Preparing for a Wedding vs. Preparing to Give Birth – How Much Time Do You Invest?

I read a Tweet this week by Kristen (@OmahaBabyLady) that made me take pause. She said, “Why will people plan for a year for their wedding but 12 weeks of childbirth classes is too long? WTF?” I’d never thought of it in that way before, but it resonated with me. Many people spend a year or longer planning and preparing for their wedding, but how much time do they spend preparing for the life-changing and life-giving event of giving birth to their child?

Kristen, who is a Bradley childbirth educator and doula, was prompted to Tweet and blog about this after a potential client reacted to the news that the birth classes Kristen offered would be 12 weeks long. “Twelve weeks!,” she exclaimed. “You expect me to spend 12 weeks on something so simple as giving birth?” Kristen was at a loss for words and reflected on this for a few days before she made the analogy between preparing for a wedding and preparing for a birth. She said on her blog Baby’s Best Beginning that she planned for her wedding for more than 15 months, including visiting wedding message boards, interviewing people and spending “countless hours agonizing” over all of the details and says most of the people she knows did/do the same. “Of course at the end of the day all that really matters is that they are able to marry their partner but very few people say ‘well, the minister/priest/rabbi etc. is the expert on marriage I will just do whatever they say in regards to my wedding,’ yet when it comes to birth so many couples simply defer to whatever their doctor tells them is best even when there is no medical evidence supporting those choices.”

So is 12 weeks too long to spend preparing to give birth? Kristen obviously doesn’t believe so. She feels, “When it comes to bringing your child into the world this is truly not a case of less is more.”

Not everyone agrees though. @SybilRyan argues that the two events (wedding and birth) are “not even remotely similar” and shouldn’t be compared. Genevieve is taking Bradley classes now and thinks 12 weeks is too long, but eight weeks would be perfect. “I love my teacher, the other parents, etc., but 12 weeks is a really long commitment when you have so much else to do to prepare for your baby.” @Reecemg who blogs at Metagestation said she took an eight-week class and it was the perfect length. Others, such as Heather who blogs at Christian Stay At Home Moms thinks an intensive four to six hour one-day class would be good, as “its difficult to find time to go to a class 1x per week for 12 weeks.”

Mary, who blogs at One Perfect Mess, said on Twitter, “The length [of the class] probably depends on the quality. For us four meetings was plenty.”

Merry With Children also commented on Twitter and said, “I know there are things to learn but so much of it [birth] is going to go how its going to go. Too much info is just scary.”

Rebecca thinks people put more time preparing for their wedding than childbirth for exactly that reason — fear. She commented on Twitter, a “wedding is fun, childbirth is scary. ‘Experts’ will take care of everything when you show up at hospital.”

Andi who blogs at Confessions of a Judgmental Hippy agrees with Kristen and thinks, “if a woman can commit to 12 prenatal appointments (average) then 12 weeks (sessions) of [childbirth education] should be easy.”

Whitney blogs at The (Un)balancing Act of Motherhood took Bradley classes and thinks the length of time was “perfect,” although admits she gave birth before attending the last two classes. She added, “I can’t imagine learning about what happens in birth, what to expect, what to do, etc. in one class or even four classes. But like I said, that’s just me. Others would be fine with one or four classes.”

What do you think? Can the two events – a wedding and a birth – be compared? What is the “right” amount of time to prepare for giving birth?

I planned for more than a year for my wedding, and although I didn’t attend a 12-week Bradley Method session, I feel like I put a good deal of preparation into childbirth. I took Hypnobirthing classes before my first child was born, which were six two-hour classes if I remember correctly. I also read a lot and practiced the Hypnobirthing techniques.

I agree to some degree with Merry With Children in that no matter how much one prepares, birth is “going to go how its going to go.” But I also think the more you know and understand about birth, the better informed you will be to make choices along the way. Knowledge is power.

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Cross-posted on BlogHer

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54 thoughts on “Preparing for a Wedding vs. Preparing to Give Birth – How Much Time Do You Invest?”

