Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Introduction: About Me

I've been a "birth junkie" my whole life, I think. As the oldest of five children, I remember the excitement of my mother's pregnancies, where I was during her labors, and the announcements from my father of a new brother or sister. My first memory is of patting my newborn brother's back while he was in his bassinet when I was two years old. Being a big sister and helping to take care of our family's babies was a wonderful part of my growing up years, and one I remember back to mostly with fondness (the crying, and sticky fingers in my stuff, not so much!).

My mom, who had her babies from 1974 to 1984, was a definite inspiration to me when I was pregnant - she had five unmedicated labors in a time when pitocin, episiotomies, stirrups, and shaving were routine and breastfeeding help was not readily available (she nursed each of us for a year, too). She has observed to me that with each labor, she had more choices and less restrictions - for my birth, they wanted to tie her arms and legs down so she wouldn't disturb the sterile field (!!) but by the time my brother was born, my dad got to help catch him.

When I was thinking of my choices for birthing my babies, I figured if she (a petite, 5'2" woman) could give birth to five babies without medication, with all the routine procedures that she endured, I (at 5'9") could do it too, especially since I intended to safeguard my ability to make choices during my babies' births and have very supportive care. To read my children's birth stories, visit www.birthingyourbaby.com/stories.html.

Anyway, I've always been interested in and surrounded by birth and babies, as a big sister, neighbor, babysitter, oldest cousin, etc. For a time, this was less a part of my life as I went to college and graduate school to prepare to teach high school English. I loved teaching high school kids - they always had lots of opinions and questions, and were, for the most part, so ready to grow and learn. Introducing them to books and new ideas, as well as how to express their own ideas through writing was really, really fun and rewarding for me.

After my husband and I moved to Maine, where we planned to permanently settle, and got involved in careers (and paying down some debt from the grad school years!), I found my itch to start our family becoming more & more insistent. Right after 9/11, I got pregnant with our daughter, and her birth in June ended my high school teaching career so I could stay home and focus on parenting her.

Madelyn's birth was amazing. I read (and read and read!), practiced relaxation techniques by myself and with my husband, took Bradley method birthing classes, talked to my doctor about her routines, and the hospital's routines, and tried really hard to be as prepared as possible. What I found was that all my preparation significantly increased my confidence in my body, and helped me to understand the process I was going through was normal, though challenging. I trusted the people who were around me, and was really able to surrender to the amazing experience of giving birth.

As my daughter grew older, I started thinking about what I wanted to do in my community. I didn't want to go back to teaching high school, since it would require so much time and energy. When a teacher-friend became pregnant when my daughter was about a year old, I referred her to my Bradley teacher, only to discover that she was no longer teaching. My friend would have to choose between hospital classes or no classes. I got to thinking - with my education background, my love for all things pregnancy and birth-related, maybe teaching childbirth classes would be way for me to share my experiences.

I had a great time teaching my friend, and decided to pursue teaching birth classes. I read and read some more, thought about what I wanted to teach & how, went to a weekend introduction to teaching Birthing From Within classes and started on working toward certification with ALACE, Association for Labor Assistands and Childbirth Educators. I also had another baby, my son Owen, in 2005. Just this year, I've started teaching prenatal classes to teen moms at the Maine Children's Home in Waterville, which has been really interesting and fun.

Over the past five years, I've taught group classes, private classes, short (one or two sessions) classes and longer (six or seven session) classes. I've taught people in my community, and people from over an hour away... people who are married and people who are partners and people who are planning to raise a baby without a partner... some have been older and some have been teenagers... some were preparing for a first baby, and others wanted a "refresher" for a second child. Some have had their babies in hospitals with doctors or midwives, and others have had their babies at home - and now with The Birth House open in Bridgton, I have two clients planning to use a birth center setting. Many of the moms I taught went on to have unmedicated births, but some have chosen narcotics or epidurals - all were able to make informed choices about the best care for themselves and their babies. I've even taught several doctors who regularly attended births themselves!

I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching every single couple, and am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this exciting time of many growth and changes. I love being able to individualize my classes to specifically fit the needs of the participants, which is why I don't have large classes. I also appreciate not having restrictions placed on what I teach, or how, which is why I continue to teach independent of any particular caregiver or setting. I'll write more about my philosophy of birth and the kinds of things I teach in my next post.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes in Central Maine

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