A midwife in Hay River is putting a new spin on prenatal classes in her community – by inviting everyone to come together to share their birth stories.
“It’s an opportunity just to facilitate people sharing knowledge with each other,” explained Heather Heinrichs, the midwife behind the new program, which most recently took place on July 23 at the town’s health centre.
At the first birth story night a month and a half ago, Heinrichs said her role as facilitator was minimal – people were eager to share – but she’s ready to step in and answer questions and support the conversation if needed.
“A lot of people have a lot of knowledge from their various experiences giving birth and there’s no way to predict what birth is going to be like,” she told Cabin Radio.
“If we have a wide variety of people sharing all the different ways that birth happened for them, then people who are expecting and having their first baby will be able to learn a lot more and feel a lot more confident going into the birth process.”
Heinrichs hasn’t heard of health centre-led sharing circles like this before, but said these conversations have always happened organically.
“When you get a group of people with young babies together, they’re naturally always sharing their birth stories,” she said.
She got the idea to host an event in part because the health centre wanted to offer a more interesting approach to prenatal classes, and in part because she was talking to a client who wished they’d heard more stories of water births before giving birth – but did not know who to talk to in the community. Heinrichs realized she could connect people in Hay River so they could learn from each others’ experiences.
The first event came together at the last minute but Heinrichs said the response was impressive – even though many people who wanted to come were tied up playing softball.
“I think we had about five or six people come who were very excited, and said they wanted to bring their friends because it was such a great little experience: to hang out and chat about birth and early parenting.”
Heinrichs would like to see the program become a regular occurrence, and hopes people who haven’t yet given birth come back with their babies to share their stories with others who are newly pregnant.