Get prepared, build community.
You know that birth is big, and you want to be prepared for a great experience — as natural as possible. We've got you! Our natural birth class is fun, interactive and evidence-based.
You know that birth is big and you want to be prepared for a great experience — as natural as possible.
We've got you! Our natural birth classes are fun, interactive and evidence-based.
What do we mean by 'natural birth'?
Throughout time, parents around the world have given birth naturally, without interventions. We believe that birth still works. Our childbirth class focuses on "natural birth," which some people like to call unmedicated birth or physiologic birth. We spend eight weeks exploring the ins and outs of what to expect in labor and how to stack your deck for a great experience.
Modern technology can be very helpful when it's truly needed, even lifesaving. But our system is out of balance. When interventions are used too often, they can actually make birth more difficult and complicated. Our cesarean rate in the United States is 32 percent (really? do a third of us truly need major surgery to give birth?). Many hospitals have epidural rates upward of 80 percent. Inductions are common. If you want a physiologic birth in our system, it takes some work. We'll teach you how birth works and how you can work within the system to meet your goals. Our students often include first-time parents, VBAC families, and even second- or third-time moms who just want learn more and a different experience this time.
Our greatest hope is that you have an informed, centered birth experience that leaves you feeling strong, happy and connected to your baby. Sometimes birth (and life) can throw us some curveballs. We'll prepare you with questions and decision making tools so that if you do need interventions, you will feel good about your choices. We celebrate every birth, even the ones with lots of unexpected twists and turns.
Hear from some birthing parents who've taken our class.
"My husband and I have both recommended this class so many times, it was really great for us. We learned exactly what to expect, to the point where I was completely calm when I went into labor. We were both calm the whole time, actually, and we knew exactly what to do. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, and because we had all the great information from class, I was only at the hospital for two hours before our son was born. Some of my friends who took other classes have told me that they didn’t understand what the doctor was telling them during their birth, so they just let everything happen. In Jessica’s class, we learned all of the terminology, questions to ask, and all of our options. Sometimes in the hospital, they present just one option, and they don’t make it sound like there’s a choice. We knew we had choices! I loved the environment of the class, it was really comfortable, like a bunch of friends, communicating and sharing so we could all learn together. A lot of us are still friends now, too. Jessica is so positive and empowering, she really made us all believe that we could do this. Some people feel like they don’t have time for the class or that they don’t want to invest the money, but I think you really can’t put a price on having a great birth experience. It’s so worth your time and the cost of the class."
Kelsey Banks, Simon's mom
"Even as a science teacher, I learned so much in Jessica’s class, not just about emotions and pain management, but also about the physiology of birth. It was a great opportunity for my husband and I to get on the same page, and to learn and practice things together. It sparked a lot of conversation for us! The community aspect of the class was also wonderful. It was great to form relationships with the other families, and we’re still in touch and getting together with our babies. When I went into labor, I felt really prepared but I also felt ready to let my plans go and just experience the birth. That was really freeing. I like to have a plan, but I also knew that we were ready, no matter how things went, and that it would be OK. I really appreciated the format of the class — there’s information, time to practice, time to talk with other families, and time to talk just the two of us. At the end of every class, it was like, “Are we done already? That went by fast.” Jessica does a great job of pacing things, which is really important for someone who’s pregnant, tired and uncomfortable staying too long in one position. She is also great at giving information in a non-judgmental way — very objective, with lots of different possibilities and choices, without making anyone feel like there’s only one right way. We tell all of our friends that this class is worth every penny."
Beth Keller, Ellie's mom
"My husband and I both had coworkers who told us about the class when we shared that we wanted more of a natural birthing experience. We got so much information during those eight weeks, which helped us make informed, conscientious decisions in our birth. The class also really helped me find my voice. Jessica creates a very laid back, safe environment. Kevin and I believe in putting out the energy that you want to come back to you, so it was great to be in class every week, to be around like-minded families, and to have that weekly reminder that I could do this, that I was made to do this. With my doula’s help, Kevin, and the information we learned in class, we feel great about our birth experience. I still get together with a few of the other moms from class, and we share tips and talk about parenting. I feel like I have a village now."
