This past weekend I was honored to represent Lamaze International at the March for Moms event in Washington, DC. The mission of the March of Moms is to address the means that will improve the health of childbearing families.
It was an emotional weekend full of birth stories and postpartum stories. It was a weekend that exposed the ugliness of our maternal health care system... or lack thereof.
But it was also an inspiring weekend where women and men from all walks of life came together to demand more. To demand better. I felt blessed to be a part of it.
The message I came with was simple. Educating ourselves is something we all can do. Yes, the system is broken and we have a long way to go, but childbirth education is something we don't have to rely on Washington for.
Here is what I said:
Hello, My name is Jamie Mueller. I’m here as a mother, a member of Lamaze International, and the DC Lamaze Chapter. I’m here to share some of my thoughts on the power of childbirth education, as one piece of a much more complex solution.
Epictetus said once: “Only the educated are free.”
And that couldn’t be more true when it comes to childbirth.
And let me be very clear – when I say free, I don’t mean free of life-saving, practical medical intervention that we all desperately need access to.
I mean freedom to know your options.
Freedom to make educated decisions.
Freedom to understand what is being done to your body and your baby’s body.
Freedom to advocate for yourself and your baby.
Freedom from regret, from guilt, and from loss of self-determination.
Freedom to be the best parent you can be.
That is the freedom I am referring to.
If I hadn’t been blessed to have the money, access, and time to take a childbirth education class, my twin birth experience may have looked much different. Indeed most do. 75% of twin births are cesareans, many of which aren’t medically necessary. Mine was part of the other 25%. With a mix of luck, a great childbirth educator, and the right doctor, I was able to have a nonmedicated, vaginal birth.
But it wasn’t without a fight. I was told that there was no point in taking a class because I was high risk due to only the fact that was carrying two babies. I was told a cesarean would be much easier.
There was no need to complicate things.
However, what I learned is that childbirth education doesn’t complicate things, it clarifies things. It isn’t just about natural birth or defying medical procedures. It isn’t only for low risk, well-educated, affluent parents. It isn’t about going against medical advice or hospital policy. It isn’t about whether you can have a natural birth or a cesarean.
It is about understanding birth and what your body is capable of doing. It is about knowing what could happen so you feel prepared, unafraid, and confident in your path forward. It is about preparing you to become a parent by making hard decisions that are not only best for you, but for your baby. As I say in my classes… welcome to parenthood.
Childbirth education gave me the questions I needed to have answered. The class gave me pathways to take, scenarios to think through, and time to think through my plan a, my plan b, and my plan c. It gave me confidence in each decision I made with my medical teams’ advice, and also room to negotiate and find alternative solutions to more routine procedures that weren’t necessary for me or my babies. It gave me the courage to pursue a nonmedicated birth.
Childbirth education gave my partner a role. It gave him the tools to support me and confidence to be a father right from the start. It helped us build a bond that is stronger than it was before. My partner was birthing with me that day because he knew what I was experiencing. He knew how he could help. He knew what was going to happen because we decided what choices we would make together, as parents.
Childbirth education gave me a voice. It gave me the research and evidence I needed to advocate for myself.
And it gave me the inspiration to teach others about childbirth. Because change only can occur if more parents know what research and options exist for them and they advocate for access.
So, to all my soon to be parents out there who don’t think they should take a childbirth class because they don’t think they have a choice or a voice. I would like you to know that you do and I’d like to go so far as to say you have a responsibility to educate yourself.
You deserve to know what is happening to your body and why. You deserve to have an educated labor support team. You deserve to know what a procedure might entail and to learn what outcomes may follow. You deserve to be your own advocate. At the very least, you deserve to rest assured that you explored all your options to have a healthy, safe, and positive birth experience.
That alone is why every parent should take a childbirth class. Because you deserve to be free.
To my childbirth educators, my doctors, my midwives, my health workers, my doulas. Don’t ignore those parents who may not have funds to pay or time to spend. We must innovate, partner, and discover ways of providing evidence-based education in more everyday settings that parents are exposed to. And let’s not overlook those parents who have more complex pregnancies and births like my own. Find the research, alternatives, and the pathways you can share with them or at least help them plan for the best damn induction or cesarean they could ever have.
And lastly, to my policy makers. You have an opportunity to create a community of more empowered, educated and healthy parents. You have the power bring down maternal and infant mortality rates. Childbirth education is one piece of this solution and you have the ability to make it more accessible through law, regulation, and community capacity building. I implore you to make sure evidence-based, childbirth education is included in all maternal care so we have educated, confident, and healthier parents and children.
My twin birth story is one of compromise but it is one of success and pride. And that is because every choice we made was our own. Every choice we made was an educated one. I want that for all parents.
I start every class the same way. I tell my soon-to-be parents that I do not care how they birth. I do not care if they birth at home or in an OR. I’m not there to dictate or decide on their birth plan.
I care that they are informed, knowledgeable, and empowered to understand their bodies, their options, and to make educated choices. I care that I am giving them the most up-to-date, evidence-based research I can.
I care that they leave my class as parents; ready to advocate for themselves and their baby.
I care that they are free.