Whenever I talk to parents who had their children years and years ago, they always tell me how lucky we are these days that there’s so much help around for parents-to-be.
I agree completely.
Back in the days, there was no Google to help us research, no social media to help us find like-minded communities, not much classes and seminars, and there weren’t many books to read for childbirth preparation.
These days, I really believe it’s much easier to make informed choices. There is help everywhere – you just have to make an effort to find it.
These are some of the classes I believe are worth attending if you are expecting a child. It may be an effort to commit to these classes, but in the end, I believe that the learnings are there to encourage us to be better at this thing called parenthood.
ON BIRTH AND BEYOND:
GENTLE BIRTHING CLASS
What is gentle birth? Gentle Birth believes that what your brain is doing during labor and birth is just as important as what your body and baby are doing. It combines brain science, birth science and technology to empower your positive birth through preparation. This class teaches you the basics of gentle birthing, techniques such as how to have a calm birth (yes! people swear this is possible!), and tips on how to achieve the optimal fetal position to have an easier time during labor. The Parenting Emporium holds a class like this with Irina Otmakhova, the doula I chose for my birth.
Birth is a painful experience – this is a common thinking, and rightly so. From the wrong birthing position in hospitals to being told to dilate and push by so many strangers in front of you to watching horror birth stories on TV and in the movies, the idea of a negative birth experience can really get into our psyche. But apparently, as I have learned from reading the books Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth ,and Hypnobirthing (plus friends with testimonials), there really is another side to all this – there are women whose birth experiences are very positive, and personally, that’s the side I wish to be in. With the help of gentle birthing techniques, I believe it is really possible.
It seems to me that nowadays, cesarean delivery becomes the normal way of delivery for many women (compared to my mom’s time when it was hardly an option). Let me be clear that I am not against it. However, I feel like there are many times when it could actually be avoided (not everyone wishes this to be their first option, after all).
Attending something like this opens your eyes to the other side of the coin. In the end, you may still choose to have an epidural, or that no matter how much you’ve prepared, you can still end up in an emergency cesarean, but I feel what’s important is that you’ve studied your options and made an informed choice.
“I do not care what kind of birth you have…a homebirth, scheduled cesarean, epidural hospital birth, or if you birth alone in the woods next to a baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices, and that you were respected.” – January Harshe
PS: I have not attended any gentle birthing class because I already got Irina as my doula. She had one-on-one pre-natal sessions with me. Her 3-hour class with The Parenting Emporium costs PHP 880/couple.
CHILDBIRTH PREPARATION CLASS
In the hospital where I plan to give birth, it is a requirement to have a Lamaze certificate to be able to use their Lamaze Room. This is how we were lead to attending Chiqui Brosas‘ Prepared Childbirth Class, which includes Lamaze breathing techniques and exercises (watch THIS short clip).
Her class is a series of (4) Sundays, from 08:00 AM – 12:00 NN. It really was a lot of effort on our part to wake up early and head to her class, but in the end, we think it’s worth it.
If you’ve decided on giving birth in a hospital, her class proves to be very informative and useful. Her topics cover everything from the first part of your pregnancy to hospital procedures (and her valuable tips!) to how to pack your hospital bag to stages of labor to newborn care. Every session, she would also teach exercises and breathing techniques. We paid PHP 5000/couple for all 4 sessions and I feel this is not a bad price at all.
If you want a general coverage of childbirth and newborn care, this is a good class to take. However, after attending specific classes on breastfeeding and newborn care, I can say that of course, it’s still different if you attend seminars on specific topics because they’re more in-depth. But really, if you’re keen on learning more about how it works in a hospital environment (managing your expectations is a crucial part in having an easier time during labor and she talks at great lengths about this topic), this class is a must!
Just a tip if you choose to attend this class: Always make sure your partner is available to come with you. Chiqui puts much stress on the role of your partner as a coach and supporter during your labor and birth. This is why she makes sure your partner knows what’s going on with you and your body and how your s/he can help you through breathing, massages, exercises, words of encouragement, etc.
FAMILY PLANNING CLASS
I did not realize how important it is to attend a seminar on Family Planning until we attended one. While searching for different birth options, we visited Shiphrah Birthing Home in Rizal. Women in their community and those who plan to do a homebirth with them or give birth in their birthing center are required to attend at least 3 classes. They offer a range of FREE classes from prenatal care to nutrition to childbirth to breastfeeding to family planning. We attended three classes (Nutrition, Breastfeeding, Family Planning) and found them very informative. Family Planning was something I did not plan to learn more about for this pregnancy. After all, it’s our first baby. But I’m so glad I attended because I learned about the possible options should I want to delay having a second child, or just stick to one child for the rest of our lives. Shiphrah Birthing Home is made of skilled midwives, and they attend to the women in their community from prenatal to post-partum, so you can expect classes that are full of wisdom because they are based not only on Science, but backed up by real-life scenarios and experiences.
