After five weeks of classes, we’ve taken away more than just the facts about childbirth …
Image: Flickr / Bill Erickson
My main motivation for taking childbirth preparation classes was to meet other expectant couples. I’m sure I’m not meant to admit that. But, I grew up in the UK knowing about NCT (National Childbirth Trust) classes. These are renowned for bringing together parents-to-be living in the same area and creating lifelong friendships – my Mum is still in touch with some of her group 30 years on. I was hoping to find something vaguely similar in Amsterdam.
When you’re an expat, the geographic make-up of classes becomes extremely diverse. The group of 10 couples in our English-language classes included some 15 different nationalities, from Argentinian to Ukrainian. In some respects this is nothing new. I’m rarely in a room full of English people. But it makes you appreciate that having and wanting to look after a baby is a universal life event that crosses cultures. It also means it takes a bit longer to break the ice.
When it comes to pregnancy information, I fall between two camps. I enjoy a specific and limited amount of information – a very small number of websites, plus the real experiences of friends and other bloggers. I balance this against avoiding information overload, which I think can over-ride your body and brain’s natural instincts.
Childbirth preparation classes are more positively reassuring than I thought they’d be. I’ve got no frame of reference against other countries. But, because the Dutch consider it such a natural event, everything we were taught emphasised how we’re biologically set-up for this. There was a lot of information delivered at a breakneck pace. But instead of making me feel panicked I felt comforted that human design – as demonstrated by billions of women before me – comes with sprog-producing abilities as standard.
I’m still not convinced about watching birth videos. One lesson involved watching a short film of births. It was made worse by being a 1980s, German, soft-porn-lighting video complete with hairstyles of the age. And I don’t mean on the head. Several of the men in the class who’d never seen such a thing in their life claimed they found it useful and enjoyable. Charlie still thinks they’re lying.
It’s fun to sit back and let the men do the work. Several elements of the class were all about them. They were taught massage techniques and, at the end of the course, given a review quiz to see who’d been listening. My husband, being the most competitive man in the world, loves to tell me he was best in class.
It will be exciting as each couple’s little ones arrives. Now the classes are done, we just sit back and wait for all of us to have our babies. And, in a few months, hold a reunion when they’re all here. I’m sure there will be all kinds of different stories. But, in the end, we’ll all have our new families.
For English-taught childbirth preparation classes in Amsterdam, I’d highly recommend Truus Gale. With 20 years of midwife experience condensed into five evening sessions, she runs her classes like a military school teacher. But, her level of knowledge is absolutely fantastic.
What’s your experience with childbirth preparation classes? Absolutely worth it, or too much information?