Adriene Davis, Kevin Jr.'s mom
"I am so grateful to have found Birth Kalamazoo! The birthing class with Jessica and the support of our birth doula Teresa were two huge reasons that the birth of our little boy was such a beautiful experience. The class was great because it challenged us to think critically about what we wanted our birth experience to be like and helped us to think through different aspects of birth that we hadn't even considered before. We went into birth feeling confident, with the knowledge and support we needed to deal with anything that came our way. The additional support Teresa provided as a postpartum doula was amazing, her guidance and care as we navigated the first few crazy weeks of parenting was invaluable, and we can’t wait to see her again when our next child comes."
Olivia Lawson, Quill's mom
"I knew I wanted a natural hospital birth, and that I would need a really in-depth class. My husband wasn’t too sure when I first told him about it, but once we started going to Jessica’s class, he loved it as much as I did. As a researcher and educator myself, I liked that it was spread out over eight weeks so that we could learn, digest the information, and come back and learn some more. We never felt overwhelmed. I really appreciated that we practiced so many comfort techniques, and my husband learned exactly how he could participate during the pregnancy and our birth. I think that helped him jump right into take care of Luellen after she was born too, because he was already used to taking care of us both. The class just made a world of difference for us, and I don’t think our birth would have gone so smoothly if we hadn’t taken it. We learned so many things, and it also got me into a positive, focused mindset, which develops over time — not just one Saturday and done. I think people underestimate how important birth is. It isn’t just about that one day, it’s the start of parenting and it impacts us for a lot of years to come. It’s the foundation of becoming a family. I tell every pregnant woman I meet to get in touch with Jessica English, and that they need to take this class."
Kellen Deau, Luellen's mom
"At our very first meeting, my midwife told me that we needed to take this class. A lot of the things we learned were familiar to me, but Ronni was hearing most of it for the first time. The class opened up so many conversations between us so we could make sure we were on the same page with everything. We learned a lot about what to expect during labor, how to prepare, and lots of different ways to manage the intensity of birth. Everything was interactive and hands on. When I went into labor, we knew what to expect and when I asked Ronni to do something he was able to jump right in and do it, because we had learned and practiced. When I was having a hard time during transition, he was even able to tell me some affirmations, and that gave me the strength to keep going. If you’re having a hospital birth, you need this class to know how to advocate, and if you’re having a home birth, you need the class because you just have to have every tool available to manage without medication. Jessica is fantastic and Birth Kalamazoo is such a great organization. This class is a must before you give birth."
Genevieve Allen, Vincent's mom
“I initially wanted a home birth, so when we decided on a hospital birth instead, I really wanted a great class to help us both prepare. My husband wondered before we started if it was going to be a bunch of hippy dippy voodoo magic, but we were both so happy that it turned out to be all solid, valuable information to help us prepare for our birth. We both enjoyed it so much, and it was really fun and interactive, but not in a weird way. When things got a little crazy and my birth plan went out the window, thanks to Jessica’s class we both knew exactly how to get the information we needed to figure out our options and make choices. And when I couldn’t make choices, Jason was totally ready to step in ask all the right questions. He and my doula gave me amazing support. I tell everyone they should take this class! You get so much great information, more than you ever thought, and it’s current and actually relevant to our local birth culture.”
Tia-Lynne Cook, Phoebe's mom
"We really enjoyed the community aspect of Birth Kalamazoo’s class. I didn’t have any friends who were pregnant at the same time, so it was really nice to be around other families going through the same thing. All of these other families had similar questions and experiences, and there was a lot of camaraderie and excitement. The class was absolutely worth the time and money you’re putting into it. All of our partners were really included in the process, and it was really great for Matt to get the information from someone other than me, and to connect with the other partners too. You can get overwhelmed with so many places to go for information about birth, so it was a nice way to condense the information into once a week, two and a half hours. The time goes by quickly — some nights it felt like the blink of an eye — and it was really nice to leave each class and then talk about everything together afterward. It definitely brought up things that we wouldn’t have ever discussed without the class. The class was also fun, Jessica was never stuffy or unrealistic, and she brought some humor into our discussions. Our birth was pretty textbook, but we also felt prepared for other possibilities, if anything had gone different than we’d hoped. We knew how to make decisions and that it would be OK, whatever happened.”