  1. Yep! I just ran into this same issue with a doula client and her family. All of her sisters and sisters-in-law didn’t understand WHY on earth she wanted to take the 6 week course instead of the hospital-sponsored hour one. I was not surprised to hear that they all has cs…and scheduled repeat cesareans! We are keeping our fingers crossed for a beautiful VBAC for this tradition-breaking sister!

    Sir Hubby and I put about $100 and 10 minutes into our wedding plans…and tons of time and money into our childbirthing plans. We are pretty happy with our choices!

  2. uh, make that “hospital-sponsored TWO hour LONG one” and “I was not surprised to hear that they all HAD cs” :)Thanks for the typos, nursing baby!

  3. I think I would have to agree with the tweeter who said the two events aren’t really similar. Yes, both life changing, but the experience is not the same.

    Weddings, especially big ones, are like performances, so there’s lots of planning and rehearsal involved so you don’t end up with 200 people huddled around a picnic table eating cheese cubes and cookies on your big day (unless that was your vision, of course).

    Birthing is not a public performance (for the most part, anyway!) so there’s not as big a need for rehearsal or scheduling. You don’t have to confirm your hospital appointment two weeks prior, for instance. “Head count? Um, 1 for now. Check back with me in a few hours!”

    I do think it makes sense that every woman take as much time as she needs to feel comfortable and prepared for her new addition. So if that means 10 minutes or 12 weeks, great!

  4. I beg to differ with the idea that birth is not a performance. Many women feel, in hindsight, that they felt pressured by their care providers to ‘perform’ a certain way during their birth, ex., stop whining/crying/yelling, dilate faster, push harder, etc., instead of doing what feels right and comfortable. A good CBE class can build a woman’s self-confidence so that she can ignore the pressure and get down to the business of birthing.

  5. Yes, I do see the correlation, but there are differences between preparing for a wedding & preparing for giving birth. Weddings barely last a day, giving birth can take a few days (my first lasted 60 hrs). Weddings can be run by a wedding coordinator… having a baby isn’t something anyone else can do for you once you become pregnant! When you throw a wedding, you may have a few unexpected incidents, but they usually aren’t life-threatening… and in many cases, you pretty much know what to expect, even if something does go wrong. At a birth, especially your FIRST birth, there is no way you can be prepared unless you go through CBE. Even then, you won’t know exactly what to expect until you are in labor! Wouldn’t you want to be prepared? I do agree that they are both performances, but these performances lead to other, important life-long journeys: marriage & parenthood. I believe that 12 hours of CBE is appropriate… I think that most parents could use a post-CBE class too, like 3-6 weeks after you bring home a baby. That would’ve helped me after my first birth experience! My first CBE experience lasted 4 weeks. It wasn’t enough. I could’ve definitely benefited from a few more weeks before, during & after birth!!

  6. I do agree that a wedding and birth are different but I believe most people don’t put enough thought or research into their birth either. Honestly with my wedding my parents took over and it was “their” wedding and I was just in it for the ride basically chosing a few things here and there. That is pretty much how my first two births went as well. I didn’t read enough of the stuff I should have been reading. I am an information junky I read birth books and went to sites to learn things but not the right ones.I had an OB, I’m not even sure I knew what a midwife was. Even with all that I still ended up in a FTP c-section and a doc who changed his mind last min c-section for the next who said I could VBAC originally. So what did I do wrong? I read more after that and found ICAN.I then started reading in all the “right” places and found what I was looking for…what I needed. I planned a homebirth VBA2C that ended in transfer anyway but I still fought and got my VBAC. And I thought (prior to that) those homebirth people are crazy! Haha now we are planning a UC, what a difference!! So my point is I don’t think its always about how much time you prepare although the more I research the more confident I feel, but about finding the right provider or no provider for some and learning about what really happens not what “what to expect” and “girlfriends guide to pregnany” say will happen. Knowing you can say no to certain things and can stand up for yourself. Many people including myself the first time did not know I didn’t have to do what the doctor said, had I known that things would have been a lot different! That is why I have become an ICAN Chapter Leader in my city. I want women to have the knowledge I wish I had the first time around!! 🙂

  7. LOL this post made me laugh, I met date and married my husband in less then 3 months!!!! But because I was a nurse in maternity ward for a couple years before getting married, I started my pregnancy and delivery education long before I was preggo, learning all about natural and no so natural way to birth and all the pro and con etc…

    But I know that the way tings happen in my life might not have been the norm 🙂

    Ps I wanted children long before I wanted a husband (but am very happy that I met and married a wonderful man!!!)

