Educator: Moms need options
FAIRMONT – “I think it’s time,” the woman says, looking down at her swollen belly.
“For what?” the man asks, a blank expression on his face.
When he realizes it’s time for the baby to come, chaos quickly ensues, as he dashes around the house, grabbing the diaper bag, and searching for the inevitably misplaced keys. All the while, the pain is beginning and the yelling and cursing starts, as the couple hastily make their way to the hospital.
Or at least that’s how childbirth is often depicted in the movies and on TV.
In reality, that’s not how it is for many women, including childbirth educator Amy Wehner. Wehner had her baby girl at home, with her husband by her side as her coach, her mother for extra support, and a midwife and a doula providing their birthing expertise.
“I don’t associate pain with my daughter’s birth,” she said.
That’s not to say she didn’t feel pain, but it wasn’t the highlight of the experience. Her child was.
Wehner, a 1999 Fairmont graduate, is offering a series of natural childbirth classes starting July 14. A new set of classes will begin every two weeks thereafter.
“I advocate natural birth, not just home birth. I advocate options. If someone wants to give birth at home, that’s great. If they want to give birth at a hospital, that’s great,” she said. “… But every woman needs support, she needs education, and she needs to know her options to make decisions about what’s right for her.”
The classes run for 12 weeks, which is about the length of one trimester. That’s a long time, Wehner knows, but during those weeks, the women will work on physically preparing their bodies for labor. The exercises they’ll learn are all recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Birth is an athletic event,” Wehner said. “The metaphor I like to use for a comparison is a marathon. You wouldn’t just go run a marathon tomorrow without training, would you?”
Participants in her class will also learn about the changes taking place in their bodies, birthing terminology, nutrition, breastfeeding, patient rights, and more. The students will even undergo labor rehearsals.
As important as it is that women educate themselves about pregnancy and childbirth, Wehner believes it’s just as important that their partner, a family member, or friend accompany the expecting mother to classes to fully understand how they can best support her. The series actually comes from the American Academy of Husband-Coach Childbirth, an old-fashioned name dating back to the 1950s, but the concepts taught remain the same, regardless of who the woman’s birthing coach is.
“She needs that person. She needs someone she knows to be in there, saying, ‘You can do this,'” Wehner said.
That was crucial with her own childbirth experience.
“At some point in the process, every single woman says, ‘I can’t do it,’ and at that point, you know the baby’s coming real soon, and that’s when you need that support.
“When I said, ‘I can’t do it,’ that’s when someone in the room … said to me, ‘What are you talking about? You’re already doing it.'”
The love and support she received made her realize she wanted to help women in return, by becoming a childbirth educator and doula, a professional birthing coach.
“This series of classes really prepares you to know what natural birth is supposed to look like,” Wehner said.
So what does natural birth look like? Probably not what you think, or at least not what Hollywood might lead you to believe. Not everyone who gives birth at home is opposed to all modern medicine, and they aren’t all hippies.
“This is for everyone,” Wehner said. “I don’t compost. I’m not a hippie. I’m a professor, and my husband’s a lawyer.”
Wehner has her master’s degree in Spanish, and she’s working on her doctoral dissertation in second language acquisition.
“I’m an educator by trade,” she said. “As a PhD student, I’ve been teaching for years. This is just a different topic.”
Another misconception about natural childbirth is that the women who choose it are super-strong, or they’re trying to be martyrs, suffering through the pain. Wehner readily acknowledges she isn’t tough, and she hates pain.
“For me, I realized the birth is not about myself but my baby,” she said.
Reading the warning labels on the drugs used for pain management was enough to encourage her to start researching natural child birth. After all, she said, she was careful about what she ate for nine months, avoiding foods and medications that could potentially put the baby at risk, so why would her concern about what entered her body stop right before her baby was born?
“Every woman deserves the chance to attempt natural childbirth,” she said, acknowledging that interventions are necessary in some cases.
The cost of the series is $250, which includes the classes, educational material, access to Wehner’s personal parenting resource library, and Wehner is happy to provide follow-up assistance for any questions or concerns.
Women are encouraged to talk to their insurance providers to see if the classes would be covered. Medicaid is required to cover childbirth education and a doula.
“This is not my livelihood,” Wehner said. “I just want women to get the health education they need.”
She is also teaming up with other childbirth professionals in the area for a two-hour seminar 7 p.m. July 11 at Martin County Library. The free event will focus on nutrition, exercise and birth options. To register, contact Wehner or visit her website.