Before the coronavirus pandemic, Karin Hall, a nurse, enjoyed roaming around her prepared childbirth classes at Edinburg Regional Medical Center, teaching expecting partners various birthing exercises and massages.
Now she’s unable to walk around those classrooms, unable to work with those expecting parents in person. Hall taught her first online class in March, where several expecting partners connected with her through Zoom, a video conferencing app.
The registered nurse says hosting childbirth preparedness classes has never been more important. Giving birth to a child is stressful for many couples, and doing so in the midst of a pandemic only adds to that anxiety.
“We focus on what the childbirth experience is going to be like, what they should expect from it,” Hall said. “We comfort them by walking them through what to expect, and it is so important now because the normalcy in our lives have been shaken up. Fear is a big enemy, and right now fear is a huge enemy for all of us in this nation… Our clases work to support new and growing families through this time.”
The free Prepared Childbirth Classes take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the hospital every third Saturday of the month, with a Spanish course every third month. Classes are open to women on all birthing tacks, and are not limited to patients delivering at Edinburg Regional Medical Center.
Hall, who has been instructing childbirth courses since 1998, said that she goes over various exercises to manage discomforts during pregnancy and breathing techniques that help calm the woman. Another part of the class goes over breastfeeding and infant care, which is taught by Bianca Garza, a lactation consultant at the hospital.
“We do exercises that get the body ready for childbirth,” Hall said. “It’s a full-service class, from entering the hospital, knowing what to do, making sure that coaches know what to do, and how to best care for your new infant, the newest member of your family.”
Welcoming a new child into a family is a sacred moment, Hall said, and as the nation grapples with fears of the new coronavirus, her clases work to protect the special experience.
“We want to avoid that fear, because fear can impact the birth process,” Hall said. “We want to make sure our patients feel safe with the birth they are going to have, especially with this scary time.
“The childbirth experience is something she will remember for her entire life.”
The classes also work to build a working dynamic between the woman and her partner. Online classes can also help couples who are lacking a sense of community given the hospital’s single visitor policy.
“We are a very family oriented community, and in most of our births, everyone is here, the entire family is usually invited,” she said. “This is hard for people who need a lot of social support. So, we work a lot on building the relationship between the woman and her husband, coach or support person of their choice at bedside when their baby is born.”
Hall said that she is grateful for all of the hospital staff members who helped her transition her courses online. Guiding expecting mothers and fathers through the labor and delivery experience is Hall’s passion. Since 2016, she has never missed a class and a pandemic was not going to break her streak.
“We are doing our best to be as interactive as we can,” she said. “They can ask questions and ask us to repeat anything at any time,” Hall said. “They can also enjoy the classes in the comfort and privacy of their homes now. They can mute and turn off the camera, and do everything in their pajamas.”
“My own goal is to empower, strengthen family bond so that its never broken, so that we dont have child abuse and family abuse, strong families — becaue that’s the touchstone and cornerstone of our community, the family.”
The next Prepared Childbirth Class is slated for April 18. Expecting mothers and couples can register through the hospital’s website: https://www.edinburgregional.com/services/maternity.