it, I'm accidentally passed out on the couch, drooling on a pillow, my iPod and course workbook nowhere to be seen. I will get better at this. I need to get better at this. I WANT to get better at this.

But how?

Did you take a childbirth education class during your pregnancy? What did you love or hate about it? What would you recommend to others looking into their childbirth ed options?


Follow Jo on Twitter at @outtajo or visit her personal blog, Outta Jo, Onto You.