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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, June 4

Gapers Block

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So you've read stuff you can do with your baby, where to take him, how to take him and while that is all fine and good, you are saying to yourself, "Hey, this kid isn't even born yet, it's not as though we can do anything together."

Well, actually you can. Consider a birthing class! A childbirth class can help boost your confidence, make your pregnancy more comfortable, teach about pain relief options and help you to make educated choices. Quickly you will find that the more educated you become, the more empowered you will feel. And during labor, any source of empowerment is a great thing.

Additionally, a childbirth class is a nice way to meet and connect with other parents who are going through the same things you are. Many long-lasting friendships have begun in classes. Plus, you further build the already strong bond you have with your baby.

Not only are there are many classes offered in the Chicagoland area, but there are varied philosophies. What's the difference? These are but a few:

Bradley classes
Based on the teachings of Dr. Robert A. Bradley, the Bradley Method of childbirth (sometimes referred to as "Husband-Coached Childbirth") places emphasis on natural childbirth and the idea that tension is the main cause of pain, therefore relaxation during childbirth is the key.

The mother and her partner, who acts as her coach, work as a couple playing an active role in the birth. Both focus on pain management through relaxation and abdominal-breathing.

Made popular in the 1950s by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze, the Lamaze philosophy states that women innately know how to give birth and if they follow their intuition, have a good support system and listen to their bodies, birth should come, well, naturally.

Lamaze also states that if you understand your pain and where it is coming from, you will be less afraid of it. You learn to view your pains as a means to end, the way to bring your child into the world. Like Bradley, focus is placed on breathing exercises which are viewed as a coping mechanism for the pain, as well as a distraction from it.

Birthing From Within
Based on the best-selling book by Pam England, CNM, MA, Birthing From Within seeks to reclaim childbirth as a highly spiritual event and shows both mother and father that many ancient cultures can provide wisdom and ideas which can be of use during labor. Being aware of one's state of mind and practicing the pain-coping techniques everyday, not just during labor, is stressed.

The movement also believes that the father, as much as the mother, needs support and guidance during labor.

Created by Marie Mongan, M.Ed., HypnoBirthing teaches mothers-to-be that if you can train yourself to be in a deep state of relaxation, your body will be free of fear and tension which will result in a pain-free birth.

While Bradley, Lamaze, Birthing from Within and HypnoBirthing may have their own nuances and differences, it seems that with each one the underlying theme is relaxation above all else, as if to say that with decreased tension comes decreased pain.

Along with birthing classes, if you are planning a hospital birth, a tour of various hospital birthing centers may be a good idea as well. The hospital environment can be intimidating. While you may have your heart set on a specific hospital, touring the birthing and maternity units of several can give you a better idea of what you want and don't want from your hospital. Many of these tours are free, others are given for a nominal fee.

If you are planning a home birth, Homefirst Health Services presents free monthly seminars on homebirthing featuring films, birth stories by parents and a discussion with Homefirst founder Dr. Mayer Eisenstein.

During our birthing classes, I found that I really didn't know as much as I thought I did. And the classes were entertaining -- most of the time, I found myself laughing, connecting with the other couples and feeling a deeper connection with my son. So whether you are doing a home birth, hospital birth, Bradley, Lamaze, Hypno Birthing or midwife, a birthing class can prepare you for labor in ways books never can.

Hospital Tours

Rush University Medical Center
Birth Center Tours
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10am
1650 W. Harrison St.
For info, call 312/942-8733

Swedish Covenant Hospital
The Family Birthing Center
Tours are given on the first Wednesday of every month.
5145 N. California Ave.
For info, call 773/878-1304

University of Chicago Hospitals
5815 S. Maryland Avenue, Room TN-208
Saturdays, 9-10am. and 10:30-11:30am
September 25, 2004
October 23, 2004
November 13, 2004
December 11, 2004

Mondays, 5-6pm
September 20, 2004
October 18, 2004
November 8, 2004
December 13, 2004
For info, 773/702-9200

Homefirst Seminars

Sunday, September 12, 2004, 7-9pm
Sunday, November 14, 2004, 7-9pm
2000 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows.
For info, call 847/981-1881

Class Info

Birthing from Within is coming to Elmhurst September 23-26, 2004. For info, call 505/254-4884

John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital
1901 W. Harrison
Offers free prenatal classes
For info, call 312/633-5565

Northwestern Memorial Hospital
251 E. Huron St.
For info, call 312/926-8400

Lamaze Childbirth Preparation
at University of Chicago Hospitals
5815 S. Maryland Avenue
September 18 & 19, 2004
October 23 & 24, 2004
November 6 & 7, 2004
December 4 & 5, 2004
For info, 773/702-9200

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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