  8. I cannot say enough about how wonderful and worthwhile Bradley classes are. There is no way we would have had the gentle, personal birth experience we had (no medication and not in a hospital) without these amazing classes, which really prepared us both as a couple. Our classes were only 10 weeks, I think, but met for nearly 2 hours each week. We thought it was awesome because we got to know the other couples so well and encourage each other – then we emailed our birth stories to each other as our babies were born.

    Ironically, we prepared for our wedding almost exactly as long – 2 months to put together our justice-of-the-peace ceremony and our Bahama honeymoon!

  9. I would agree that it’s ‘going to go how it’s going to go’, if we lived in a world/country that truly understood childbirth… but if you don’t know what is truly ‘normal’ then you can be in for a rude awakening (imagine my surprise to learn that 2.5 hours or more of pushing was not uncommon in a ‘normal, natural’ childbirth for a first time mom)… so what was actually a ‘failure to wait’ on the part of the staff was listed on the op report as a ‘failure to descend’ on the part of my body & baby. I was needlessly cut open because I put too much faith in the medical community that they actually knew what they were doing… instead of guiding me through a beautiful experience, they pushed & scared me right into a miserable, excruciating, unnessasary (sp?) one.

  10. I don’t really see the comparison–not just because the events are different but because the planning described is different. I know some people take religious education prior to their marriage…but I did not and I think that is true of most modern, Western couples. So when we talk about a year of wedding preparation, we’re really just talking about reserving the location a year in advance. I didn’t spend an hour or two a week for 12 weeks in a wedding class. I also did plan for both but I did it in my own way. Just not in a class.

    Also, people will spend hours obsessing over their tablecloths for the wedding but they’ll also spend hours obsessing over which expensive stroller to put on their registry. It seems we just get more excited about “stuff” unfortunately, rather than the real people and relationships. Maybe we just feel more in control of the stuff.

    I think a more fair comparison would be that people will spend $$$ on a wedding planner but not a doula. I didn’t do either but I think that is a more on point and revealing analogy!

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  12. Do people really only learn about childbirth through classes? If they are, shame on them! For me, one all day class was enough, but I had spent the last umpteen weeks researching and reading.

  13. Interesting question! Personally, we “eloped” and spent about a month with the planning of everything: “ceremony” at the courthouse, honeymoon, reception afterward for everyone. (We’d lived together almost 4 years at that point and we’d been IN 10 weddings, so we didn’t want that for us…)

    Five years later, when pregnant with my daughter, I spent MONTHS preparing. MONTHS.

    But that’s just me…

  14. Having a positive childbirth experience is just so important because that experience and those feelings live with you (and the whole family) for a lifetime. The more prepared you are and the more support you have increases your odds of a positive experience. That means investing time and energy into learning about and preparing for childbirth because it is completely divorced from most people’s experience in our country — I did not have a single friend who was pregnant or had children before I had mine (and I was thirty when my first child was born); it was like entering a whole new world. Going for a natural birth is worth the effort — all that hard work amounts to a natural high right after the baby is born that is unlike anything I have experience before (both with my first birth which was rather traumatic and with the second at home which was absolute bliss!) A couple or hours or weeks is not enough to prepare for childbirth- the more weeks the better because you need someone to be accountable to to do your relaxation and preparation exercises– just like most people need to go to the gym to make sure they do their exercising! Many people don’t realize the importance of natural childbirth, which is sad because I found it the be one the most empowering experiences of my life.

  15. We did a condensed childbirth class (two 8 hour days- whew!), but I think most of my preparation came outside of that class. I read books, researched online, and planned on my own from the moment I knew I was pregnant. I wouldn’t discount that time, because for me, it was extremely valuable. However, I think most parents would benefit from longer education classes than they expect.

