Natural instinct vs. learned behavior, and the value of prep classes? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 12:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DH and I took a (great!) breast feeding class yesterday, and have a Birth Works child birth class in two weeks. Some of our (geographically distant) family think there's no need for such classes. They say I have the equipment and will know what to do on my own. They did fine without formal instruction. Mom and SIL both say it's all pretty natural and instinctive. My mom even said "There's such a thing as too much information."

I know there is a strong instinctive element, and I'm going to call on that, but I think there must be some learned behaviors, too. Once upon a time, women and men alike would have spent a lot more time around birth and babies and children, observing processes and techniques (consciously or unconsciously). Not so much anymore. DH and I have not had that exposure, especially DH.

So what do you all think about the subject? Is instinct or education more important to you? If you are taking classes, or have in the past, why? If not, why?

(Let me interject here that I'm very comfortable with our decision to take classes, and value the confidence they bring us. I disagree with my mom's statement about "too much information," but it's not a point of contention between us. My family is very supportive of us, even when they disagree with the choices we make. We're all cool!)
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#2 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 12:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by amybird View Post

I know there is a strong instinctive element, and I'm going to call on that, but I think there must be some learned behaviors, too. Once upon a time, women and men alike would have spent a lot more time around birth and babies and children, observing processes and techniques (consciously or unconsciously). Not so much anymore. DH and I have not had that exposure, especially DH.
Exactly this. Of course there is an instinct, but a lot of behavior is learned. Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? The author was raising turkeys, and they didn't know how to procreate. It had been bred out of them, essentially. One tom figured it out finally, but then only one hen actually figured out how to sit on the eggs. The other ones just didn't "know". I thought that was very interesting (and sad).

Homebirthing mama of 2
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#3 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Jen - An excellent book! I had forgotten that particular anecdote, and appreciate the reminder.
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#4 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 01:00 PM
 
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If you're planning a hospital birth, information is a necessity, IMO. You won't be able to follow your instincts, you'll have to navigate the web of standard procedures, know what they're doing, and how to stand up for yourself.
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#5 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 02:26 PM
 
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I think birth education is very important, and you're not necessarily going to do all the right things instinctively, especially in today's society. However, I think one of the most important things you can learn through birth education is to trust your instincts--you might instinctively ignore your instincts! Did that make sense?

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#6 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 03:27 PM
 
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I think there is no instinct anymore really. We are so socialized from young ages, all the jokes about mom's in labor being mean to dad's, the screaming, yelling "Get it out!" that women don't reach the puberty even without all the societal expectations of 'here's a woman on PMS', 'here's a woman without sex', 'here's a woman who's pregnant', 'here's the typical laboring mother', 'here is a tired mom, yelling at her kids, isn't it funny?' (thinking of the youtube video of the mom nagging her kids to the William Tell Overture). It's really sad, the way people just kind of flow through life thinking it's all normal. It's not.

Classes are helpful for a majority of people, whether with feelings or pregnancy or birth or parenting, because our natural instincts are taken out of us by years of our parent's parenting or TV programming or what we observed from stressed out, unsupported parents in our community.

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#7 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 04:47 PM
 
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Well said, Multimomma!
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#8 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 05:03 PM
 
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I have not taken birthing classes, however did a lot of research/reading this time around and am glad to have to extra knowledge ahead of time.

Also -- when pregnant with my first. I planned to breastfeed (probably a choice I made around the tender age of 8, when a friend was giving her baby doll a bottle and I informed her that I was "exclusively breastfeeding" and went into some benefits). I assumed because I was so knowledgable about breastfeeding (my mother was a LLL leader when my sister and I were little) and so anti-formula, I assumed it would be such an easy thing to do.

Then I attempted to nurse my baby. And it didn't go so well. At all. She wouldn't latch correctly, I became sore, my post birth emotions flooded, and I think everything fell apart. Thank god for a very wonderful LC at the hospital. After going home though, I experienced sore nipples like I could never have imagined, and then developed thrush which went undiagnosed for *5 weeks*. I finally figured out what it was when my daughter woke up, nursed for 30 seconds, then violently threw up straight blood continuously. Her pediatrician is the one who said "you have thrush so bad and your milk ducts so infected that all that is coming out is straight blood."

So, although for the average "normal" nurser, I think instinct kicks in, if there is the slightest complication it is very nice to have some learned skills to fall back on. Had a even heard the term thrush before, I would not have suffered for 5 weeks.

Also a note: its good to learn ahead from someone skilled, b/c relying on hospital staff or an obgyn is not always best. I saw my OB twice because of the immense pain associated with the thrush, and his answer was "you're just not cut out for breastfeeding. Switch to formula".

