More than once in my work I've met a couple who brought with them the expectation that what they learned in childbirth class is what they would experience in the hospital. Simple, right?
I know a few childbirth educators. Most of them are excellent (My beloved friend C., well, she's just the absolute best of the best). Others, not so much. At least one of them is not particularly supportive of her clients who are planning to birth in a hospital (read that...she can barely contain her disgust), and therefore, not helpful at all...a total waste of her clients' time and money. Others are just plain not giving their students accurate information - for example their couples come in asking for oral vitamin k instead of injected vitamin k for their baby (we don't have it); they ask to be monitored via doppler or fetoscope (we don't have a fetoscope, and we don't have the staffing to use doppler monitoring...aside from which, no hospital is going to risk not having a paper tracing of a labor; they ask that the newborn nursery not bathe their baby, but simply massage the vernix into his or her skin (fat chance!); or, they ask to be allowed to eat during labor (good luck), or my personal favorite, not to be administered an enema or shave prep (we haven't done this in over twenty years, so I'm wondering why these particular educators are not checking to see if their information is realistic, accurate, or current). I'm not saying any of this is right, it's just what is, albeit at best unfortunate. Finally, several educators, whose classes I've not had a chance to observe, or who I don't have an opportunity to converse with often, are, well, I'm just not certain what kind of information they are giving (or not giving) to their students.
Case in point: I once cared for a sweet couple having their first baby, who were genuinely shocked that their very aggressive obstetrician was just that...extremely agressive. This couple came in, and Mom was 4 centimeters dilated, with bulging membranes. She was laboring beautifully, and I told her physician as much. As if he didn't hear a word I said, he ordered "(have a resident) Rupture her membranes, put in internals, and start 4 by 4 Pit (twice the amount of Pitocin that is normally used)". Truth be known, it was the day of "The Big Game" in our town, and Mr. MD wanted this delivery over before "all the traffic started up". Baloney...he didn't want to risk being called away from his toasty box seats, but what do I know...I've only watched this ass leave several dozen labor rooms looking like the aftermath of a suicide bombing, always in such a hurry to be done that he can't bother to leave a perineum intact, put instruments back on the table instead of dropping them on the floor, or even put his bloody gown in the biohazard can instead of tossing it aside for the nurse to pick up. This is one of those guys that make me wonder why in the hell I keep doing this.
Why indeed...because I want those who choose to give birth in a hospital to know that they have options...options that far too many physicians and nurses don't let them know they have. No, I can't monitor you with a doppler...and I can't find oral Vitamin K for your baby, but, damnit, if I don't think you need Pitocin (yet), I'll tell you...and If you want to wait until your membranes rupture on their own, and you and your baby are doing well, I'll remind you that you don't have to consent to that. If I can't "effectively facilitate communication" between physician and patient (some physicians are not interested in two-way communication), I'll advocate for my patient.
This couple stood their ground though. they gently, but firmly asked the resident who was itching to carry out their physicians orders why this was necessary. They asked for more time to make a decision. Finally, after being cajoled and hassled for hours, they gave in. They consented to having the water broken.
But we have a happy ending...for this couple at least...miracle of miracles, before the resident could finish a delivery in another room, I saw a look..."that look" come over the mother's face, and my heart nearly leapt for joy as "that look" turned into an unmistakable grimace, followed by a surprisingly loud grunt from such a petite woman, and a splash of fluid from beneath her gown spilled onto the floor, over the shoes of her startled husband, and flowed into the towel I quickly flung onto the floor to catch it. At my urging she climbed into bed just in time for her little boy to squirm his own way into the world, without Pitocin, without internal monitors, without artificial rupture of membranes, heck, without even a doctor in the room! Baby in the Bed! I loved it. Take THAT Dr. Ass (as if he cared...as if he even realized it was possible).
But for those situations that are not the recipients of such Grace, what are the Childbirth Educators in question telling their students? I wish I knew. This poor couple, when I told them what their OB wanted me to do, were absolutely stunned...who wouldn't be? They had learned in their childbirth class to stay home as long as possible, that they could avoid pitocin if the labor was progressing well, that internal monitors were an uncessary intervention if the baby was doing well and easy to trace (as was the case here), and that they should avoid having the membranes artificially ruptured if possible.
All good information; but were they encouraged the to speak with their care provider about this information? This wasn't the first couple that had come under my care with these same or similar expectations, only to be blindsided by the basic hospital "business as usuall" delivery system. All of these couples seemed genuinely confused that their physicians would order care that was so different from that they were taught to avoid.
Perhaps the educators did encourage these couples to speak with their care providers, and the couples did just that, only to be brushed off or outright lied to. Perhaps the couples, as expectant couples are sometimes apt to do, just assumed that their care provider would practice as their childbirth educator taught, so they sort of "zoned out" when the educator was advising them to speak with their provider...like so many couples do when the topic of cesarean section is brought up...they assume it won't happen to them, so they don't really listen. Or maybe, just maybe the ecucators themselves are simply teaching a philosophy...without reminding their students that theirs is not the only philosophy out there...and that, if they can, they need to learn the philosphy of both the hospital, and of the provider they are trusting to care for them during the most important moments of their lives...or at least be prepared for the possibility that they may have some significant "negotiating" ahead of them, and be given suggestions (doula anyone?) to help navigate those negotiations.
Moms, Dads, what do you think? What has been your experience? Educators, do you ever hear from your students after they give birth? What do they tell you?
Enlighten this frustrated Labor Nurse, please.