  16. Neat post. I’ve just done a bit of wedding research, and kids are still a few years off if ever, so…Good stuff to think about.

  17. I didn’t spend anywhere near as long as 12 weeks in active preparation for the birth. It had nothing to do with not caring or not wanting to invest time. I went through IVF, and on the third try had the pregnancy that resulted in my daughter, so it definitely wasn’t that. For me, I decided to trust my body to know what to do. I didn’t want to be in labor trying to remember what someone taught in a class to do for pain management. I wanted to feel as free as I was to do what I felt instinctively at the time I needed to do. Animals spend days, if that, preparing, and have fewer problems than humans. Why do we need someone to “teach” us what to do?

    I wouldn’t go back and change what I did, or didn’t do, as the case may be. I spent my time preparing for parenthood. Birth was going to be the easiest part, literally.

    So unless you consider taking the time to think about whether I really should find another OB/GYN and have the doctor-mandated c-section, or to listen to my gut instinct and have a homebirth (how’s that for a polar-opposite decision?) (I went with the homebirth, and am so glad I did), then my prep time was ordering the birth kit and getting things set up. For me, even in retrospect, this was the best choice for me.

    It might also help though that I started off better-educated about the interventions most common that most, as well as the workings of my body (can’t help but know your body as well as I do when you’ve had as many very major, open-abdominal surgeries as I’ve had). But this article isn’t focusing on taking the time to learn options on one’s own or through talking with people who’ve done them, and just on the time in childbirth classes. Of course 12 weeks of childbirth classes is absolutely always worth it when you’re the one charging for them.

  18. As I said on FB, my husband and I were engaged for over a year. And yes, we spent much of that time planning the wedding, but there were also months when we didn’t do anything at all. It was complicated because there were so many people involved, guests coming from out of state, lots of schedules to work out, a budget to keep to, etc. But, we did not use a wedding planner because my mom and I are capable women and we pulled it off by ourselves.

    We did, however, take a marriage prep course as required by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which was pretty enjoyable. And I think it’s something more couples should do, not neccesarily for religious reasons, because it’s helpful.

    Anyway, we also took a class through the hospital that was taught by the mother of a friend of ours, so we got into the class for free. I forget how long it was, but not 12 weeks. And it was enjoyable because the L&D nurse that taught it was sweet, but I also didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know from reading countless books.

    Before I delivered, I took a list of questions in to my OB and we discussed them. And that was fine. I felt prepared going into it, and the couple of things I was not prepared for (the biggest one being a medication allergy I didn’t know I had), I wouldn’t have learned about in any class. I felt capable enough to read about all my options and then choose the one that was right for me.

    So, after this long rambling comment, I think it depends on the mom. Not all moms will benefit from a class.

  19. I don’t know about the comparison. I mean, I can see both sides of it. But all that aside, I’m blown away that women just go into birth blindly (especially women who want to be in control of other big life events, like their wedding).

    Too much education is scary? To me, that’s just begging for something to go wrong. I took a 12 week Bradley Class and it changed my life. It wasn’t that it just helped us have the intervention free birth experience we wanted. It also did worlds to educate and empower my husband, who ended up being my biggest supporter.

    And it really set us off on the path in parenthood where we are always educating ourselves, questioning mainstream, allowing our minds to open to things that are beyond the norm (like cloth diapering, baby wearing, making our own baby food, etc.) I don’t know how open we would have been to these things if we went into the birth experience blindly.

    I DID spend over a year planning every single detail of my wedding. It was a spectacular event. To me, taking that level of commitment has just been a natural extension to this new phase of my life.

  20. Jill, not taking classes doesn’t mean “going blindly” into childbirth. We women have natural instincts, and some of us are comfortable relying heavily upon our instincts to get us through. It’s a bad mindset to have that classes = being prepared. Sometimes women are prepared just fine on their own, and some take the classes and come out feeling more unsure about anything. Just because the classes were great for you absolutely does NOT mean that taking classes is right for every mom and dad. Every childbirth class under the sun has a heavy emphasis on different pain techniques, and this is exactly what some of us don’t want – some technique that we come to think we should follow to control the pain. As for the rest, the different positions, different drugs that could be used in emergencies, etc., there are plenty of other ways we learn about those.

