labor, delivery, and bradley- oh my!

July 20, 2009

i mentioned very briefly here before that we're planning a natural birth. i've shied away from the topic before because people can feel so strongly about it. it's a hot button issue these days that women use to judge other women. but it's probably about time to get the damned thing out in the open. and just to be clear, i mean natural birth as in no drugs. because my (male) cousin was under the impression that natural just meant vaginal, as he told me that, "yes she had the boys naturally, besides the epidural." so, that's not exactly what i'm talking about here.

we're doing the bradley method. and no, we weren't able to take the classes. i know the classes are the biggest part of bradley but they are 12 weeks long and we would have either had to start in march (before i decided to embark on this nightmare) or now in july and not make it to the final classes. so we're reading the books instead and counting on the fact that we have an excellent history of working together as a team.

quickly: if you're not familiar with the bradley method he is the guy who way back in the day started the "husband-coached" birthing trend. the very basic bones of it is a) know the stages of labor b) prepare your body ahead of time and learn relaxation techniques for when it's going to suck c) labor at home as long as possible before going to the hospital d) no drugs, avoid unneeded medical interventions e) husband = partner who is going to help you relax. you can learn more here.

why? i never guessed i would be interested in a natural birth. it's going to hurt. but as i read extensively about my options i started to change my mind. a few of the reasons... i want to be able to be active in the birthing process- i don't want to be trapped down on a bed. i don't like the way pain killers make me feel and i don't like their side effects. i want to help my body do it's job as best as i can. i'm freaked out by the high rate of c-section in the US. it's alarming. i don't think that women who give birth naturally are any different or better than any other option. you need to do what's right for you. but some things stuck out to me when reading other people's birth stories, like the number of women who labored all the way to 7 or 8 cm and then got the epidural. you were almost there! you did all the hard work already! or the women who went into the hospital too early and ended up with tons of medical interventions that they probably didn't need. or most shockingly, the number of women for whom the epidural didn't work. or only worked on one side. or they turned it off during the pushing. so what was the point? you may as well have been able to walk around and get comfortable in your own way if it wasn't going to work anyway. regardless of if you are having an epidural or not you are going to have to do part of the laboring on your own without drugs. because they won't even give you one until you are a certain amount dilated- they won't even admit you to the hospital.

i know i'm probably screwing myself over by putting this out there, but plenty of women for years and years have been able to give birth without drugs. is it fun? pain-free? hell no. but i think i can do it. or at least try to do it. and i think it helps to not have totally unreal expectations about what's going to happen. if it turns out i have a puttering labor and i'm stuck halfway for 20 hours? you know what, i might get an epidural. and i'll be ok with it because it will be my decision that will work best for how my labor is progressing.

so here's the part that i feel confused about. if you really want to have a natural birth, they say you have to REALLY want it. be committed. be devoted. work work work. and people feel strongly that it's the only way to go (dooce wrote a pretty intense post about her sudden choice to go natural here). but, if you set yourself up for this specific event and then that doesn't happen, say the baby is in distress and you need help, or you labor for like 30 hours and want an epidural so you can rest, or the baby is breech and you have to have a c-section, then you've set yourself up to feel like a complete failure. so how do you care about having a natural birth without hanging all your hopes and dreams on this one path that might change at any moment? that's where it's ambiguous. care, but don't care too much. but care a lot, or it won't happen. the good news is regardless of how things go down hopefully you have a healthy baby.

as i mentioned before, i think natural birth is tricky to talk to people about. many other ladies think you're out of your mind and aren't very encouraging (cough cough... everyone at my office). to the point of being pretty jerky about it. i was really afraid of this. i've actually lucked out so far though. when i mentioned it visiting my dad's side of the family last weekend several of my cousins and my aunt were all excited and supportive about it and even shared some of their own natural birthing stories, which i had no idea about. and my doctor's office has been really cool with it for such a large practice ob/gyn. they have even made a little note in my chart about it and encouraged me to ask lots of questions so i'm prepared and given me the ok to labor at home as long as possible.

it seems like a fair number of the women who choose to "go natural" do it with their second (or more) baby. they do it the standard old OB way first and then when they know what to expect they know more about their options. as a first timer it's a little more scary. no, i've never done this before. i have no idea what it's going to be like, or how bad it's going to hurt. i don't have any preconceived notions about how it's going to play out. i guess you just have to have confidence that you can do it and then try like all hell. and when people play that card in conversation, "oh you have NO idea how bad it's going to hurt" they're right. i don't. how do you respond to that? of course i don't, but thanks for your support? that kind of negativity about it bums me out, i'm not going to lie.

i read an analogy of it that i thought was really interesting:
When someone says they want to run a marathon in a year, the people around them say, “Great!” and during the year as the marathon date approaches, the runner practices, sweats, grunts, deals with blisters, sore feet, sore knees, sweaty clothes, changes in diet, time schedules, sleep schedules and even being obsessed with the upcoming event. During a marathon, people stand on the sidelines, cheering, howling, offering encouragement and nourishment throughout the race.

THIS is what birth can be compared to… except within our culture, if birth were a marathon, people would throughout the training period say things like, “Oh, c’mon… what are you thinking? Why would you want to do something so hard when you can just take a car the 26 miles? Wouldn’t you see the same sights? You’d get to the end point just the same.”

And during the race, people would say, “Oh, you look so tired. You look miserable… aren’t you ready to quit yet? Look, I have my car right here… just jump in and I’ll give you a ride. Oh, you are falling down and trying to get back up? Why are you putting yourself through all of this misery? It isn’t like you’re going to get a medal or anything.”
no, of course you don't get a medal. we all end up at the same place. but that doesn't make it a worthless endeavor. so natural is the goal. with lots of understanding that things can and will change, and hopes for lots of luck.



kudos to you for choosing this and blogging about it!

Ky (Two Pretzels)

Seriously - YAY for you. That's so awesome. I love that you're taking control of your birthing experience.

I don't know what it is with the judgement that surrounds births. I had the had the 'ole emergency c-section and I kid you not, felt like a huge FAILURE of a woman. It's now been a month and I'm owning my scar, my body and my story... but I tell you what, I felt like a big 'ole "L" for Loser was stamped on my forehead.

I wish you ALL the best.

P.S. A friend of mine did the Bradley Method last month VERY, VERY successfully. It was also her first birth. You can totally do it.

(Take a birthing ball to the hospital. You'll be happy you did.)

Mickey Dee

That was a great analogy and so true.

I'm sure this means a lot, coming from someone you don't know - but I TOTALLY support you in this. I'd like to explore this option as well.

I'm running into this too where women are constantly comparing their pregnancies to mine. Dude, you have your experience, I have mine. Never the two shall meet so please don't tell me why your doctor or your ultrasound place or your prenatal vitamins are different/better than mine.

Love that you said you and husband have been a good team up until now and this should be no different! Best wishes!


long time lurker here checking out past posts since I'm coming up on the big labor and delivery for my first.
I don't even bring up the possibility of a drug free birth to anyone but my husband and my doctor, even to my friends who have gone through it. I'm worried that if things dont turn out drug free, that I'll have to deal with the "I told you so's" AND the smugness of the woman who have done it. yikes.

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