The idea of having to give birth is something many people find distasteful.
But the class in which women have to give their baby a name and the ceremony that follows has also been a hit with many parents.
“It is something that many people are more comfortable with,” says Elizabeth Kostesz, a clinical psychologist who teaches the class at the University of Michigan.
It is a tradition that has roots in Greek mythology and that has been passed down through the generations, Kostiesz says.
“In ancient Greece, childbirth was a ceremony that took place at the river.
The women and children were gathered around a shrine and were given food and drink and had the baby named for them.”
In the ancient world, it was the woman who was given the name and who gave birth.
For many of us who were born in the 1960s and 70s, the idea of giving birth to a baby was something that was a source of great shame, says Nancy Dutton, a mother and teacher who has taught the class since 2005.
“But it was also a celebration of the birth itself, of the woman being able to have the baby and to be proud of her child,” Dutton says.
Dutton teaches the first-year class to first-time parents, who typically come from working-class backgrounds and are looking for ways to provide their children with a better start in life.
“There are certain things that a lot of women feel, particularly when it comes to childbirth, that they are afraid of,” she says.
When Dutton first taught the first year class, it had a very diverse student body, including birthing mothers who were single and single mothers, she says, as well as those who were both working mothers and single moms.
But now, it has grown to include people who are not married or who have never been married, says Dutton.
“I think what is really exciting about this class is the diversity and how people come from all different backgrounds, all different occupations, all from all over the country and all across the country,” she adds.
The class also includes a section on birthing practices, including how to dress and what to expect when you give birth, which is part of what makes it such a popular course, says Kostysz.
“One of the things that we talk about is how to talk to the parents, how to be a good parent and how to respect their autonomy and their desire to have a good life, but we also talk about what the health benefits of giving a birth are and how it is important to talk about that,” she explains.
In the class, mothers share their own experiences of giving their baby names and a story about a birth.
“We talk about the things we have done in our lives, things that are important to us and the things they want to know,” Kostiez says of the class.
“When we have mothers share experiences, we try to highlight those experiences and that is what I like about this program.
It gives the mothers an opportunity to talk with their mothers, but also to listen and learn about how to give a baby a new name.”
For parents like Nancy Dickson, who has worked in the health field for more than 30 years, the classes has given her a sense of empowerment.
“These are the mothers who are willing to be out there and say, ‘I know I have it in me that I can do this,'” Dickson says.