The idea of only relying on instinct is silly -- now adays, we teach our child how to do so many things that, if left alone, they would eventually probably figure out on their own. But we teach to speed up the process and get a wider range of knowledge. That's why we're general smarter than people 500years ago.
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#9 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 05:21 PM
 
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The class we took was mostly focused on relaxation methods. I do *not* have a relaxation instinct - I am a worrier, I tend toward anxiety and nervousness, and I am very glad to have learned and practiced these relaxation methods. Even now, before the baby has come, I've found myself using the breathing techniques and learning to enjoy a massage, etc.

At the same time, I think there are things we might just "know" to do when the time comes. My mom said, when she was laboring with me, she watched TV sitting on the couch and when she had a contraction, my dad would come over and they would stand while he held her tight. She didn't know it at the time, but standing up during a contraction can really help, as it lets gravity do its work and puts the baby in the right spot to open up the cervix. But I don't think that *knowing* this beforehand would've hindered her, either, since it would've just reinforced her own "instinct" and desire to stand up and be held at that time.

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#10 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 05:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Love how you're all validating my point of view!

Mulitimomma and other posters, I'm interested in the idea of instinct being socialized out of us. That makes it all the more important to have education to reinforce any remaining instinct, like Puffnstuff says.

BnInTheOvn, your experience is a great of example of why education can be helpful. MsElle07 - you provide another reason to get educated - we might not be "allowed" to follow our instincts.

This is great! Love your thoughtful comments.
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#11 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 05:46 PM
 
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If you read any of Michael Odent's work, you'll see women are born with instincts. We probably don't feel comfortable following the instincts because of societal expectations of what birth should be, but that doesn't mean the instincts aren't there.

In today's birth culture, women are actively told not to go with what she's feeling, for a variety of reasons. But there are many women who have unhindered births and just do what their body tells them, despite never having been socialized to do so.

I know during my last two (unmedicated, non-intervention) births, the sounds that came out of my mouth were totally instinctive. No one ever taught me how to make those, and I probably would be embarrassed to hear them now in my non-laboring state. But that was my instinct kicking in, helping me deal with the contractions and move the baby down.
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#12 of 16 Old 02-08-2009, 08:04 PM
 
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I totally agree with MsElle. We certainly have instincts but we are taught to use our brains instead and are always overthinking things. I do think it may be a good idea for most women to take classes in all things that have to do with their bodies - cycles, pregnancy, birth, menopause, etc. We are not in close communities where we would witness these things before going through them ourselves. It was important for me to have been exposed to my midwife for Liam and her way of thinking. She backed up what I had felt all along but it seemed no one else I knew thought the way I did. At the time I needed outside validation that I don't need now as I am more sure of myself because of experience.

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#13 of 16 Old 02-09-2009, 12:44 PM
 
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I took a full Bradley series before I had my first. I thought the classes were invaluable. For me it was really helpful to learn about nutrition in pregnancy, and also to learn exactly what happens to the body during labor. Before that I had no idea that the average first time birth is something in the range of 16 hours, or that the pushing phase alone can take 1-2 hours. (And my own mother used to have a business doing childbirth education- so I knew it wasn't like on TV, but even having watched more than my share of birth videos growing up I still didn't understand). We were having a hospital birth and it was really good to understand more about hospital procedures too. We practiced a lot of relaxation techniques.

Truthfully, some of the relaxation techniques worked really well and others didn't. For our first child, DH and I practiced all kinds of techniques and he was eager to try every one of them out. In that way we were a bit too overeducated and I should have listened more to my instincts. However, with the second child I just did what worked for me- and listened very carefully to my body and it went just fine.
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#14 of 16 Old 02-09-2009, 11:09 PM
 
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All I will add to the diussion is the fact that classes are something that you do with your partner! Our best talks about planning for the labor of our first came on the drive home from our Bradley classes. I was doing a ton of reading and talking to friends about thier natural births while I was pregnant, but my husband was not. Taking classes together put us on the same page. Also, I think having that knowledge helped him to go along with my instincts during labor and also to offer ideas (relaxation, walking, changing possitions, making out, hehehhe), when I got kind of in a slump.

Married to my sweet DH and mom to Teddy (1-4-07) and Silas : (3-21-09)
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#15 of 16 Old 02-10-2009, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Teddy'sMom - You are right on with the partner thing. This last class we took seemed to get my DH warmed up for discussion and a little reading of his own.
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#16 of 16 Old 02-10-2009, 04:45 PM
 
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with birth yeah on the instinct for the most part...parenting I dont know, if it was so much on instinct people wouldnt do the horrible things they do reguarding their children like neglect them etc. Breastfeeding well its not always instinct either and it doesnt come natural to everyone, if it did everyone would easily be able to do it and keep doing it. Reguardless If you want to do those classes, do them. People dont need to tell you what they think you should do, its really none of their business.

 Jess mom to 5!!! 3 boys 2 girls and another girl on the way edd jan 31st! I have a Disabled veteran husband
breastfeeding,cosleeping, non vax,no circ,and nature loving family!

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