In addition to an intense training program, an instructor-in-training must have given birth without the use of any pain medication. She also must have breastfed at least one of her babies for at least one year. Believe me when I tell you that this policy is in place for the benefit of the students in her class. It has very little to do with the instructor. Let me explain.
Recently, I had a brief conversation with one of my daughter's teachers. She saw the "Birth Boot Camp" vinyl on the back of my car and asked what that was all about. I briefly told her and she said, "Wow! You did that without drugs?!" in her sweet Southern drawl. She went on to say, "I don't think I've ever known anyone who's done that!" Imagine that she wanted to be in my class and I'm teaching her how to have a natural, unmedicated birth, but I've had an epidural. Or a shot of Demerol , right at the end. Now she still doesn't know anyone that's ever "done it" without the drugs. How is she ever going to do it with everyone around her NOT doing it, even her instructor? It must be impossible to have a natural childbirth, right?
While the education is invaluable, I have often felt that the most important thing people walk away from class with is confidence. They know they can give birth without medication. Their instructor did it, and so can they!
I've had so many women over the years tell me that they thought of me during their labor. "If Donna could do it, so can I!" Husbands cheer their wives on right at the end when she wants to give up, saying, "Donna said it would be like this at the end. You are almost there. We're going to meet our baby soon!" If their instructor was teaching it, but didn't -- for whatever reason -- do it, that would break their confidence.
If a woman went all the way through labor without drugs and was even pushing and then had a c-section right at the end, how are the students going to truly trust birth in her class? The same might happen to them. And it might anyway. The point is, learning how to give birth naturally is as much about what's going on in the head as with the body. A woman can teach "prepared" childbirth education without having had an unmedicated birth, but in order to teach how to have a natural birth, we feel strongly that she should have done that herself. There are other courses a couple can take if they want an epidural or c-section, but that is not what we do at Birth Boot Camp.
The role of the educator is unique. It's not clinical, like a midwife or an OB. It is not just supportive of "whatever choice they would like" - like a doula. Birth Boot Camp is all about natural birth and we deliver a really good road map to get there. A good teacher - no matter the setting or subject - teaches on a topic that she is not only passionate about but knowledgeable as well.
Sarah Clark, aka Mama Birth, helped write the Birth Boot Camp curriculum, and she tells of having 3 doctors in one of her classes. She was quite intimidated - or so she says! - and they all said they knew the mechanics of birth (one had caught 200 babies), but they were coming to her class because she had DONE IT. Boom.
The fact remains, unless you have done it, you can't know what it's like. You cannot grasp the loss of modesty, the time warp, the inability to make a decision, or the fact that, in the thick of labor, you won't even remember this is all for a baby! Talking about these things but not having had experienced them does not carry the same weight. This carries over into so many areas of our lives: Would you learn to play piano from someone who loved music but didn't play? Would you go to a marriage counselor who had never been married?
I know things happen in labor. I've had my fair share of epidurals and c-sections from class. They are usually necessary, sometimes even life-saving. Couples that sat through my class were able to make informed decisions in their labor. My heart goes out to those women who wanted a natural birth and didn't have one. I know there are women who have not been able to have children, but if they did, they'd want a natural birth.
As for the breastfeeding requirement, we have actually accepted a few trainees who have not been able to breastfeed for the required one-year minimum. We have a fabulous lactation consultant, Mellanie Sheppard, on our Advisory Board that we took these special cases to in order to help us understand what was possibly going on. Again, my heart goes out to these women who tried and tried to breastfeed, but had true physical reasons that they were not able to. With this requirement, we are trying to avoid are the "I had to go back to work" or "He just wasn't interested at 6 months anymore and we quit." Sometimes breastfeeding, like birth, is hard. It is so worth it to push through those challenges. We want our instructors to be a support and example to the couples in their classes. The recommended amount of time to breastfeed, according to the AAP, is at least one year, and according to the World Health Organization, 2 years and beyond is recommended. We want to be the childbirth education program that is encouraging these standards not only on paper, but in practice and example.
|Birth Boot Camp Advisory Board|
Ultimately, Birth Boot Camp is about teaching couples to have a natural birth. That is the Instructor's responsibility, and she goes through a thorough training process to be sure she is ready to do that. Each couple that takes a Birth Boot Camp class - online or in-person - receives the Breastfeeding Class, The Ultimate MRE, on DVD. They get a complete course taught by Mellanie, our lactation consultant, and the instructor will lead some discussion on breastfeeding in class, but they are not responsible for teaching the full breastfeeding course. Thus, there is some leniency with this requirement.
We are not the "judge and jury" on a woman's birth or breastfeeding experience. That is entirely up to her. We are not passing judgement or saying there is a right way or a wrong way. These are simply our guidelines for our instructors and we feel they are important in order to help a couple achieve their desire for a natural birth.
|Dani Long, BBCI|
P.S. I didn't write this post to start a fight. I've had a couple of people sincerely ask for explanation and I thought others would probably like to hear it as well. I'm a nice person. This isn't personal. I love you guys. Peace out.