Emily Betros, Luna's mom
“We have friends who have taken the hospital classes, and they don’t know even 25% of what Travis and I learned in Birth Kalamazoo’s class. We had such a great natural hospital birth, and Travis was such an amazing support person through the whole thing — all 36 hours. He was able to step in and help me through when I was doubting and feeling weak. The level of support he was able to offer would not have happened without the time we spent in class. We both talk about Jessica’s class to every pregnant couple we know or meet. I just want them to understand the amount of preparedness they’re going to get in taking this course. Birth changes your life, and this class will change your life. I felt so good and so prepared going into my birth, it took away so much anxiety. I also think the hospital staff took us much more seriously because we knew what we were talking about. I just loved the class, it was invaluable.”
Madalyn Rose Compton, Isladell's mom
This is what support people (birth partners) have to say.
"Taking Jessica’s class gave me a way to be involved during Beth’s pregnancy. She was doing a lot of reading, but I was focused on other things to get ready for the baby. Going to class every Tuesday really helped me to be fully present and actively involved — during the pregnancy, during the birth and after Ellie was born. We have friends who took another birth class, and they said that none of the other dads were very excited to be there. In Birth Kalamazoo’s class, it was great to be with other partners who really cared and who shared my mindset. I enjoyed all of the hands-on activities, brainstorming and practicing skills. I knew I wanted to be actively involved in the birth, and Jessica’s class taught me how to do that. When Beth was in labor, I felt really confident to be able to help in a lot of different ways, working as a team with our doula. We’d practiced all of the pain-relief techniques in class, so it didn’t feel awkward during the birth and I was able to dive right in and help."
Josh Keller, Ellie's dad
"I knew I needed to do some research going into our birth, but what did I need to know? I didn’t want to go down a rabbit hole, chasing information online. This class gave me concentrated time every Tuesday to focus on getting ready for the birth. For better or for worse, I literally did not do anything else to prepare other than going to this class. Jessica balanced everything nicely with some warmth and crunchiness, but also lots of facts. Some dads who didn't take this class have told me their birth stories, and it sounded like they were scared the whole time. I didn’t want that, and knowledge is power. When Emily went into labor, I knew exactly what we had to do; I knew the process. I’m really glad we took the class, it helped us immensely. I just told my cousin and her husband that they really should take it. I’ll be forever in Jessica’s debt and in our midwife’s debt for helping us having an awesome pregnancy and birth experience."
Matt Semelbauer, Luna's dad
"Jessica’s class was an amazing experience. There was so much great information, broken down into layman’s terms so we could all understand it, and use it. Everything was visual, plus hands-on class participation. It was next level. I also enjoyed being in class with the other families. Everyone comes from a different perspective and applies things in their own way, but we were all on the same journey and we learned from interacting with each other. During the birth, I knew exactly how to help Chelsea with massage, walking, using the birth ball, breathing, and all of the other techniques. I understood where she was in labor, and how I needed to support her at each step. If I hadn’t had Jessica’s class, I think I would have gone in panicking and trying to google things. I can’t imagine a better class, it really exceeded my expectations."
Javonte Lofton, Javonte Harold’s dad
"When I was searching online, Jessica’s class was the one that resonated with me in terms of philosophy, and it was also recommended by a friend. It was a nice excuse to pull myself out of the busyness of work once a week, and really focus on the excitement of getting ready for the birth. We learned a lot of skills, different positions, and how to get the oxytocin flowing. One of my favorite parts of the class was the connection with Jessica and with the other families. I would always look forward to going to class, we’d always laugh a lot. I felt a little nervous about being a two-mom family, but we felt really supported and it ended up being a non-issue. When it came time for the birth, my wife had several days and nights of early labor. On the day things really progressed, we took lots of walks with our dog and had a mini-dance party together at home — all the things we had learned from Jessica. The class was a great experience."
