I would like to preface this post by saying that my opinions are just that, my opinions. I am simply sharing what worked for me and my husband and I am in no way preaching about what other women or couples should do. Everyone should seek the education and resources they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. Additionally, I am in no way discrediting anyone else's labor and delivery. Birth is a genuine miracle no matter what method you subscribe to and no matter how your beautiful child(ren) came into this world.
As I mentioned in a past post, my husband and I decided to follow the Bradley Method for the birth of our son. I had no idea what it was or that it even existed before getting pregnant. Labor and delivery was something I was very anxious about right from the get go. It was intimidating to me and down-right scary. Believe it or not, I would even hope that I had a C-section because I was so scared of a vaginal birth and I knew for sure I would be getting an epidural at the first signs of a contraction.... I was clearly uneducated and in need of some schooling ASAP!
I had learned about the Bradley Method from a dear friend of mine and I immediately started doing some research. Everything I kept reading about sounded perfect for me and my personality. I've had a past history of hyperventilating when I was in scary or stressful situations. I certainly did not want that happening to me while I was pregnant and giving birth to my baby. The fact that Bradley Method helps to prepare you both mentally and physically for labor and delivery as well as gives your husband an active role throughout the entire process had me signing us up for a class right away.
The classes are 12 weeks long. At first we were a bit sceptical about that. Why do they need to be so long? The answer is simple... The classes literally cover every aspect of pregnancy, labor, birth, and even the "4th trimester" after the baby is born. On top of the basics you also learn about medical interventions and how so many of them are not necessary for laboring mothers and how you can talk to your nurses and doctors instead of letting them take over and run the show. When a doctor tells you, "we are going to start administering Pitocin at this time because you have plateaued and we should start moving things along," how can you not agree? They are doctors and know what they are talking about, right?
Yes, they do know what they are talking about and it is very possible that Pitocin will speed things along if you have plateaued, but once things get forced into an unnatural state by drugs contractions worsen which you may or may not be able to handle after however many hours you've already been laboring for... blood pressure could rise because now your body is in even more of a "stress" level... and by now you are just welcoming a slew of many other possible medical interventions just because someone else wanted to "move things along." Learning about many of the medical interventions and whether or not they were truly important was very valuable to us. **If you are in an emergency situation and a doctor or nurse explains that a medical intervention is necessary then of course it should not be questioned or rejected. The health of you and your baby is most important and I firmly believe most nurses and doctors are doing their best to protect their patients.
We also learned about the importance of nutrition and exercise throughout my pregnancy which not only has a direct impact on the health of your baby but also your labor and delivery. Going through labor is like being an athlete in a major event that you need plenty of training for. While pregnant I amped up my protein intake in a major way. This was not only good for my baby but also for my beloved perineum. Did you know that by upping your protein intake you can strengthen your perineum in order to prevent natural tearing or an episiotomy? I have that along with the always fun kegels, which I took VERY seriously by the way, to thank for not tearing during my delivery. Not one stitch touched my body. That is a big deal to me!
The Bradley Method was instrumental in helping my husband and I be aware of what was happening to my body throughout every stage of labor. We were able to both remain calm and we stayed safely at home for as long as I could possibly stand it before going to the hospital. Our classes had also taught us a number of partner techniques that we could follow during labor to help get through the contractions. We had them all down pat and I had even identified the few that I liked the best and thought we would try first. HA! That seems funny now because once labor started I did not want to move much at all. Just the idea alone of moving made me crazy! At least we had the partner techniques to fall back on if we really needed them.
In addition to the physical aspects we learned from our Bradley classes, I also learned how to mentally prepare myself for labor. The most important lesson... Breathing is your friend. I had figured out that it took 5 very... slow.... deep... inhales and exhales to get through the toughest of my contractions. Once I started to focus on counting down from 5 instead of the pain itself, I was able to remain calm and get through a 12 hour labor. That was the mental component that I was talking about. If you let nature take over and run its course and stay calm, you can get through anything.
Overall I had a lovely birth experience. I was in the moment, I was aware of my baby's every move and was able to appreciate what my body was actually doing. My husband was actively participating in the event and we were a team. Was it painful? Yes. There is no getting around that. But I had the tools to get through the pain without any medical interventions. Everything we learned in our 12 weeks was very valuable to us. I started those classes feeling very nervous and scared about labor and delivery and by the end of our sessions I felt calm, confident and ready for the birth of our son. I felt well informed and educated on all of the things I was questioning and more importantly, about the things I wasn't even aware of.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the Bradley Method is what worked for me. All I hope to leave you with is that even if you are horribly afraid of labor and you are certain that you will get an epidural, which is absolutely fine if that is what you ultimately decide, I just hope you at least educate yourself to make the best possible choice for you. I never in a MILLION years thought that I would have sought out to have a natural childbirth. The Bradley Method gave me the information and the confidence to make a firm decision that will remain the proudest moment of my life. And hey, I give notable credit to my amazing husband, Dr. Bradley, the nurses and my doctor but when it truly comes down to it... It was AAAALL ME, baby!! I did it. And so can you!
Are you pregnant and thinking about how you want your birth to go? Did you have a natural childbirth? What's your story?