    All the childbirth classes in the world can’t cover every scenario either. How many of them cover chin-presentations at all, much less as a perfectly doable position for a natural birth? This was mine. Sitting through a class that talks about normal presentation being crown-down and even a breech “must” be a c-section would have resulted in me lacking all faith in a position few people have every heard of. I am far more knowledgeable about the human body than most moms, and a childbirth class going over what I already know and telling me how to deal with the pain (I manage this perfectly fine on my own without being told how to, thankyouverymuch) would have been detrimental. To some women, NOT taking a class is detrimental.

    It’s not about “too much education.” It’s about realizing what you already know and how to seek out the info you don’t know, and evaluating what is right for yourself without saying that someone doing something a different way means they were afraid of “too much education.” That phrase actually sounds very much like women who don’t take these classes aren’t educated because they’re afraid of learning.

    As an aside, all the instinct in the world won’t book a venue hall or decide on table decorations. We don’t need to do anything for babies to grow. Pregnancy is more or less auto-pilot. Weddings take active attention for things to happen.

  21. Thanks for this post. I’m going to point all this out to my husband as he is having a tough time committing to a 5-week hypnobirthing class.

    This will be my second birth. I spent nearly the entire 9 months of my first researching, reading and trying to educate my husband as well. We did not take any classes and thought all my reading would prepare us enough. Indeed it did not.

    I love Candace’s analysis of spending money. To me, this is an investment that will last my lifetime. We cheaped out the first time around only (for me) to be disappointed.

    I’m reading everything I can this time around as well. Though i’m adding a class and a doula with hopes of a better birthing experience.

  22. I’m also getting an impression from some of these comments that feel judgemental towards women who purposely choose to pursue non-natural methods of childbirth. A woman who gets an epidural or an elective c-section isn’t neccesarily uneducated. I personally read about hypnobirthing and Bradley and Lamaze with my first child and was not interested. I have no regrets with my first birth experience.

    And as Aria said, the actual birth is one day. Being a parent is a lifetime. I spent far more time learning about breastfeeding and attachment parenting than I did about actually birthing a baby, and I think those lessons are the ones that have a much larger impact on me as a mother today.

  23. to Aria – re: “the expense of 12 weeks of chilbirth education being worth it when your the one charging for it.” I am delighted you felt absolute confidence in your body and yourself and had a positive experience. Kudos to you. FYI the twelve weeks of Bradley instruction do not cost more than 5 weeks of instruction (at least to my research of childbirth instruction in the LA area.) Teachers who teach longer sessions are generally earning less per hour than other teachers; they simply feel passionate about helping couples who do not have your confidence to have the time to learn about the process of birth and gain the confidence they may need, especially essential for a natural childbirth. It’s about empowerment. I didn’t take classes for my second child but learned from my experience from before and read and practiced my exercises on my own (mainly because I could not leave my high-need child.) I also had a midwife that I trusted implicitly.

    To Sarah Jo – wishing you the best with your next birth — finding a doula you really trust could be key to a satisfactory birth for you. Hopefully your husband will get on board, but you know what, you are really the key; trust yourself and your baby — you are connected to generations of wonderful and incredible women who have lovingly labored to have their sweet babies.

  24. I took Bradley classes with my first and loved the 12 weeks. Spacing it out instead of cramming it all into 1 day or a couple weeks made it easier to absorb the info, research more on my own, and really prepare.

    For me not much info isn’t as scary as not having any.

    Then again, I wouldn’t spend more than a couple weeks planning a wedding, so my priorities are obviously different. 🙂

  25. My childbirth class was 6 weeks, but I only made it to 4 classes before I delivered prematurely. I actually think I got most of what I needed out of those sessions, which was that my husband got an idea of what to expect. Because unlike me, my husband wasn’t reading the books or researching the choices.

    I agree that 12 weeks is not too long to prepare for childbirth. I spent much longer – but not in a class context. I did a lot of reading, online and in books, and I understood a lot about birth and care providers and so on. I think that a lot of women do. This is much the same way that I planned my wedding – at home and in my own time. So while I understand the theory, I don’t particularly think that a 12-week CLASS is necessary. But I do think that having information is, wherever it comes from.

