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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My experience with natural childbirth and the Bradley Method

An article taken from
When we found out we were expecting our first child, we carefully sought out information about natural childbirth. The reason for this was really plain and simple: I was terrified of the epidural. So, in an effort to avoid a needle being pierced through my skin at the bottom of my spine while being asked to lie still in the middle of a contraction, we opted for natural childbirth.My husband and I sought out information on natural childbirth. We mostly learned of Lamaze. But, in my searchings, we discovered The Bradley Method. This is a method developed by Dr. Bradley years ago, and is based on what he learned from watching farm animals give birth without medication. While, a pregnant human woman is a far cry from a pig or a cow, there are similarities in how mammals conduct themselves in an effort to bring forth new life with a minimal amount of discomfort. We found a Bradley instructor nearby, and signed up for the 12 week course. Yes - 12 weeks. It is a commitment to both you and your spouse. For 12 weeks, we sat in the basement of our Bradley instructor’s house & learned about relaxation techniques. We learned how to position pillows to assist in relaxing. We learned techniques of focusing on pleasant, relaxing thoughts such as an ocean wave or Bible verses or songs that bring comfort. We also learned about how God made our bodies to be able to give birth. We learned a great deal about our diet: what to eat and not eat while pregnant. Namely, I ate a lot of protein. We watched videos and read articles & learned a great deal about natural childbirth. It was much more than panting and focusing on a focal point. My OB/GYN commented thatwhen we completed the course, we knew more than he knew after years of medical school.

I don’t know about knowing more than my doctor, but after 12 weeks of classes, we felt prepared. My husband had his coaching cards complete with tips of what to say to me when I went into labor. I even had a little t-shirt & onesie ready for the baby with the Bradley logo ironed on - which I was actually still ironing on while in labor. We learned and prepared ourselves for the stages of labor - early labor - transition, etc. But, nothing can really prepare a woman for that moment of transition.

While, an at-home birth looked very appealing to us, those thoughts of “what-ifs” rang in my head. So, we opted for a natural birth at the hospital. Well, as natural as they allow at a hospital. With our birth plan in hand, with our first child, we arrived at the hospital almost ready to go after several hours of at-home labor. I delivered naturally just a few short hours after arriving to the hospital. We managed to avoid the epidural.Our second child involved just slightly shorter labor. But, my husband almost got to deliver her himself, like he had been trained in the Bradley course. When we arrived at the hospital, the staff checked me in and then they checked out. They were so busy with other mothers in labor, that they called my doctor and then pretty much just left me alone. Not long later, my baby’s head was crowning with no hospital staff to be found. I watched the precious look on my husband’s face as he looked at me, then looked at the nurse’s buzzer. I could read his thoughts: “I trained for this, I could catch this baby. But, what if something goes wrong? What should I do?” as he pushed the buzzer and said, “Um, I can see the baby’s head, can somebody tend to my wife?” In no time, about 5 doctors, nurses and hospital staff were by my side. I heard the baby cry & then was shaking hands with a woman who introduced herself as the house doctor. She had just delivered my baby. Then, my doctor arrived. We still got the bill.

Then, came my third child. After 3 miscarriages in between, she is technically my 6th child, so I should have been prepared for a quick delivery, but I wasn’t. I began my labor in our jacuzzi. Transition, once again, hit. But, as with the others, no training prepares you for transition, and I just thought I was in for a long, rough labor. I never have a clue transition is happening until after the fact. All through this pregnancy, my husband and I had tried to find our Bradley book with no luck. We looked everywhere. My husband wanted to get refreshed on his coaching duties. We never found that book, but everything we needed to do all came back to us. Very early in the morning after only 3-4 hours of labor, my husband put our other two children into the car and came back into the house to get me to go to the hospital. He came into the room and announced, “all we need is you.” I looked at him and said, “oh, no. I’m not getting in the car.” I knew it was time. He then said, “15 minutes, I’ll drive fast.” I said, “Oh, you don’t understand.” At that, he asked what I wanted him to do. I told him to see if there was a head and if so, catch the baby. And, yes, I was that calm. He did! We then called the paramedics who brought our children into the house to meet their miracle sister. All that Bradley training came back in the time of need.

My only regret is that I didn’t stay in that jacuzzi. If I had, I could have had the water birth I always dreamed of but was too afraid to try.

Whatever method you chose to birth your child. Don’t be afraid of the pain. The real pain is only really for such a short amount of time, though when you’re in the middle of it, it does seem like an eternity. The joy you experience once your child is born is beyond measure. There is nothing like the sensation of having an active part of birthing your baby. It’s indescribable. And, it is usually faster since epidurals can quite often slow labor down and creating a situation where a c-section becomes the method of delivery. I’m so glad I experienced natural childbirth.

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