Katherine Lybarger is grateful to live in a time and place where women are empowered to give birth in a safe environment and to advocate for themselves and their new bundle of joy.

When Katherine learned she was pregnant, she remembered her grandmother’s stories of feeling traumatized by labor and delivery: despite having seven children, her memories were tarnished by fear.

Katherine Lybarger said lessons learned at Regional One Health childbirth classes, like the importance of skin-to-skin contact and how to prepare for labor and delivery, made her more confident in becoming a mom.

Katherine was determined to have a better experience, and she got it from Regional One Health, where a robust childbirth education program is arming parents with the information they need to feel confident as they head into the delivery room and then home with their new baby.

“It was my first baby, so I had a lot of questions,” Katherine said. “A lot of my friends had kids, so I had secondary knowledge about pregnancy, but I didn’t know what to expect from labor.”

But when she connected with Regional One Health’s certified nurse midwives and childbirth education program coordinator Jehan Ellis, DNP, RN, CNL, CPST, all that changed.

“They made me feel empowered; never limited. They never made me feel like I was asking silly questions,” she said. “They were understanding and informative, and they listened to my concerns. I was getting the information I needed to get the best care for my own needs and wishes.”

That is precisely what Ellis hopes to offer local parents.

She said Regional One Health wants to serve as an accessible resource by offering the classes for free. “The more information you have, the more you’ll know how to advocate for yourself. You’ll have a voice,” she said. “It helps decrease the anxiety surrounding childbirth, because the more you know and the better prepared you are, the less fear you have.”

Ellis said the classes are for anyone who will care for a new baby – moms, dads, grandparents, etc. “It’s a way to encourage partners and support team members to be more hands-on,” she said.  “A lot of times they’re trying to figure out where they fit in, and this helps.”

Childbirth education program classes are free for patients at Regional One Health. “The more information you have, the more you’ll know how to advocate for yourself,” says program coordinator Jehan Ellis.

Katherine felt fortunate that she and husband Nicolas David could attend together.

“It really helped us,” she said. “I was happy that he was welcome and that there was information for him too.”

Katherine noted even though pregnancy is a time of joy, it can feel isolating as women wonder if they are alone in their worries and symptoms.

Online research can make things worse: “Now that you can just Google anything, if you have a question yet get 10 different answers!” she said.

It was comforting to hear professionals talk about the medical realities of labor, risks and how doctors handle them, how to treat her body during pregnancy, infant care, first aid, etc. She liked that once she was given the information, she was encouraged to make her own decisions.

She was also happy to leave with take-home materials: “I was able to go back and look at my notes and the handouts – I kind of studied for the test!” she laughed.

Going into the delivery room, Katherine felt prepared to advocate for her birth plan. “I chose Regional One Health and the midwives so I could aim for a natural birth but still have access to medical intervention if necessary. In the end, we felt more confident about what to expect and what to do during labor, and about our skills as parents.”

Ellis said the classes aim to cover all the bases:

Childbirth Class: offered as a one-day class or series of five weekly classes, the course covers pregnancy discomforts, warning signs, signs and stages of labor, types of deliveries, obstetrical problems, postpartum care, birth control, newborn safety and care, CPR, etc.

Regional One Health is the only area health system to offer infant massage as part of its childbirth education program.

Nutrition/Fit4Mom: teaches expecting moms about nutrition and includes either a 30-minute Fit4Mom or prenatal yoga session with cardio, strength, balance and flexibility training.

Infant Safety, Newborn Care and CPR: covers newborn care, procedures and safety so new parents have the skills and information to head home from the hospital with confidence. The class provides hands-on training on choking first aid and CPR, but is not for certification.

Breastfeeding Class: covers benefits of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, feeding cues, helpful tips, community resources and support.

Infant Massage: teaches massage techniques that relax the baby, improve sleep and weight gain and improve the bond between mother and baby to enhance the infant’s emotional health. Women can come before the baby is born or with infants age 3-6 months.

Dynamic Dads: provides a “training camp” for experienced dads, new dads and dads-to-be to provide coping skills and strategies to enhance their parental support and involvement. The class is sponsored by Families Matter, a nonprofit that strengthens families through education.

Signup is available online at www.regionalonehealth.org/classes or by calling 901-545-8449.