Readers, I need your input and stories.
I've been asked to write an article for childbirth educators on how they can make their classes more size-friendly for plus-sized women. I have a number of ideas, but I'd like to solicit your feedback on this too.
In articles like these, it's good to start off with some real stories from women of size. Storytelling is useful in bringing home advocacy messages in an emotionally powerful way. So for those of you who have been pregnant and have taken a childbirth education class (of any sort*), please tell me about your experiences as a woman of size, both positive and negative:
- How were you made to feel welcome (or not)?
- Did you feel you had any special needs or concerns as a women of size in the class? If so, were they met?
- Was the equipment/environment friendly for a larger person?
- Did you feel pointed out or ostracized as a woman of size?
- Do you feel you could have asked specific questions about your concerns as a woman of size, either privately or during class?
- Were you given any list of resources that might address the needs of diverse people in the class (lesbian women, single moms, women of size, etc.)?
If you haven't been pregnant (or haven't been to a childbirth education class), think about what you would like in such a class as a woman of size:
- What special needs might a woman of size have in a childbirth ed class?
- How can a childbirth education teacher make the class more size-friendly? Consider classroom design, chairs, equipment, images, films, mobility and positioning concerns, content about nutrition and exercise, breastfeeding information, etc.
- How can a childbirth educator help women of size feel more welcomed, respected, and listened to?
- What resources specific to women of size should childbirth educators know about?
For example, let me share a few stories from my own experiences:
One thing that was a problem for me in my first pregnancy was the lack of information and resources available for women of size. There were no maternity clothes or nursing bras in my size in that city then, and no one had any clue about how to help me find any. It would have been helpful if my childbirth educator or care provider had been able to give me a list of resources for pregnancy in women of size.
One of the most trying things for me as a fat woman who practices Health At Every Size® principles was the nutrition diary. After years of having every stinking thing I ate nit-picked and judged, I found freedom in returning to a more natural, intuitive way of eating. When extensive food diaries were expected in childbirth classes, that was very stressful for me. Would they even believe what I wrote? Did they think I was lying when junk food wasn't in my diary? Would they have hyper-restrictive standards for me as a woman of size? I honestly found food journaling quite an ordeal. I can only imagine how triggering it must be for women with eating disorders.
There was also very little information about breastfeeding when well-endowed. The football hold was never mentioned in my breastfeeding class, and it was only through The Nursing Mother's Companion that I realized that this might be helpful for well-endowed women. If I hadn't learned about the football hold, breastfeeding would have failed for us, because the cradle hold did not work for me. Childbirth educators need to remember breast diversity and address different positions and techniques.These are some of the experiences I remember being challenging in the childbirth education classes I took over the years. Most teachers were welcoming to me as a woman of size, much more welcoming than some of the doctors and midwives I saw, but still, there were a few things that could have been improved.
How about you? What were your experiences? What things could have been improved in your classes? What would you most look for in a class if you were to take one? What advice would you give to childbirth education teachers about making their class size-friendly?
I'm also interested in hearing about the childbirth ed class content that was most useful to you in general, not just as a person of size. For example, one of the best classes I ever took was one where we did an extensive labor rehearsal with our partners, rotating through various laboring positions and coping techniques for a prolonged period of time. This brought those techniques out of my intellectual memory and into my muscle memory, making them easier to remember and utilize in labor.
How about you? What was the best or most useful thing you learned in class? What do you wish they had done more of? What was not useful?
[You can share your comments and ideas either via a direct email to me (kmom *AT* plus-size-pregnancy *dot* org), or in the comments section of this post. Please understand that if you comment here or send me an email, you are giving me explicit permission to quote you as needed. If you don't want me to quote you, please say so. If you are okay with being quoted, please use a name that is okay for attribution. Finally, remember that I retain the right to use, not use, or edit any story as needed.]
Thanks for your help. Birth workers (including childbirth educators) are hearing the message that women of size deserve more respectful care. Here is our chance to spread that message even more.
*What kind of childbirth ed class did you take? A hospital class? A Lamaze class? BirthWorks? Hypnobirthing? Birthing From Within? Bradley? Others?