Dr. Robert Bradley, creator of the Bradley Method of natural childbirth teaches that, “A trained husband can do more for comfort and relaxation for his wife, than any amount of medication,” and that is our hope and desire for our own labor and delivery. Unfortunately, having an unmedicated, natural childbirth in American society these days does not just happen without a lot of training and support. Sure, for thousands of years women have been delivering babies au natural, and even today in other cultures around the world mommas are welcoming babies into the world in that same manner, but in the past several generations here in America, mothers-to-be who desire a more primal or natural form of childbirth are a rare breed.
In fact, I find that some people look down upon me for wanting an unmedicated birth, with comments like, “You aren’t one of those women who are going to deliver naturally are you?” Look people, I know it’s not going to be easy. I know it will be work. But our bodies were created to do this. Yes, at times it will be painful, but also oh, so beautiful. Plus, I hear that the endorphin high you get right after a natural delivery is better than any buzz you can fabricate with narcotics.
So we have chosen the Bradley Method as a tool for childbirth. Dr. Bradley puts a strong emphasis on the role of the coach during childbirth, who in my case is husBen. We are two weeks into a 12-week Bradley Method course, which is being taught inside the instructor’s home. We, along with three other couples longing to experience natural childbirth, are journeying together towards our due dates, which are all within one month of each other. We love our instructor, and I look forward to reaping the benefits of this training.
During our first class session, Kimberly, our instructor, along with the support of her husband, taught us several exercises, which we are to practice daily. Our class binder has a chart in which to track our progress. The four couples spread out across the living room and worked through the squats, pelvic rocks, Kegels, and butterfly exercises so common to the Bradley Method. My semi-regular yoga practice came in handy, but others were able to grasp on to the practice very quickly as well.
I find that the exercise I am struggling with the most is Relaxation. Yes, there is an entire category on my weekly exercise chart for daily relaxation. A whole 20 minutes worth! In fact, by Week 4 of the class, we are to practice 30 minutes of relaxation and by Week 6, relaxing times in at 40 minutes. Doesn’t Dr. Bradley know I’ve got stuff to do? With each week of the pregnancy, just as my belly grows bigger, so too does my To Do List. And yet, what I am finding from my readings and our classes is that being able to relax in the midst of a stressful time—let’s say, like during childbirth—will help husBen and I partner together well in the delivery room. And so we practice relaxing. I’m still not a pro, but I hope by the time we’re ringing in the new year, I’ll be relaxing with the best of them.
The Bradley Method is just one of many options for natural childbirth. If you are interested in attempting an unmedicated delivery, you may also want to explore Lamaze, hypnobirthing, renting a birthing tub, midwives, or hiring a Doula assist you during your labor. The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves.” Doulas are trained professionals who offer physical, emotional and informational support before, during, and after delivery. If you find the right doula, she can be a great “wing man” for your partner in the delivery room, getting down and dirty with the two of you through the stages of labor. However you plan to birth, I hope you are doing your homework, asking questions, and finding the support you need.
With all the attention we are giving to our labor and delivery, I have a growing concern that we aren’t going to know what to do with the baby after he or she is born. Does anybody have any suggestions on good books, DVDs, or classes on caring for a newborn? Sure, we’ll be as prepared as possible for childbirth, but what do we do when we get home with the baby?