  26. I completely agree with VBA2Cmama. I’ve also had 2 c-sections. The 1st due to my complete ignorance and blind faith that my DR knows and would do the best for ME and during my 2nd son’s birth I was much more educated but it wasn’t enough to prevent the 2nd section. I’ve now spent 2 YEARS researching birth in my free-time so that I’ll be prepared for a homebirth with #3. I’d gladly go back and sacrifice 12 weeks during my 1st pregnancy to have become educated enough to avoid the complications and lack of childbirth choices I now have as a c-section mama. My ignorance has cost me 4 years of pain. 12 weeks of eduction now can help you avoid YEARS of agony later.

  27. Susan, I said 12 weeks because that was in the opening to this article. ANY length of a class is absolutely “always” worth it according to the one charging. Even if they’re free, they’re not always beneficial to people, no matter how long or short. If you’d read my entire reply, you’d see that I said it depends on each mom and dad. Some benefit from classes, some will find them detrimental, and some won’t benefit but won’t find them detrimental either. It’s harmful all around to insist that everyone should take classes, just as it’s harmful to say everyone should not.

  28. Thank you for posting my tweet! I did a 2 day (8 hours per day) course with my doula. It was very good & very informative. I thought it was time very well spent. My doula was amazing and made my experience a wonderful one. I told her that I would like to lean toward natural childbirth (i.e. no epidural and no c-section). I progressed very fast early on but everything slowed down when I only had 1/2cm to go. She gave me the strength to push when my doctor & the obgyn were talking about going the c-section route. I was so tired at that point that I don’t know what would have happened if she wasn’t there. I did end up having to have vacuum (with no pain med @ that point).

    I’m not sure how any class could have changed that outcome. I had a doula there that was very knowledgeable and knew my wishes. My first & only priority was having a healthy baby.

    I fall into the category with another commenter….I feel that these conversations quickly delve into the “you must be stupid/uneducated because you dared to have your baby in a hospital/use medication/have a c-section/etc.” I believe that everyone’s main focus should be on a healthy baby & supporting each other as women and mothers NOT on being hypercritical of each others birthing choices.

  29. I don’t feel the comparison is accurate because she thinks the 12 week class is the only way the woman is preparing, when, in fact, most women are preparing as soon as that plus sign shows up. They are preparing mentally, emotionally, and physically. Maybe they aren’t preparing well, but the are preparing.

    I think that 12 weeks for a labor method is too long. I could see 8 weeks followed up by a personal visit once more before delivery.

    I also find it a tad contradictory and maybe that mom did too that natural childbirth instructors and advocates often talk about how childbirth is beautiful and natural then want someone to take three months worth of classes. I sometimes see the contradiction between natural and instruction. I know that labor and delivery *do* require preparation if a woman is going to enjoy it and have a good experience though. I know it does require education. I just wish it was more a part of a culture instead of requiring classes. But it does, so, classes it is. Twelve weeks is too much in my opinion for several reasons. Another is that anyone truly wanting a Bradley birth is going to be reading up on it via books or the internet. She will be informed. The woman that isn’t doing that won’t be swayed by more classes, but by better one-on-one connection with her instructor.

    just my humble opinion

    I also think that it’s kind of funny to me.

  30. I am 6 weeks pregnant and have already done more research than friends who had their babies last week. I asked them why they decided to have their son’s circumcised and their answer was “Isn’t that just what you do?” and when I tried to provide them with pro and against info about circs, they said they didn’t want to read the anti-circ stuff because it might make them change their minds…. Umm, what?

    I’m all about research and informed parenting!

  31. I might not be the best example. I am Venezuelan so we do things differently. I planned my wedding in three months. Every step of a regular wedding was covered from sending the invitations to the honeymoon. We took birth classes as well. They were only four sessions. I read a lot of books as well. I really feel that I wasn’t ready for my birth or breastfeeding experience. I believe that there was a lot of misinformation in regards to the protocol of the hospital.

