John and I took a ten week course on the Bradley Method before we had Stella and planned on a natural birth. We did not end up fulfilling our hope to do so and have been asked if we regret spending the time and money on the course. The answer is no way, not at all! We are both so glad we took the class and still feel it was a huge asset to us in the birth of our daughter. Sometimes I feel like a runaway Bride trying to preach about the sanctity of marriage when I try to explain why we feel the class was time well spent. It’s true that since we did not have a natural birth, we are not ideal advocates for The Bradley Method. Still, I wanted to write this post for myself and perhaps anyone else who feels like we do or might be thinking about taking The Bradley Method.
We have had many conversations about our birth experience since Stella. We (ok mostly me) have discussed the gritty details of her birth, my rocky recovery and what our plans will be if we have another baby with each other, my girlfriends, other couples and even random strangers in the grocery store. When you travel with a newborn, these things come up. One question that comes up a lot…Would we try again for a natural birth via VBAC or just have another C-section? I can’t really say now what we would do, as I have learned having a baby is humbling. It requires a lot of flexibility and the ability to cope with the unexpected. There were many variables that led up to our C-section. Would we make the same choices again? Probably not. Could we have altered the outcome? Maybe. I have decided to stop torturing myself about it and just be grateful for my healthy girl. The beautiful child playing in her Froggy Bouncer in front of me as I write this post. What I do know for sure is that I would still use many of the invaluable tools we picked up in our Bradley Class.
We took a class with Nicole Green of The Birth School. She is based in Irvine, CA and we found her on the internet. We decided to take the Bradley Method because my Sister and Brother-in-law recommended it to us after the birth of their daughter Madeleine. Our class met every Sunday afternoon for ten weeks in Nicole’s home with about 7-8 other couples of varying backgrounds and intentions. The couples were planning a variety of home births, birth center births and hospital births (like us). Nicole was a fantastic instructor. She was the perfect blend of open, sincere, funny and informed. I did not feel like she was dogmatic or overbearing ever. Maybe most importantly, she was somehow able to make John comfortable. John is typically pretty anxious with new people and sharing personal space and details. Because the Bradley Method is hinged on the partner or husband coached birth, her ability to make the men comfortable is really critical. They have to buy in. John did and I believe it had a huge impact on our total experience and brought us much closer, especially when the going got tough.
Here are the things I felt were most important that we gained from taking the class and how they played a role in our birth. Our nurses (we met three shifts of nurses before we met Stella) all complimented us on our knowledge and preparation. One told us she wished more couples were like us.
1. An education on pregnancy and birth, the biological process and the stages of labor. Also the various procedures, medications and tools that would or could be introduced in birth and the argument for natural birth. We took the time in advance to evaluate the pros and cons/risks. We had to make a lot of choices during our birth. It was comforting to have already discussed these things with each other in a less dramatic space. We did not need a lengthy explanation and time to freak out, process and decide. We had a birth plan that our nurses taped to the wall for us at the hospital, it also included a list of requests in the event of a C-section. What a relief it was to have that ready to go.
2. Good pregnancy nutrition and exercise. Understanding why certain foods are beneficial and in what ways. I definitely ate better and more wisely because of this information. John cooks a lot of our meals and he prepared and encouraged me to eat the right foods. We learned exercises to prepare for birth, toning the muscles you will use, squats to prevent episiotomy, kegels for la la la, etc. John cheered me on.
3. Breastfeeding and the huge benefits to the baby. I don’t know if we would have fought so hard to breastfeed Stella if we had not been coached on this. I’m so glad we were.
4. Techniques for relieving pain. Though I did eventually give in to an epidural (which I regret now as I don’t feel it did much more than numb my body, probably due to my red hair). The pitocin contractions were really
strong insane. I believe I lasted much longer without an epidural by using these techniques and at least kept her exposure to the drugs a little more limited.
5. Relaxation and Meditation. We practiced this a fair amount beforehand. This was critical for me in the end. During my labor I listened to a playlist of my music and tried to focus and stay relaxed. But, where it really came in handy was after my C-section. After they brought Stella to me to try and nurse, I was left in a recovery room all by myself for a really long time. One of my machines kept ringing loudly like a doorbell and it sounded like something was wrong. Nobody came to check on me or the machine, eventually I started to try to yell for help, but no one heard me, no one came for a long time. I was scared and I had to call on my meditation skills to really calm myself down and stay relaxed. I kept visualizing holding Stella and telling myself it would be just a little longer. I ultimately was in recovery for about four hours before I was reunited with my baby and John.
6. Managing stress and centering each week. It was a blessing that we took class on Sunday afternoons. It was such a nice way to start each week and put my focus back on the pregnancy. I had a really stressful and demanding job at this time and if I had not taken this class I think I would have let work override the much more important job I was doing, growing a healthy baby.
7. Husband as Coach. This is the best thing about the Bradley Method as far as I am concerned. John really understood how critical it was for him to be there for me, support me, relax me and show me unconditional love. We learned so many ways for him to do all this. I cannot imagine going through this experience without that level of devotion and involvement from him. Even later with breastfeeding, where I think we were put to an even more grueling, five-week test, John was there for me. I don’t know if he would have had the skills and shared commitment to breastfeeding had we not taken the class. The bond we formed gave us a strong foundation that prepared us for birth as a unified team. I think we are also better, calmer and more confident parents too.
The Bradley Method will definitely shape any future birth plans we may have. Because of everything listed above I was able to remain fairly calm (minus the barfing) as they wheeled me to the operating room and throughout the surgery. We were prepared, even for this outcome. I am not going to pretend we were not disappointed to end up having a C-section birth with Stella, but we are still ultimately thrilled we had a healthy, beautiful baby and that we took the time to prepare for her arrival.