If you are a childbirth educator, we are so thankful for the time and energy you invest in parents and in helping them have positive birth experiences. Your job is extremely valuable and the role that you fill is not available in quite the same way from anywhere except a childbirth class. You do this job because, like us, you believe that it is important for parents to be wise consumers, have access to the full range of options and information, and be at the center of the process. Parents seek out your classes because they believe you can take away some of the mystery of labor and help them to be more comfortable and prepared for the process. Your students see you as an expert in your field, which you are, but because of this belief, it is important to remember that you hold great responsibility. These tips can help you do your best educating parents while respecting the high level of responsibility that you have:
Stay inside your scope
Even if you have medical training or credentials, your role as an educator requires that you do not practice medicine or offer medical advice. You may offer resources and point people to information that comes from reputable sources, but be careful to stay within the boundaries of the job that you are doing.
Don’t contradict your student’s care provider
It is unwise, disrespectful and divisive to dismiss a care provider’s advice or recommend that parents to do something other than what they are told by their doctor or midwife. If a student shares something that causes you alarm or concern, a better approach might be to encourage your students to seek out a second opinion from another care provider and offer a list of names.
We all have our own biases and beliefs about labor and birth, but as a childbirth educator, your primary role is to help prepare parents by giving them access to all of their options and covering the advantages and disadvantages. You are also responsible for giving parents access to the tools they need to make informed decisions for themselves. The use of pain medication, decisions about circumcision, and many other topics surrounding childbirth are highly sensitive and personal. Be very careful about your own bias coming through in your classes. If you have a specific agenda (such as preparing couples for laboring without medication), schedule and market a specific class with that purpose explicitly stated in all of your marketing.
Respect your students and their choices
Ultimately, your students will need to be the people responsible for being fully prepared and making the final choices about their labor and birth. You can present all the facts and options, but you cannot make choices for them. You can offer information and resources, but you cannot make your students apply it. If they make choices that you disagree with or that seem to be in conflict with their stated goals, remember that this is their labor and birth and therefore their choice.
It takes time and effort to earn the respect of other birth colleagues and medical professionals, but it can be done. Get involved in your community, never gossip or speak ill of others, be polite, kind, assertive and confident. Let people see that you want everyone to be on the same team and you are a reasonable and professional educator. If you experience conflict for any reason, approach it quickly, courteously and directly.
Parents trust you, and what you do is very valuable. You are building a culture of empowerment and knowledge, one student and one birth at a time. In everything that you do, keep in mind the large responsibility that you hold.
What else would you add to this list?