  32. I don’t think anyone has said that anyone is stupid or uneducated because they had a medicated birth or a c-section, so I do not understand people’s comments about that. I happened to have natural births and feel very enthusiastic about it and its benefits for mother and baby, but I have no judgement of other choices (and sometimes there is no choice as in when there is an emergency c-section — in which case one can just feel immense gratitude that it is an an option.) It is more about informed choice and empowerment, and then dealing with whatever the actual birth experience throws at you. Each woman’s preparation will be different based on her needs, experience and situation. My take on the wedding vs childbirth classes is that both marriage and childbirth are important life altering situations and worthy of introspection and preparation, whatever the woman and her partner decide.

  33. A wedding is not a marriage. It makes sense that you’d take a 12 week marriage prep class for an hour a week, or maybe an 8 week class.

    A wedding is an event. It takes a year to plan because you have to book the space that far ahead, and you have to order your dress 9 months ahead. You do not actually spend 52 weeks planning your wedding. In fact, unless you’re a bridezilla, you can probably plan your entire wedding in about a week’s worth of actual time.

    I don’t think childbirth is something we need to “learn” how to do. What we need is education about the options that are available. And the depth of the education shouldn’t be judged by people who aren’t the ones giving birth.

    It makes more sense to me to take a recurring parenting class. Childbirth takes hours. Parenting takes a lifetime.

  34. I threw together my wedding in just a couple of months, I’m not the type to play into that perfect wedding day, I need 2 years to plan it pressure! I think women have a long road ahead, to reclaim our bodies and get birthing back to a place that isn’t micromanaged by Dr’s and nurses (12 week classes or not) .

  35. Great post, Amy! I hadn’t ever thought of comparing birth and a wedding, but yes, they are both hugely important events into which one should at least in theory put some serious planning…I suppose like anything else the preparation and planning time is variable from one woman to another. I am, however, struck with the thought that in our culture most women know far more about what happens at a wedding and why than they do for childbirth, and this seems to me to be not a good thing…

  36. This is why I think it can turn judgemental.

    If a woman goes into childbirth not wanting a natural birth, she doesn’t need to take a 12 week class on epidurals and c-sections. A tour of the hospital, detailed what-to-expect conversation with the doctor, and maybe a short class might be sufficient.

    I went into the birth of my first child with the intention of getting an epidural. I got it, loved it, was able to sleep 8 hours while my labor progressed slowly, and had a healthy baby. I wanted another one the second time around, but she came so fast there was no time and she was natural. Another healthy baby. I wouldn’t call myself uneducated at all, even though I did not take a 12 week hypnobirthing or Bradley class. I just read all the same information and came to a different conclusion and make different choices.

  37. While not a perfect comparison I do think it makes one stop to pause and reflect which is powerful in and of itself.

    It is a completely different kind of planning and I think the question would be the intention of the planning. There are some women who run around spending all of their pregnancies getting ready and prepping, but still are informed about their choices, rights or the actual biology of what is going to happen.

    Unfortunately, in this day and age just going with the flow lands you in an entanglement of interventions might not be what you wanted, but you didn’t know–well, because you didn’t know.

    And sure, get educated and informed and make whatever decisions you want–that’s not the point. The point is that you are making the decisions unlike the majority of birthing women who are having their rights trampled on as they experience childbirth.