ON NEWBORN PREPARATION:
When I first attended the free talk of Nurse Joyce Martinez at a mommy fair, only one word would describe how I felt: encouraged. I learned so much about the benefits of breastfeeding from her, as well as tips and techniques. It was a three or four hour talk, but I was only able to attend a part of it because we had leave for somewhere. You can watch a short video I took HERE. That was the day I decided I would do everything to be able to breastfeed.
Anyway, I’m glad I was able to catch another breastfeeding talk at The Parenting Emporium from her because then, I learned even more (Hand expressing tips may be viewed HERE). She discusses a general overview of breastfeeding in her classes – the benefits of breastfeeding, common misconceptions on breastfeeding, the hierarchy of breastfeeding, breast and nipple care, tips and techniques for the baby’s optimal attachment, different breastfeeding positions, managing challenges and difficulties in breastfeeding, natural hand expression and pumping, cup feeding and bottle feeding, etc.
Since she is a Nurse and a Certified Lactation Consultant, I love how she explains with scientific basis (brought down to layman’s terms). Click THIS to learn something cool. To see some of my notes, you can click HERE.
With a breastfeeding class, you get a chance to ask all the questions in your mind such as What if I don’t have enough milk supply? Does it really hurt? What can I do to stop the pain? Should I really feed every ___ hours? What if my baby is allergic to my milk? I have small breasts. Can I still breastfeed? Can I massage my breasts to stimulate milk supply? How long should I wait before I can start pumping? and more.
If you can, attend Nurse Joyce’s class. I highly recommend her. Just email her at email@example.com. You can also do one-on-one consultation with her, gather friends and get her to teach your group, or you can check The Parenting Emporium’s schedule of classes with her.
NEWBORN CARE CLASS
Just a few days ago, we had another session with Nurse Joyce. It was about newborn care. She discussed the following topics: Bathing the Baby, Burping Tips and Techniques, Swaddling and Dressing The Baby, Addressing Colic Issues, and Infant Massage. To see a part of her talk, watch THIS.
Favorite tips from this class would be to use kimono/ tie tops instead of onesies for the baby if you’re breastfeeding (because it’s easier to do skin-to-skin), and to turn your baby on his/her side (instead of pulling the legs up) when you change the diaper to avoid possible hip problems.
Just like the breastfeeding class, this newborn care class is a chance for you to ask questions you may have such as Do I really need to use lotion for the baby? Can I use soap for my baby’s face? Is swaddling a must? How do you clean your baby’s bottom? Can I use Manzanilla if my baby has colic? Is Virgin Coconut Oil safe for babies? and more.
Again, I highly recommend her. To contact her, just email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can schedule a one-on-one class with her, gather friends and get her to teach your group, or you can check The Parenting Emporium’s schedule of classes with her. The rates are usually PHP 600/participant, or PHP 1000/couple.
ON HEALTH & WELLNESS DURING PREGNANCY:
I noticed people seem to expect you to just sit and lie down when you’re pregnant. Somehow, I feel like they feel you’re helpless when in reality, you are just pregnant. I cannot blame these people; I myself acted that way towards pregnant women before I became one. But the ironic thing is, every pregnancy book you read out there tells you it’s best to move and exercise (of course this is given that you are not considered high-risk or sensitive | consult with your doctor before doing any workout just to make sure you are cleared for it).
I believe this is because of two things:
One, stretching really helps your body especially when you’re pregnant, and yoga is basically a lot of stretching (on the physical aspect). I have shared this several times over – I have a back problem called disc dessication. I was not able to walk for a month. Gaining weight (which is inevitable in pregnancy) brings back the pain because you carry more weight, but strengthening your core helps you balance it off. So far, I am on my 38th week, and I am still back-pain free, to think I am at my heaviest weight ever.
The other side that I really appreciate in yoga is the mind training, and perhaps, this is why they say yoga is important in one’s pregnancy. Practice yoga while playing yoga music and you’ll see what I mean. You are suddenly more relaxed and put in a calm mode. Suddenly, the outside noise doesn’t matter, and your focus is just on your breathing, your thoughts, your current state. If you read books on natural childbirth, this kind of disposition plays a vital role in succeeding in your goal of a natural, normal birth.
I had a session with Monica Eleazar-Manzano and she taught me the basic poses I could practice at home. What I liked about her is that she did a home birth (unmedicated), and labored for hours, so she really knows the exercises that help during labor. After that session, I researched on yoga poses that help in back pain and I’ve been combining them since.
She does one-on-one training (rate depends on your location) and is also open to teaching you anywhere in the world you are via the internet (Skype perhaps? I’m not so sure). To contact her, email email@example.com.
Just a tip: Please do not do YOGA on your own without any background on the poses. You might do it all wrong and end up spraining your body. I suggest you do it with an instructor a few times (and have him/her check if your poses are correct) before you do solo practice.
