Antenatal education

I offered to run the group for two sessions for one of the midwifery teams . The last time I’d “led” a group was in the late 90s since those years have slipped by I’ve gained courage knowledge and insight into how normal birth can actually be .
I agreed to be there with a student and was told there’d be about 8 couples so approx 16 people. I arrived with lots of things to handout and felt nervous but excited as I love meeting new people. In fact there were 14 couples
The staff at the children’s centre where the group was held were amazing – they’d set up drinks and snacks in the middle of the room and it was a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
The people arrived- “future parents” all excited about learning but at the same time doubting their own abilities – my job was to make them leave the group feeling and thinking differently than when they came. I really wanted to give them a thirst to seek out more information .
I promised them all I’d do my best to give evidence based advice and that I’d back it up with written evidence so they could read about it afterwards . I also gave out mum and baby care plans that have information in about signs and symptoms of illness , postnatal recovery , investigations , discharge planning and what midwives check for after the birth – I did this as sometimes these documents are rarely looked at by parents until they go home and I wanted them to see in advance their packages of care to make it all more real and current.
I put my phone on silent and on the table upside down the first thing someone said to me was “Skin To Skin Switches on babies brains?”

20140629-204158.jpg – so I then launched into the benefits of skin to skin and they were hooked.
I made sure I stopped every 8-10 minutes to allow questions and gave out post-it notes for questions – we laughed together practising breathing techniques and we also became emotional when we all discussed mental health issues and I talked about my own experience of post-natal depression . Putting myself in the spotlight was quite tough but I just knew that if I said it they’d accept it’s existence- in some small way this might just break the stigma around mental health.

The group were soon bonding and the characters surfaced – “Jenny you do realise next week England are playing ?” …..but hang on this is your first baby ? but then I said let’s have a plan and make the class earlier – I kept thinking that it’s good to be flexible in all matters around birth so why not times of the group?
We all chatted and laughed -I learnt about their hopes for birth. My aspiration was that in some way I had helped to dissolve their fears and turn them into courage for labour and an ability to believe in their bodies – my parting quote for week one was “no-one knows how any of you will give birth but we don’t worry about other mammals giving birth – you need to read up what I’ve given you, feel your own strength by recognising how amazing the human body is and give yourselves the best chance for a normal birth . A positive mind is a true gift ”

Week two -arrived and I was so thrilled that everyone had arrived- in the back of my mind perhaps my conscience was telling me that only half the group would arrive – they wanted more – and so did I .
We recapped on the first week and they all excitedly told me how nice it was to read the care plans and think about their babies – we then talked about One Born Every Minute as there was a Hypnobirth on this particular week and they were all really amazed but also said that the birth had backed up what I talked about the week before i.e. believing in their abilities (never thought I’d be discussing OBEM ! Then skin to skin came up and some had asked their parents about it and really researched the subject (proud!) – we staged a mini production called “I need skin to skin” in which another health professional enters the room after the woman has given birth and tries to move the baby – I really felt amazed by their power and passion for skin to skin – my little signs around the place on post it notes, my phone cover and even mini stickers had worked !
We revisited breathing and all had a huge attack of hysterical laughter – but I liked this very much as I imagined them breathing in labour and recalling the laughs they had with me.

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Eventually it was time to prepare to close the group – I asked for post-it notes with anything on they felt relevant and this was the result

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The best part was at the end when they all came to hug me and tell me that they were ready – I felt like a proud mother hen sending her chicks out into the world – and I knew they’d all be fine

I’d like to thank Student Midwife Gemma Whiteside for coming to the first group with me and being such a great student ( she was off that week and revising for exams = commitment!) Also the staff at The Children’s Centre – you know who you are ( turns out one of these lovely ladies is pregnant and she only told me at the end of the second week !)

Thank you to all the nameless couples who I laughed with, learnt from and bonded with – I know you are all going to be amazing in labour and even more wonderful as parents

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