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Persis's mom
"With a busy work schedule, I was initially hesitant to commit my time for the Birth Kalamazoo class. It was absolutely worthwhile and was possibly even more valuable for me than it was for Michelle. As a college professor, I can attest that the class is thoughtfully structured. Content was delivered extremely well, with a focus on practical applications, and Jessica kept it fun, interesting and engaging. We covered a variety of potential scenarios, some of which presented themselves during the birth of our children. I appreciate that Jessica prepared us to communicate with medical providers about patient-centered care because birth is extremely intimate while hospital care can be very clinical. Michelle and I found that Birth Kalamazoo prepared us well, both during labor and for the initial shock of being a parent."
Matt Ross, Maple + Gordon's dad
There are two main types of parents who join our classes:
People having their first baby. We love helping you prepare for this new experience. It's a sweet and important time in your life. Your first birth sets the stage for all your future births.
Parents who didn't have a great birth experience last time. Maybe it was a cesarean, or medication you had hoped to avoid. We love sharing new tools to help you this time around.
Every family is welcomed and celebrated in our space, including LGBTQIA+ parents. Let us know how we can support you.
Taught by one of Southwest Michigan's most experienced childbirth educators.
Hey, I'm Jessica English. I've been teaching childbirth classes in Kalamazoo for almost 15 years. It's my passion and my life's work — I love sharing evidence-based information in creative ways to help families get ready for centered, empowered births.
I started off teaching Bradley Method classes in Kalamazoo, but a few years in, I found that Bradley wasn't quite the right match for me. I wanted to expand my classes outside the Bradley Method philosophy and soften some of the hard edges of their program. So back in 2008, I transferred my certification to Lamaze International and wrote my own curriculum in keeping with the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices (which are amazing, by the way, and no funny breathing patterns either).
Here's a little more about me:
- Lamaze-certified childbirth educator
- Lamaze program director and trainer, which means I train nurses and doulas to become childbirth educators too
- Hired by hospitals around the state to train nurses in labor support skills
- One of only 60 DONA International advanced certified birth doulas in the world
- Birth doula trainer for DONA International
- Certified postpartum doula with DONA International
- Frequent speaker at conferences for doulas, childbirth educators and nurses.
There's nowhere else I'd rather be on a Tuesday night than teaching families about birth. I feel invested in every one of my students, and I'm always available to you if you have questions after class ends (more than once over the years, I've even had a student call or text in labor). My class is constantly changing as information evolves, as I attend births and as I learn creative new teaching techniques.
I'd love to help you get ready for your birth.
Special Coronavirus update
Covid-19 has changed so many things, birth included. No matter what, your little one needs to be born, and they'll definitely have a great origin story.
We can offer you the great education you need to prep for for a positive birth experience. To help keep our community safe, we've taken all of our childbirth classes online. The course is live, highly interactive, and still customized to people who are interested in the natural birth process. If you live in SW Michigan, we can tell you exactly what to expect in our local hospitals. And if you're joining from another area, we'll prep you with the exact questions to ask to get the information you need. We'll talk through options and policies, so that you can envision what a healthy, positive birth looks like during the pandemic.
Here's what our student Jess shared about her Zoom class experience:
Jessica's birth class offered a wealth of information. Even on Zoom, everything was well structured with a nice balance of interactive activities, short lectures, discussions, and demonstrations with plenty of time for questions and check-ins. Jessica's warm and personable approach allowed the group to build camaraderie while meeting virtually, and our group is continuing to stay in touch after the class to support each other. It was so empowering to be part of a group that speaks positively about the natural birth process. I not only feel more educated about childbirth but I also have more trust in my own body. I couldn't imagine going through this journey without the tools and support offered through this class.
