By Geneva Slupski
When Martha Morales, PhD, MSN, RN, LCCE, FACCE was pregnant with her first child in the 1970s, few options were available to expectant mothers who wanted to practice Lamaze.
Then a NICU nurse in El Paso, Texas, Morales became certified in Lamaze and worked with colleagues to start the first class in the area. More than 40 years later, she had another opportunity to introduce the prepared childbirth course to parents-to-be in Las Cruces, N.M.
An assistant professor at New Mexico State University School of Nursing, Morales started the course in 2013 as a creative way to help nursing students complete some of their mother/baby curriculum requirements. Word about the classes quickly spread in the community, prompting the school of nursing to add more classes for Las Cruces residents. Held in NMSU’s School of Nursing lab and Memorial Lounge of the College of Health and Social Services building, the free class is taught by nursing faculty and at least two students.
“People think Lamaze is natural, which they think means no meds, but that’s not the philosophy of Lamaze,” said Morales, who has two children. “It’s to help you deal with your labor more on your own at home [before going to the hospital].”
Preparing for childbirth is no different than preparing for school,” Morales said.
“Gaining the knowledge for having a safe and healthy birthing process provides the expectant woman the confidence in her ability to give birth and nourish her children. Parents deserve to learn that childbirth is a truly joyful experience.”
NMSU nursing students learn the philosophy of Lamaze, Morales said, which includes making sure the mom has a support person, allowing labor to begin on its own, changing positions frequently and maintaining mother and baby contact following birth. While teaching the class, Morales has her students go around the room and check on couples during exercises, assisting them with proper counting and breathing techniques. Students also pitch in if a woman’s partner is absent.
“It takes them a little while to get comfortable,” Morales said of her students. “They’ve never done teaching in public. They’ve mostly done hospital work with sick people and these are healthy pregnant women.”
Another class was added in November 2014 to accommodate the increasing interest in the community. Since Morales and her students began teaching Lamaze, at least one local hospital has asked for her curriculum to better accommodate parents interested in the technique, she said.
Nursing students not only learn how to work with this population, but they also learn from them.
With plans to work for two years as a labor and delivery nurse before studying midwifery at the University of New Mexico, Maia Porras said working in Morales’ Lamaze class was an ideal fit. Porras, who expects to graduate with a BSN in May, participated in two six-week classes and recently shadowed a midwife, assisting with asessments and exams and witnessing a home birth. During a show-and-tell portion of the last Lamaze class, mothers who already had delivered their babies shared their experiences, Porras said. She noticed some of the women were disappointed with their birth experiences.
“They felt like they had no say or input to their birthing process once they entered the hospital,” Porras said. “When I’m a nurse I will do my best to educate my families and encourage an open communication to decrease anxiety.”
Geneva Slupski is a freelance writer.