Just like yoga, Pilates does a lot of stretching which really helps you to keep your balance and strengthens your core. I started doing one-on-one Pilates with an instructor on my fourth month. My budget can only allow me to do it once a week, and I am telling you, once a week makes all the difference between an aching body and an able body.
I can really attest to the wonders of Pilates (I do a mix of mat and reformer)! There were a few times when I would miss my once-a-week class and really, they were the same times when something in my body would begin to ache. I don’t believe they’re just coincidences. In fact, one time, I missed my class then I started feeling pain on my hips (which I read is because my muscles are starting to loosen in preparation for birth), so I made up for it the week after by doing it for 2 hours instead of 1. You know what happened? My hip pain was gone, and never returned.
Stretching really works, as well as breathing. What I like about having an instructor do Pilates with you is that while you’re stretching, the instructor pulls or pushes you so that you stretch even more. Machines like the reformer also help a lot! I do my sessions at One Life Studio. They have different packages for one-on-one sessions and the prices range from PHP 1500-1750/session. If you’re a member / part of their affiliates (like some Universities), they give extra discounts!
At 38 weeks, I am still doing Pilates. This is the secret to my happy pregnancy! I will be honest here: it is what keeps me sane throughout this journey! I believe I’d be a cranky, miserable woman if not for this. With all the pain I’d be feeling, I’d probably be dragging my husband into my misery, too (poor husband)! Pregnancy should be an enjoyable and positive experience because it’s that special time when you start growing and caring for your life’s greatest gift. Whenever I think of the cost (I mean, it’s not exactly cheap!), I think about what I save by doing this – endless prenatal massages, numerous visits to the chiropractor, pain medications, and petty fights with ze husband (priceless)!
PS: My friends often ask how come I never look tired, or how come I can stand for a long time without feeling the need to sit, or why I’m not having problems with my balance – PILATES is the main answer for this.
PARENTING CLASS ON UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY’S NEEDS
Preparing for your birth experience as well as breastfeeding and newborn care are great, but have you thought about the parenting style you’ll have when your baby is born? Have you read up on ways to approach and communicate with your baby?
Attending a parenting class is a HUGE help especially if you have not thought about these things yet. Fortunately, (Teacher) Tanya Franco-Velasco, a RIE advocate and infant and toddler specialist, held a FREE class at The Parenting Emporium a few days ago. She shared her knowledge and tips on infant care based on the principles of RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) with respect as the basis of its philosophy. RIE’s principles are very much aligned with Montessori (which I am following and have mentioned in some of my previous blogs), but it puts a stress on giving education while doing caregiving activities such as bathing, diaper changing, sleeping, etc. She discussed the five basic needs of children and what we as parents can do about it. Since the stress is on caregiving activities, she gave samples of how you can approach your child respectfully during diaper change. You can watch a clip I took HERE. To learn more about RIE or if you want to consult with Tanya, you can follow her blog (click THIS).
This is just one of the many parenting classes you can take (it was FREE but I’m not sure if there’ll be a charge next time). The Parenting Emporium holds a wide variety of classes including a seminar on Infant / Newborn Care for the caregiver (should you want anyone other than you to care for your child). I think you can ask them to email you a list of their upcoming classes!
- These are just the classes I’ve attended and researched about (and highly recommend). There are other instructors and kinds of classes out there. I encourage you to do more research and see which ones interest you!
- These classes are available in Metro Manila, Philippines. If you live faraway, you may contact them and ask if they are willing to do online consultations (I know some of the instructors here do that!), or you can look for similar classes in your neighborhood.
- If you’re working on a very tight budget and feel you cannot shell out more for these classes, or your neighborhood doesn’t seem to have a community that does these things, you can look up YouTube for exercises as well as talks on everything about childbirth (sample topics you can look up: natural birth, cesarean birth, epidural, hospital birth, home birth, hypnobirth, lamaze, bradley birth). You can check out the website of Spinning Babies for optimal fetal position exercises. You can also join Facebook Groups such as Gentle Birth in the Philippines to learn more about birthing options, B.A.B.Y to learn more about breastfeeding, and search PREGNANCY/BIRTH (hashtag and username) on Instagram to see several accounts that exist to encourage and help you with your journey. You can also download free apps on your phone. Please also keep in mind that the instructors mentioned above hold free classes every once in a while, so I suggest you follow their Instagram accounts to keep yourself updated.
- The rates provided above may change without prior notice.
- Again, before doing any sort of exercise, please consult with your doctor so you are surely cleared for it. Also, any exercise should be done after the first trimester since they say that is the most sensitive part of pregnancy.
- For a variety of classes in the Metro, I highly suggest you follow The Parenting Emporium. They really offer a lot of free or affordable classes for parents, parents-to-be, caregivers, etc.