Zoom is not complicated at all to use, you'll just need to download the app on your computer or phone. We'll be able to see each other face-to-face, with live interaction. This isn't your average Zoom meeting, though, folks. Classes include group brainstorming on a virtual white board, small group breakout activities, card sorts that you and your support person can do together, hands-on comfort measures, practicing positions for labor, enjoying relaxation exercises, watching birth videos, and more. You questions are answered live in real time, and you get to benefit from the questions other families ask too. We're also building community by getting to know each other over our two months together. Community with other new families is even more important than usual right now!
Another recent student, Jenna, had this to say about the virtual classes:
"When my husband and I finished our last class with Jessica, the first thing we did was look at each other and agree that the class had been worth every penny and minute we spent on it. Even in a virtual format due to pandemic restrictions, this class was the best investment we made in preparing for our first child's birth. We found the virtual format to actually be a bonus for us — it saved us drive time, allowed us to have a little more flexibility in our evening, even with a longer class, and we still had plenty of opportunities to learn from Jessica and interact with other families. I found myself really missing the classes in the weeks after we finished. This class covers more than the basics and mechanics of birth — it gave my husband and I time to process and discuss and plan together in a way I had never considered possible or necessary. It is a direct result of this class that it feels like we are truly 'in this together' in a way I didn't even know was needed or possible. He has strategies to support me, I have language to let him know what I need to feel supported, and our child is coming into a partnership that was strengthened because of this class. It also helps that I don't have to explain every detail of pregnancy and birth to him anymore — he now has the knowledge and the language to understand, sympathize, and process what's happening, as well as to support me. Our culture tends to put pregnancy and birth squarely on the shoulders of the birthing parent, but Jessica has done a beautiful job of helping us find ways to share and participate in pregnancy and birth together, as a family. It is a lovely and meaningful way to transition to parenthood. I can't thank Jessica enough for the good work she's doing, and I can't recommend this class any more highly.”
In a time when lots of things are unusual and a little wonky, we'll make the class experience feel normal for you and your support person. Birth still works. You'll benefit from high-quality prep.
We're also offering a free, personalized 20-minute phone or Zoom call to every family who takes an online class. These interactions usually happen before or after an in-person class anyhow, and it's a lovely way to connect and get your personal situation addressed directly.
We'll be holding our live, interactive classes online until at least the spring of 2021. (We'll reassess for the classes that begin May 25, August 24, and October 19, and we'll get creative if needed; a hybrid series with some virtual and some in-person meetings might be possible, for example.) Research shows that pregnant people are four to five times more likely than their peers to be hospitalized and need a ventilator if they contract Covid-19, and we just can't take that risk with your health. Plus, current executive orders in Michigan call for masks and social distancing until we are post-pandemic, and we can't imagine not being able to see your faces. Your Zoom class will be an interesting sidelight of your baby's birth story, and hopefully your class can have a big in-person reunion with your babies when things are more normal.
We're excited to help you prepare for this little one! Check out the details and get registered below.
Ready to get signed up?
Our classes often fill early, so we encourage you to sign up as soon as you can.
An 8-week series
Tuesday nights, 6 - 8:30 p.m.
Each series includes six classes of
childbirth ed, a breastfeeding class
and a final class on the 4th trimester
August 24 - October 12, 2021
MAY BE VIRTUAL, HYBRID OR IN-PERSON
(pandemic pending... it's looking good for in-person!)
**FULL** Please email Jessica for wait list or
info on a possible second series, or private classes
October 19 - December 14, 2021
(no class Nov. 16)
PLANNED AS AN IN-PERSON CLASS
Can't make Tuesdays? Finding us too late to fit in a full series?
Check out our private classes
Combined series (birth, breastfeeding + 4th trimester)
- Our eight-week series includes six weeks of birth class, a week of breastfeeding and one week of fourth trimester/postpartum education. Pay in full or make a $150 deposit when you register.