Tammy Brann, 35, has been around kids her entire life. She comes from a big family, and her friends all have kids. She’s even been in the delivery room to witness a couple of births.

Yet as she readied to have a baby of her own, she wondered whether she knew enough to have a smooth labor and delivery process.

People assured her she’d be fine. No need to take a childbirth class, they said—most of what she’d learn is common knowledge.

Almost on a whim, she and her boyfriend, Jeff Smoker, signed up for the Preparing for Childbirth Class at Spectrum Health Healthier Communities when she was seven months pregnant.

“After talking with my midwife, we were like, ‘Let’s just do it. If we take one thing out of it—great,’” she said.

Practical knowledge

Once they got there, Brann and Smoker found out how much there was to learn.

“It was literally the best decision we ever made,” said Brann, of Ada, Michigan. “I never thought we’d get as much knowledge as we got out of it—things that I would have never known about.”

She ticked off a list of things the teachers, Sue Bailey, RN, and Mary Oleniczak, RN, covered in the four-class series:

  • Self-care during pregnancy and after giving birth
  • Types of contractions and the “5-1-1 rule”
  • When to go to the hospital and what to expect when you get there
  • Comfort measures, positions, relaxation techniques and breathing patterns
  • Pain relief options for labor and birth
  • Roles of the nurse, doula and partner or support person
  • Types of delivery and how to prepare
  • Baby care and feeding through the first year
  • Post-partum depression
  • Pregnancy and parenting resources offered through Spectrum Health, including breastfeeding support and car seat safety classes

“My goal for a couple in my class is to increase their knowledge and give them the tools to have the type of labor and delivery they desire,” said Bailey, who was a delivery room nurse before becoming a prenatal educator.

“I talk about questions they need to ask just so they don’t get in situations where they second guess themselves when they’re done.”

Brann appreciated the rich experiences Bailey and Oleniczak brought to their instruction. Since they’ve both been nurses for more than 30 years, they have great stories, insights and advice, she said.

She also liked the hands-on nature of the class. The teachers would demonstrate exercises and massage techniques while giving participants—women and their support persons—the chance to practice with props like yoga balls, which can ease discomfort during labor, and paint rollers, to relieve back pain.

Using the tools

The class gave Brann and Smoker confidence going into the labor and delivery process. When her contractions began, they put a lot of their newly attained knowledge into practice.

“I felt like I knew what to expect at that point,” Brann said—so much so that she could even “enjoy labor—as crazy as that sounds. I really, truly think that’s something that you can do. And I think a lot of it is having the preparation and the tools.”

The couple’s daughter, Nicolette, arrived August 17 at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

Four days later, a Going Home program nurse visited their home to check on Brann and the baby. As luck would have it, that nurse was Bailey. She wears a lot of hats at Spectrum Health, and home visits are one of her specialties. After giving mom and baby a brief medical checkup, Bailey helped Brann with breastfeeding tips and assistance.

In the three months since then, the couple has enjoyed the sweet rewards of caring for Nicolette and becoming a family.

They laugh now, thinking of all the things they didn’t know they would need to know before taking the class, Brann said.

“It was definitely a great experience.”