Why We’re Flaking On Our Parent Education Classes

At the beginning of the month, Dan and I went to the first of our three parent education classes. When we booked, we had various options to choose from in terms of dates, number of sessions and length of sessions. Because of my photosensitivity, we opted for three lots of two hour sessions as this meant I was under fluorescent lights for the shortest amount of time possible. After our first session, we both came away underwhelmed and have decided that we won’t be going to the other two sessions.

Parent Education Classes

This post isn’t meant as a complaint about the parent education classes, nor am I trying to put people off going. I’m writing this partly to make sense of things in my own mind. But also to highlight that if something doesn’t work for you, you shouldn’t feel obligated to continue. It doesn’t matter what other people think you should or shouldn’t do, if something isn’t right for you and your family, don’t do it!

Why We’re Flaking On Our Parent Education Classes: We Didn’t Learn Anything

Ok, so the first and possibly biggest reason that Dan and I aren’t going back to parent education classes is that neither of us learned anything. We were there for two hours (well, I was – more on Dan later) and didn’t learn anything. The only thing that would’ve been helpful to us was the tour of the birth facilities. Unfortunately, these weren’t accessible for me and resulted in me being unwell at the very beginning of the tour – see ‘Lighting/My Health’.

Why We’re Flaking On Our Parent Education Classes: Lighting/My Health

If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll probably know that lighting is the main trigger for my basilar type (causes loss of consciousness) and hemiplegic migraine. You’ll probably also know that I had to stop the vast majority of my medication to safely try for a baby. This included all of my migraine meds. As a result, my brain’s tolerance for problematic lighting has significantly reduced. I’ve managed to keep my migraine as stable as I have by only leaving the house for medical appointments and select family events. We knew it was likely this would be the case. In fact, we’ve been surprised how stable we’ve been able to keep my migraine. Particularly considering that in years gone by I was loosing consciousness on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, as I’ve said, my tolerance for problematic lighting (which includes fluorescent lights) and significantly reduced. I’ve only been able to manage a maximum of three hours under fluorescents before experiencing noticeable migraine symptoms.

As I mentioned under my ‘We Didn’t Learn Anything’ category, we had some access issues during the birth facilities tour. In fact, we only managed to get half way down the first corridor before I ended up being whisked away into a side room and hooked up to monitors for observation. The reason for this was problematic lighting.

Parent Education Classes

The corridor we were going down lead to the birth pool. The door was open and as it came into view, I got an eye full of violet light – REALLY not helpful! I lost my speech completely and we were concerned I was going to loose consciousness. Thankfully, that didn’t happen – the migraine took the route of a hemiplegic attack, so I lost some sensation and movement down one side of my body. But at least I didn’t end up with a basilar type migraine, which would’ve seen me unconscious.

It’s taken me a while to recover from this. Not helped by a midwife changing the lights without warning, despite it very clearly saying on my notes not to. The ‘violet light incident’ happened on Thursday 1st Feb. But, as I write this on the 7th, I’m still not back to how I was before. Yesterday’s appointment to get my wheelchair caster wheel fixed saw me sat under fluorescents for just two hours. At this point I was experiencing tingling in my cheek – the first place to be affected when I have a hemiplegic attack.

I don’t know whether this is because my tolerance to problematic lighting has lessened as a result of the birth pool lighting issue, or that I’ve not yet fully recovered from the hemiplegic migraine attack it caused. Only time will tell. Either way, I don’t want to be putting myself under fluorescent lighting unnecessary and risking making things worse. Not with getting through birth in a hospital environment (filled with fluorescent lights) to consider! We were lucky it was a hemiplegic migraine and so I didn’t loose consciousness. Next time, we might not be so lucky!

I’m hoping now that the staff have seen just how severely photosensitive I am, we’ll be able to discuss practical ways to keep baby and me safe during birth. Previous responses to my concerns about lighting have been “We can dim the lights, it’ll be fine.” Erm… NO! Fluorescents that have been dimmed still flicker. We might buy ourselves a few more hours, but that’s all and that’s only if people don’t change the lighting without warning!

Why We’re Flaking On Our Parent Education Classes: Inaccessible Information

As well as the accessibility issues in terms of lighting, I also encountered inaccessibility of information. I emailed the person taking our parent education classes to give her a heads up about my needs, including text being in the format of black text on a white background because of my Mears-Irlen syndrome. I received an email saying this was absolutely fine. It even suggesting some things that might make the session more accessible for me! And, while some of these things were put in place, unfortunately the hand outs were on coloured paper. So I can’t read them!

Parent Education Classes

Why We’re Flaking On Our Parent Education Classes: Cost and Travel

While the parent education classes don’t cost anything to attend, travel costs are still a factor. Dan works near the hospital, but an hour away (with good traffic) from our home. I’m not able to push my wheelchair outside without help. So to get to the hospital, I have to take a taxi to the train station, two trains and then a taxi the other side. This costs £16-18 depending on traffic and takes 2 hours, 30 mins. That’s a lot of time, effort and money for something we’re not actually benefiting from.

I had a foetal Doppler scan booked for just before the first parent education class. So I’d’ve had to make my way to the hospital anyway for that. Had I not, I’d be feeling like I’d wasted not only our time, but also quite a significant amount of money.

Why We’re Flaking On Our Parent Education Classes: Dan’s Work

As I’ve said above, Dan didn’t make it to the entire 2 hour class (not that I made it to the end anyway!). Even though the class didn’t start until 7pm, Dan got held up at school dealing with technical issues while recording coursework. So he was about half an hour late.

Dan leaves the house at 6:30am and usually doesn’t get home until 7pm. Often he only just manages to eat something before he falls asleep. So his evenings are precious. The last thing I want is for Dan to be wasting his time and energy on something that has very little benefit, when he could be catching up on his Zs to give him a little more energy to get through the rest of the week.

While Dan and I didn’t find the first session useful and have decided we won’t attend our other two parent education classes, I don’t want this to put others off. I’m under consultant led care, and have a number of complex medical conditions (hEDS, PoTS, basilar type migraine and hemiplegic migraine to name a few). The sessions may well not have been helpful for us because they’re not designed for those with more complex needs. Or it may just be that we’ve done so much research to prepare ourselves that we’ve covered everything ourselves.

Either way, parent education classes aren’t working for us, so we’re going to stop. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be helpful for you. I’m sure there will be a difference in content of classes, depending on where you live. So research what’s available and always do what’s best for you and your family – that’s the most important thing!

Did you attend parent education classes? What was your experience of them?

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Tania Jayne