  38. As a CBE, I see mothers-to-be and fathers-to-be regularly that have very little knowledge about childbirth in general. My series is 6-weeks long and I know many balk at that amount of time, but often participants in my class are sad when it is the last class.
    As someone else pointed out, normal birth has been lost in our culture and I feel it is part of my role to educate about that. And, part of that ends up being deprogramming, if you will, all the fear and misconceptions that run rampant in our mainstream culture. I also build my class so that their understanding deepens with each class.
    Making a comparison between mammals who give birth with days preparation and us humans, whose bigger brains often consume us, is not very realistic. They are not enveloped in the same kind of culture. Learning to get your head out of the equation is most of the battle for many women these days, who are always thinking, and feel like they have to control things to feel safe.
    For my first baby, I took childbirth classes at the hospital that I was planning to birth at. I was with a midwifery-based practice, but there was barely any info on unmedicated birth in the classes. I had a vaginal birth, but not a pleasant experience. For my second baby, I went to a free-standing birth center and they had their own classes. They empowered me. So, now, I combine lots of information and resources to try to give families as much information as possible to make informed choices.
    Women who already know about interventions are glad to hear it from someone else and perhaps learn aspects that they didn’t know. Women who knew nothing about interventions or normal birth are often astounded at how little they knew. And, women who have had 1st childbirth expereinces that are traumatic, often leave confident in their own bodies again.
    This, too, like so many other things, should boil down to choice. Informed choice.
    I spent less than a year planning my wedding on a very low budget. It was a simple wedding in a park. I spent about the same time planning my 1st child’s birth and it still didn’t go as I had hoped. I invested a lot more time and energy in educating myself before I even got pregnant with my 2nd child, and it paid off. That birth exceeded my expectations and showed me what my mind and body were truly capable of. That, is priceless and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. And, I will continue to try to help others experience it, too.

  39. I would say that it’s not a good comparison. You spend a lot of time preparing for childbirth and the actual first months of parenting outside of childbirth classes. How many hours have most of us poured over every “What to expect” type book out there? Comparing this car seat to that? Selecting a pediatrician? Researching breastfeeding, circumcision & other issues?

    When getting ready for a wedding, you spend a lot of time planning details for the reception, but do little in the way of formal preparation (classes, etc.) for the actual wedding. Really just the rehearsal. Most couples don’t even do any counseling, so there’s no actual marriage preparation at all.

  40. I had a very short engagement…4 1/2 months. But during that time, it wasn’t wedding thoughts 24/7. However, when pregnant, it’s pretty hard to detach yourself from the baby. You’re thinking about baby while waiting at the lights, having a pee, etc. It’s an intimate part of you. Much of birth prep doesn’t happen in classes either.
    Can they be compared…sure, in some ways. Couples often forget to think about the marriage, not just the wedding. Parents-to-be tend not to think about the parenting, just the birth. However, if the caterer screws up, there’s always Domino’s. If the OB screws up, there’s a lawsuit.

  41. Oh ha! Looky me there all quoted in your post 🙂 I didn’t read through all the comments but thought I would follow my tweet up with more than 140 characters:

    Weddings are, in many (most?) cases, all about orchestrating a large event full of people, money and things. It is insanely time-consuming, even if, like me, you’re trying to have a simple wedding.

    My first the child birth class was mostly pointless. I was in a class full of couples all going in to it hoping for a different experience. Maybe 2-4 hours of the class were helpful to ME. With my second I spent about 5 hours in private hypnobirthing sessions and practiced for 1/2 hr at home each night for about three weeks. That was it. It really wasn’t a big deal at all.

    I would venture to say the real issue is in preparing for a marriage and being a parent, not the wedding and the birth 🙂

  42. As a midwife, I would say that childbirth classes are somewhat helpful. But…the real work comes from inside, as the woman faces her deepest issues in preparation for her baby to come earthside. That may be a little “deep” for some, and also not how every woman wants to approach childbirth. But for me, seeing it this way makes it pretty much incomparable to any other kind of event. Sure, a wedding may change your life as well, but probably not in the profound ways that a birth has the potential to.

  43. I think people miss the point on both accounts. If only they would put a little less into the wedding and more into the marriage. Likewise, a little less into the labor, and a whole lot more into the raising.

  44. OK but she didn’t spend 15 months in classes for her wedding, and most of the 15 months or preparation was done independantly. I would say most people prepare for the birth of a child for roughly 8 months (some more if it was a planned birth). During the time a woman is pregnant (at least all the women I know) spoke with other moms and moms to be, visited chat rooms, read books, did research. So while I don’t think 12 weeks is to long to spend preparing for the birth of a child it would depend on what the course was for 12 weeks for me to want to sign up. I didn’t get to take a child birth prep class (the one available before my child was born was full and the next one wasn’t for several months after her birth) and I probably would have loved a 12 week long course, but I would be curious to know what would be covered over 12 weeks and how.

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