Friday, January 28, 2011

What It's Like to Take Childbirth Classes at Sinai

Ed. Note: We asked one of the Birthplace at Sinai's mothers-to-be to discuss what it's like to take childbirth classes. She'll be blogging periodically on her experiences as a new mother.

I’m expecting a baby, but I don’t know what to expect. I’ll be honest; my initial reaction to my positive pregnancy test was fear. Memories of the “It’s gonna hurt a lot, I bet” line from the movie Knocked Up rang through my head. The only solution, it seemed, was to get educated as much as possible about the process of giving birth so that one is prepared – at least mentally.

The last time I lived with a newborn was 30 years ago, when my brother was born. The last time I cared for a baby (or changed a diaper) was 20 years ago, at the height of my babysitting career. Because my experience with infants is from a generation ago (and my views of labor and delivery have been shaped purely by television), it was a forgone conclusion that I would enroll in the classes offered by The BirthPlace at Sinai.

In my seventh month, my husband and I took the Prepared Childbirth Series to find out what labor was all about as well as to learn the infamous breathing techniques. With a baby on the way we are more cost-conscious than ever, so we were pleased that the series of three evening classes cost $60 per couple; other hospitals in the area were charging anywhere from $80 to $140 for their childbirth classes.

Our class was taught by a certified childbirth instructor who is also a nurse on the Labor and Delivery unit. In detail, she went over the stages of labor (I had no idea that labor had stages), letting us know what would be happening to us moms physically and what we and our support persons could do to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Thanks to the class, I’m (kind of) actually looking forward to labor. Who knew that this feeling would be a surprising, happy result of the class?

Maybe it’s because I know so many women who gave birth a month ahead of their due dates or maybe it’s because I can’t imagine my abdomen getting any larger (how does one reach down to tie her shoes?), but I have a gut feeling (pun intended) that my baby will be born early. Therefore, I rushed to take all my classes during my seventh month. (Besides, I plan to sleep and get as much rest as I can in the last two months of my pregnancy.) We took the Baby Basics 101 – Newborn Appearance and Care ($20 per couple), the Breastfeeding – Best Start for Mother and Baby (free!) classes and a tour of the BirthPlace (also free).

While the Newborn Appearance and Care class echoed a lot of the advice that I was reading about already in the book Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, it was new information for my husband to digest. Most importantly, the class gave me confidence that I was becoming knowledgeable about how to care for a baby. A very entertaining midwife ran the class, and the men in the class were the ones who had to change the diapers on the dolls and learn how to swaddle the doll in a receiving blanket.

In addition to providing practical instruction and setting realistic expectations, the Breastfeeding class stressed the importance of skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby during the first hour after birth. Thanks to Sinai’s rooming-in policy, in which most moms opt to have their babies stay with them in their rooms rather than the nursery, establishing this skin-to-skin bond is possible, and it increases the chances for successful breastfeeding. We were told that any of the nurses on the Mother/Baby unit can teach new moms how to breastfeed in real time. Sinai also has lactation consultants that can answer questions after a mom has headed home with her newborn. As soon as I have a newborn to feed, I plan to attend some of the free “Mommy and Me” breastfeeding support group meetings held at the hospital every Monday at 10 a.m.
After our baby is born, we also plan to take the hospital’s Infant Safety/CPR class ($40 per couple or $25 per individual). For moms who have previously given birth, Sinai also has a refresher class about the birth process as well as sibling classes so that older children can learn what having a new brother or sister will mean for them.

For more information or to enroll in any of The BirthPlace at Sinai’s Family Education classes, call 410-601-WELL (9355). For the siblings classes (offered for children 2½ years and older), please call the Sinai Auxiliary at 410-601-5032.

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